In an age dominated by digital transactions and online communication, it’s easy to underestimate the importance of safeguarding traditional mail. However, the alarming surge in mail theft incidents highlights the critical need for heightened awareness and protective measures.
Mail theft has become increasingly prevalent, with criminals targeting letters and packages for various purposes. One alarming trend involves using stolen checks to create counterfeit checks. This poses a serious threat to individuals, businesses, and financial institutions.
Understanding how check fraud works
Checks remain a popular target for criminals due to the potential for fraudulent financial gain. When checks are stolen from mailboxes, thieves can use the checking information to replicate them and create counterfeit checks, changing the payee name, and sometimes even the amount due, to their benefit. This jeopardizes the check owner’s financial security indefinitely.
Why it matters
- Financial consequences
Victims of mail theft often face substantial financial losses. Unauthorized transactions and counterfeit checks can lead to drained bank accounts and damaged credit.
- Identity theft
Stolen mail provides criminals with personal information that can be used for identity theft. This can have long-lasting and far-reaching consequences for the victim.
- Systemic impact
Mail theft contributes to the erosion of trust in traditional forms of communication and payment. The systemic impact also affects businesses and financial institutions.
Protecting yourself: Crucial steps to take
We spoke with the US Postal Inspection Service and here’s what they recommended to help protect your mail and your financial integrity:
- Report missing mail promptly
If you suspect mail theft or notice missing items, report it to your local postal service and law enforcement and the US Postal Inspection Service at uspis.gov as soon as you can. Issues like these can’t be investigated if they’re not reported. You can report missing mail online.
- Bring mail inside the post office
When possible, take outgoing mail inside of your local post office to be dropped off.
- Get a secured mailbox
Invest in a secured mailbox with a locking mechanism to deter would-be thieves. A key or code is required to access incoming mail.
- Drop off mail in the morning
Mailboxes tend to get hit in the dark of night, so when possible, drop outgoing mail for delivery inside of your local post office.
- Set up mail tracking and alerts
Utilize mail tracking services offered by postal services and subscribe to delivery alerts like Informed Delivery for enhanced monitoring.
- Use online banking
Utilize online banking to monitor account activity in real-time to detect any suspicious transactions. Take unusual transactions seriously and report them as soon as they are detected.
- Opt for electronic statements
Choose electronic statements over paper statements to reduce the volume of sensitive information sent through traditional mail.
- Employ security envelopes
Use security envelopes for mailing checks and sensitive information to add an extra layer of protection.
- Check credit reports
Regularly check your credit reports for any unusual activity or unauthorized accounts.
- Educate yourself
Stay informed about common scams and fraud tactics to recognize potential threats.
- Collaborate with neighbors
Establish a neighborhood watch or communication system to alert neighbors, like using the NextDoor app, to communicate about suspicious activity.
By proactively safeguarding your mail and personal information, you can significantly reduce the risk of falling victim to mail theft. Learn more about mail theft and report missing mail online.