Recent TV news vision of a blatant thief helping herself to people’s valuables in various Sydney gyms got us thinking again about the perennial problem of mail theft from our external mailboxes. Mail which can sometimes result in entire identities being stolen without the person realising until credit checks reveal someone is out there stealing your money and literally giving you a bad name.
It’s not that hard for a criminal gang to obtain a master key and line up your mail box for a visit. They can feel your mail and steal new credit cards, or spot utility bills that they can use as ID confirmation, it’s a real worry. Sure, your building may have CCTV but any thief who knows what their doing has a hoodie, sunglasses and gloves so recognising and catching the culprit is a long shot as they’re usually part of an organised gang.
There are basic precautions you can take, the most effective being to empty the box almost as the postie delivers, but unless you work from home and are slightly obsessive, this isn’t really practical. Certainly empty your box every afternoon or as soon as you get home though.
Making most of your correspondence online is one solution (internet privacy is another concern!) but banks insist on mailing out credit cards, with separate PINs posted later. Unless you ordered a replacement ahead of time, these can often arrive without warning, even though you’ve spent the last two years punching in the expiry date on every online purchase.
Our lock up and leave mentality is great but leaving your mailbox unemptied while you go off travelling is really risky. Enlist a trusted friend to empty if every day or pay at the Post Office to have them hold your mail for you to avoid someone having a spree with your new card.
Moves are afoot to regulate that mailboxes be enclosed behind resident security in new apartment blocks but that won’t help the majority of us in existing blocks. If your mailbox key has a number etched on it, then it’s easy for you to replace if you lose it, but also anyone can buy the master key to your block’s mailboxes, no questions asked.
You may think you receive so little mail that it’s not worth it, but people can steal your identity with a magazine label, letter from the electoral office, any number of bits of correspondence you get via snail mail. Spending the money on a high security lock is well worth it. If you live within walking distance of a train station or are in an area with lots of apartments, you could well be targeted. Even if you rent, it will be money well spent.
What about online shopping deliveries where the drivers just leave packages outside the main doors because you weren’t home? Easy pickings for the unscrupulous but an easy fix really. You’re saving money by buying online, and you want to receive the goods. Pay the extra for registered post if it’s offered or use a site that tracks the delivery so you have a good idea of when it will arrive. Better yet, have it sent to your work.
I hadn’t thought of this option until many visits during lunch breaks to pick up undelivered parcels from a Post Office mail centre. I noticed the women in the office opening packages at their desk and trying on their latest purchases. Curious, I thought, why are they doing that? Then the penny dropped. Sure, the first phone call from reception telling me I’d had a box of wine delivered was a bit embarrassing, but you get used to it. Cheers.
How to tell if you are a victim of identity theft.
- Your credit card limit is increased without you asking
- You get refused credit
- You can’t get a new mobile phone
- You get bills for things you didn’t buy
- There are withdrawals from your accounts you know you didn’t make.