[Originally featured in Condo Management magazine]
Condominiums and multi-unit housing are often at greater security risk than single-family homes, in part because criminals prey on these facilities, and in part because residents must rely on their boards or managers to provide for much of their security. When boards and managers seek to secure their multi-unit communities, they often take measures to secure the perimeter, improve lighting or employ security guards. They may neglect, however, to protect residents against the fastest-growing crime in the country: identity theft.
According to the FTC, over 10 million Americans become victims of identity theft each year, and these numbers are increasing at an alarming rate. It seems that no one is safe from identity theft. It happens in cities, suburbs and small towns alike. Among the top three states for identity theft victims are California, Florida and New York.
Criminals will use any means necessary to gain sensitive information, and increasingly they are turning to mail theft to acquire credit card offers, bills and checks. Some experts estimate that one in three cases involving identity theft occurs via the mail. Because mailboxes are often placed together in multi-unit housing, they are targeted by mail thieves looking for an easy snatch of oodles of mail.
Boards and managers often believe that their residents’ mail is safe because they are securing it in a locked cluster box. However, most of these cluster boxes can be easily violated with a screwdriver in just seconds, allowing a mail thief to quickly collect hundreds of pieces of mail to use criminally. There are several strategies boards and managers can utilize to provide greater mail security for residents.
If the community has an office or central location supervised by personnel, mail should be delivered to this area. However, supervision requires time and resources, and this method may not be convenient for residents who are unable to collect their mail during operating hours. A better solution involves providing secure locking mailboxes for each resident. For multi-unit communities, secure wall-mount locking mailboxes can be procured for residents, providing them the convenience of having mail delivered securely at their doorstep.
David Bolles, president of Epoch Design, states, “Consumers need to be aware when looking for a locking mailbox that most locking mailboxes – cluster boxes included – can be easily opened and violated. I know, because we’ve tested it at our company and set out to provide only locking mailboxes that deliver true security.”
Bolles says when selecting a locking mailbox – whether a cluster box or a wall mount – it is fundamental to ensure that it is made of a heavy-gauge steel, not aluminum or plastic. Also, the mailbox should feature a pry-resistant locking mechanism.
“Unless you invest in a secure locking mailbox, your mail is just as vulnerable as it would be in an unlocked one,” says Bolles.