It’s illegal to open or tamper with someone else’s mail. This is considered mail theft and is a felony, punishable with up to five years in prison and fines of up to $250,000.
Because this serious crime has drastically spiked in recent years, it’s important to understand what mail theft is and how it may affect you. And most importantly, how you can prevent it from happening to you.
The United States Postal Service (USPS) estimates that there are up to 1.7 million mail theft cases daily and that one-third of all Americans will be victims.
One of the easiest ways for devious identity thieves to get your personal information is through the mail. They search mail receptacles for items of interest and then take what they want.
Mail thieves look for mail that might contain checks or personal information to steal your money and your identity.
For decades, scammers have been methodically stealing credit card information by sifting through trash and recycle bins. Paper bank statements with your card info, full name, and address give thieves the essentials they need to quickly access your identity.
Those pre-approved credit cards that you get in the mail and then toss? They are catnip for thieves who can use them to steal your identity before you say, “I don’t remember taking out that loan?”
While identity thieves salivate over your credit card info, they also find ample opportunities with your basic everyday mail.
Bills, subscriptions, or anything that has personal information could open you up to identity theft.
- Full names and addresses
- Banking details and account statements
- Medical records and related information
- Tax and financial statements
- Birthdays, passwords, and PIN numbers
- Go to the USPIS site to report mail theft.
- Choose the mail-related crime you want to report.
- Carefully identify and describe the stolen items and provide detailed information about the situation.
It can be stressful and time-consuming, but you have no choice as a victim of mail theft. And it’s the one way you can take effective action.
If you’ve already cracked the case and know who’s stealing your mail, it’s best to call your local non-emergency police number and report the felony.
Hopefully, you’ll get lucky and never be the victim of mail theft. Luck, however, is highly correlated to preparation.
Here are some tips to be proactive and lower your chances of being a victim.
Outgoing mail often has personal information and other items like checks, invoices, or account statements.
Try to always deposit mail by hand in a USPS mailbox, take it to the post office, or hand it directly to your mail carrier.
Small packages and colorful envelopes containing birthday checks and gift cards are easy for thieves to swipe. If you’re expecting this kind of mail, try to estimate when you expect it to arrive.
Stay on top of delivery schedules for your online purchases. While some couriers and delivery services will leave your package in a safe place, smaller items often end up in the mailbox for anyone to snatch up.
Try to arrange for these items to be delivered when you’re sure you’ll be home. This takes effort and planning but can offer you some protection.
Maybe the safest and easiest way to avoid mail theft is to go paperless. Instead of receiving bills and bank statements via snail mail, opt to receive them online. This saves unnecessary paper waste and lowers your chance of mail theft.
While it’s not yet possible to go entirely digital, more and more businesses are making it easier for clients to shop and complete necessary services online. Go paperless when possible.
An inexpensive, convenient, and modern way to prevent you from being a victim of mail theft is with a virtual mailbox.
With a virtual mailbox, your mail goes to a staffed location, safe from anyone who wants to steal your information. You can view and manage your mail from your smartphone or laptop. In real-time. From anywhere.
You’ll receive text and/or email alerts when you receive mail or packages. You can securely access and view images of your mail items, then make a request to open and scan, forward, shred, recycle, or schedule for pick-up at your convenience.
A virtual mailbox is an inexpensive and efficient way to protect you from mail theft and identity fraud. Get started by choosing an address from a list of supported locations within the U.S. or abroad. Plans start as low as $6.99 a month.
The old saying, “An ounce of protection is worth a pound of cure,” is an old saying for a reason. Being lucky is nice. Being prepared is better.