As soon as a homeowner returns to the house after a long day of work, they typically grab the mail, kick off their shoes and see what’s in the fridge for dinner. While sorting through their daily stack of envelopes, they’ll usually open anything urgent and toss advertisements and any other communication from a company into the garbage. While this is a normal reaction, it’s not necessarily a safe one. Letters from credit card companies, government offices, and other official notes are usually filled with personal details like a full name, address, financial information and more. It’s easy to toss these envelopes unopened into the recycling bin without a second thought, but that could be a mistake.
That’s because swiping mail for the purpose of identity theft is on the rise. Some experts believe that because people are becoming more online savvy and computers are becoming more difficult to hack, obtaining data this way is just easier.
Vancouver-area police are still trying to catch a group of thieves who are stealing residential mail from apartments in the city. The young men steal multiple envelopes which, when coupled with information found on social media, can form a detailed biography of the individual. With this data, crooks can open credit cards, bank accounts and go on a spending spree.
Earlier this summer, a North Carolina man was sentenced to a lengthy jail term for stealing mail from a wide variety of businesses and altering the cheques. He was able to use simple tools to forge the name of the recipient and collect thousands of dollars for himself.
Criminals are not just grabbing mail from residential boxes, but they’re also targeting the source. Known as “mail fishing” individuals are using homemade devices to steal mail from the large public boxes placed on street corners to collect outgoing correspondence. Though it might seem like an unusual crime, one city had nearly 3,000 incidents last year alone. The previous year the same city arrested a man who had stolen $400,000 worth of cheques in order to defraud the senders.
The incidents baffled police originally, as vandalizing mailboxes is a serious offense. However, because more and more residents are installing doorbell cameras and other surveillance equipment, it makes it more difficult to snag items from the front door of a home.
Unfortunately, once an identity theft occurs it can take a significant amount of time, effort and money to restore the victim’s financial life back to normal. Luckily, there are ways to protect against this type of crime. Residential security systems with cameras are an effective deterrent against this and many other types of crimes. Those heading on vacation should ask a neighbor to collect their mail and packages rather than allow the documents to pile up. Anyone moving to a new home should ensure that they officially forward their mail to their new address or risk a new resident simply discarding their private communications.