Chapter 7 – Protect Your Mail Coming and Going

Crime Number 5 – Failing to Protect Your Mail

Restrict access to your mail by only sending and receiving mail at secure locations.

This is another convenience factor. Example: One day each week you pay your bills. The next day you leave all your bills in the mailbox in front of your house before leaving for work. If you are typical, this happens about 7:00 AM. On average the postal carrier picks up your outgoing mail sometime in the early afternoon.

This creates a window of 2 to 6 hours (depending on exact schedules) for a person to approach your house and pick up the envelopes with your checks.

A savvy thief knows how to change the Amount Paid and the Payee information on the check and redo the check to make it payable to themselves or a friend. (Actually anyone with GOOGLE access knows.) Yet, you believe mail theft could never happen to you. Your mail is as safe as ever. It is IN your mail box. Your mail could never be stolen.

And your confirmations that your mail is safe is listed on the next page.

First argument: “How is someone going to get near my house without being noticed? It just won’t happen, my neighbors look out for each other.”
True, but how many times have you seen a door to door flyer distributor being challenged by anyone. If they actually pass out pizza coupons, you do not know what else they are doing. If they time it right to grab some mail – great. If not, then they just keep going to the next house on the street – and the next, and the next until they find mail to steal. Not once will anyone challenge them. And coupon distributors carry a handy pouch that could hide lots of mail. This is just one way someone can approach your house and not be challenged.

Second argument: “I am home all day, no one can get my mail.”
Sorry as #1. Most people cannot see their mailbox from inside the house. Or if they can, it is only if standing in the right spot, which they will not do for hours waiting on the mail carrier to come by the house. And if you are just standing there all day, you should just personally hand your mail to the carrier.

Third Argument: “I live in a planned development that has a locked grouped mailbox. I Send my mail from it.”
Ok, that eliminates some thieves, but it creates a single ‘tempting’ target for a pro with a crowbar. And why would a thief do that and risk getting caught? If they have watched 5 to 10 people put mail in the box, then it is a ripe target. Compared to the Big Blue curb boxes the Postal Service installs, these neighborhood gang boxes are a lot easier to break into. Grouped boxes are better than leaving your mail hanging outside your house, but you can still do better. If you know what time the carrier will pick up the mail, try dropping your outgoing in the box just before the carrier gets there or better still, hand it to the carrier. If possible, it is still best to drop the mail at a post office or authorized receiving station. The minor inconvenience pays the reward of exponentially increased security.

During one conversation with a Postal Inspector in 2006, it was indicated that thieves were returning to hitting single house mailboxes. This may be because the grouped mailboxes in many developments were being re-enforced to hinder being broken open and were also being (more) carefully watched by residents.

The difference between these robberies and the “coupon distributor” robberies, is that the thieves are selectively hitting houses with outgoing mail. The clue for the thief to hit a specific mailbox – the Red Flag the homeowner raises when they have deposited mail in the box that they want the postal carrier to pick up. The (unofficial) term the Postal Inspectors use to refer to this kind of activity is “Red Flagging”, a reference for that tell-all sign that signals carriers, and thieves alike, – You’re Sending Mail!

It can be assumed that 9 out of 10 pieces of outgoing mail will contain a check, a catalog order with a credit card number or checking account information or even cash. The rise in email and text messaging and cheaper phone service is killing good old fashioned letter writing. So if it is not a friendly letter or greeting card, what is it? Most likely something that will contain a brick from your Wall of Identity.

Your incoming mail is another source for mail theft. Again, it is important to understand vulnerability. Mail in an unsecured mailbox at your house is just as vulnerable and valuable as your outgoing checks. The same menu/flyer distributor that could work your neighborhood looking for outgoing mail, can also work it after the postal carrier has delivered the mail.

The credit card companies, so vain about letting you know you are getting their statements, print on the envelope their name and “Statement Enclosed”. Why not just print on the envelope, “I contain sensitive information and would be valuable to anyone looking to steal and misuse the data, so steal me first”? Certainly utility bills (phone, electric, cable) also contain information of value. How about vehicle or drivers license renewal notices or insurance documents (home, auto or health). And not to be forgotten: Pre-Approved Credit Card offers. Never forget, each piece of information about you is a brick of your identity.

A locking mailbox on your house is the minimum security you must take. The ganged community boxes suffer the same problem with received mail as with sent mail. If a thief has watched a postal carrier stuff a ganged box with checks and mail, this box has just become a ripe and ready target for harvesting. If you receive mail in a community’s gang box, you need to retrieve your mail as soon as possible after it is delivered. A Post Office Mailbox or a Private Mailbox Service (such as UPS or Postnet stores, or any of the independent private mailbox services) is a far safer bet.

Large apartment complexes that have a central mailbox cluster for 100s of apartments are also vulnerable and common targets for Identity Theft perpetrators.