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Typically, credit identity theft is associated with victims losing their credit cards or having numbers pilfered from databases and receipts. Yet, an often overlooked but common tactic used by identity thieves is mail theft. Think about all of the documents that are delivered directly to your mailbox. You receive bank statements, credit card statements, newly issued cards and renewed driver's licenses. Add to that tax information, loan and mortgage documents, insurance forms and pre-screened credit offers. Your mailbox is a hotbed for identity thieves – and the potential damages to your credit history can go way beyond credit card identity theft.
Stealing directly from mailboxes in the dead of night or wee hours of the morning is one way for thieves to commit mail fraud. However, a more efficient system is to simply falsify a change-of-address form that will forward all of your mail to a pay-as-you-go mailbox number that can be quickly discontinued and difficult to trace. Individuals pay for it in cash or use other falsified information.
Safeguards include having a locked mailbox and reducing the amount of mail you receive by switching to online-only account statements, opting out of credit offers and, when feasible, volunteering to pick up documents containing sensitive information rather than having it mailed.
If you suspect mail theft, contact the U.S. Postal Inspection Service (USPIS). The USPIS investigates cases of identity theft and has primary jurisdiction in matters that infringe on the integrity of US mail delivery. Call your local post office to locate the USPIS district office nearest you.