Stolen mail a leading cause of Identity Theft, despite popular belief
As a company that manufactures and sells locking mailboxes, clearly we have a vested interest in people believing there is a need for a secure mailbox product. More importantly, we truly believe this need is real. (After all, we developed the Mail Boss line only after company mail was stolen repeatedly, and no secure product was available on the market. But I digress)
We have spent a great deal of time and effort understanding the epidemic of Mail identity Theft, and helping to generate awareness of the problem and its solution.
Still, we encounter many people, from hardware store owners at trade shows to friends and acquaintances, who – for whatever reason – see no need for a locking mailbox.
While many people think of identity thieves as sophisticated criminal master minds hacking your personal information from encrypted data bases, in reality, the majority of ID theft is perpetuated via low-tech methods including mail theft. (This has always been the case, and has been shown both statistically and anecdotally).
For anyone who doubts that mail theft is a real and growing problem and a leading cause of identity theft, I highly recommend reading this well-researched and insightful article on why your mail still matters to identity thieves, published on The Huffington Post and written by security and identity theft expert, Neal O’Farrell.
Identity theft is still the fastest growing crime in the country, and this article points out an obvious reason for this. What do identity thieves need? Information. And now, more than ever, your personal information is everywhere. One of the easiest low-risk ways of getting that information is simply by taking it from an unlocked curbside mailbox.
In “Why Your Mail Still Matters to Identity Thieves“, O’Farrell interviews an identity thief who anonymously explains that mail theft is the simplest way to get personal information. More savvy thieves will recruit low-level criminals (mostly drug addicts) to go mine unlocked mailboxes for mail. The pawns don’t even think of taking mail as stealing, and they can trade the mail for quick cash/drugs from the higher-ups, who then use the stolen mail to piece together information and identities for fraud.
This identity thief estimates that 80% of consumer fraud originates from stolen mail.
“Mail theft is probably 80 percent of consumer fraud. I’d find people who are hard-up for money. They’re not real criminals. Or they don’t consider stealing out of mailboxes makes them a criminal. So I would give them $400-$500 and they’d steal me trash bags full of mail. And I’d even give them a car to do it in, usually a rental car I got with a stolen identity and never gave back.”
That is unreal!
But even more shocking is that – for whatever reason – consumers are really not concerned about low-tech methods of identity theft.
Recent research by Pemco Insurance shows that very few people worry about information being stolen from their mailbox:
“According to the poll, just 5 percent of all respondents worry that a thief could steal sensitive information from their mailbox, and even fewer fear crooks pilfering their trash or recycling.”
And, whereas a vast majority of Americans used to shred their personal documents, fewer are doing so now:
“About two-thirds of Washington residents (69 percent) report owning and using a shredder today, compared to 79 percent in 2008. Similarly, 68 percent of Oregon respondents currently own a shredder, compared with 77 percent of Portland residents in 2011.”
Unfortunately, the reality remains that identity theft is a fast-growing crime of opportunity. And, as emphasized in the Huffington Post expose, mailboxes present the greatest opportunity for thieves to quickly and easily steal your personal sensitive information.
Fortunately, though, this kind of identity theft is easy to prevent:
Use a high-security locking mailbox to protect incoming mail from opportunistic would-be identity thieves, do not send checks or bill payments from an unsecured mailbox, and shred sensitive documents (most of which come in the mail) before discarding them to thwart dumpster divers.
By following these three key prevention strategies, you can greatly reduce your risk of becoming a victim of identity theft.