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Mail Identity Theft: The Forgotten Fraud That Can Lead To Cyber Theft

Identity thieves have found a new scam: putting a "vacation" hold on your mail and then picking it up from the post office without you ever knowing. Their goal is to obtain credit card offers sent to you, fill them out in your name, and then charge items and leave you with the bill.

Identity thieves targeted a California woman this way right before Christmas. Luckily, her letter carrier noticed that the mail hold was under a different name, and brought the woman her mail. A USPS postal inspector said that they have seen other instances of this type of identity theft recently. Cory James "New identity theft scheme: scammers use US Postal Service to steal information," abc30.com (Dec. 26, 2017).


Commentary

In this case, the woman’s letter carrier saved her from falling victim to a fake vacation hold. There are ways that you can watch out for mail identity theft, too.

If you normally receive mail every day, and two or more days go by without a delivery, check with USPS to determine if a fraudulent hold has been placed on your mail.

Get a locking mailbox, and always take your outgoing mail directly to the post office to reduce the risk that someone will steal your mail in transit.

Another way to protect yourself from mail identity theft is to reduce the number of credit card offers that you receive in the mail. Go to dmachoice.org to remove your name from the Direct Marketing Association (DMA) list. You can also opt out of receiving credit card and insurance offers at optoutprescreen.com.

When you do receive credit card offers in the mail, take care when disposing of them. If you just throw them away, thieves could steal them out of your trash. Open and shred all credit card offers before throwing them away.

The key to stopping any form of identity theft is to watch for suspicious activity, and then take immediate action to address it.

Here are some common methods identity thieves use to steal identities:

  • Illegally using someone's credit card or bank account
  • Creating a new financial account in another person's name
  • Selling someone's personal information
  • Using an assumed identity to evade law enforcement
  • Using someone else's health insurance information to obtain medical treatment
  • Opening a new utility account under another's name
  • Filing a false tax return request under an assumed name and collecting a tax refund
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