While cyber criminals deploy new methods of attack every day, “old school” identity thieves still rely on their same tricks to steal your personal information.
The threat from tactics like “dumpster diving” for discarded paperwork and stealing mail from your curbside mailbox is still very present. A new program from the United States Postal Service is aimed at fighting back against thieves who rely on stolen mail to nab your identity.
Called USPS Informed Delivery, this optional program lets mail recipients see a preview of their scanned mail before it heads out for delivery. How? The very same mechanism that scans the mail for sorting can send you an email that contains pictures of your mail as it gets sorted for your postal carrier’s route. Once you receive the email and open the images, you’ll know what mail should be waiting for you in your box following the next delivery. If any mail is missing or there’s a discrepancy between the scanned images and the mail in your box, you’ll know to alert the local postmaster.
Even better, should you have something important coming in your delivery, you can ask a trusted friend, family member, or neighbor to retrieve it. This will hopefully prevent the loss of sensitive documents without your knowledge, as you would already know before delivery that it was headed your way.
Informed Delivery isn’t yet available in all areas, but a handy zip code calculator lets you enter your address to see if you’re already able to take advantage of the service. If your area is already protected, you can enter your email address to register; if not, you can also enter your email address to be updated as soon as Informed Delivery becomes available in your zip code.
Regardless of whether or not you can use this service, there are still some good safety precautions to keep in mind. Be mindful of what shows up in your mailbox, and check in with the post office if you notice a disruption to your regular mail delivery schedule. If you suddenly stop receiving mail, contact the post office immediately to make sure you’re not the victim of a mail scam.
In addition, shred any documents that contain information about you before discarding them, including credit card offers, bank statements, health insurance statements, and old utility bills.
If you think you may be a victim of identity theft, contact the Identity Theft Resource Center for toll-free, no-cost assistance at (888) 400-5530. For on-the-go assistance, check out the free ID Theft Help App.