There are literally thousands of methods identity thieves enlist to stealing
vital personal information from consumers and small business owners. "Phishing" scams
sent via e mail, shoulder surfing at ATM machines, fraudulent telemarketing calls, public
records access through local government agencies, identity theft at the workplace: the
list goes on and on. Amazingly, it doesn't always take someone who is technologically
proficient to get their hands on your social security number, credit card information or
home address. The chain of ID theft commonly starts with a method that existed long before
the Internet, e mail, telemarketing or ATM's: the dreaded "Junk Mail List".
Dumpster diving identity thieves and computer hackers represent only a small
fraction of the faceless armies constantly working to ruin your financial identity.
Contrary to popular belief, junk mail, specifically credit card offers, are typically
the culprit. In fact, every credit card offer you receive is an invitation to have
your identity stolen, and your credit ruined. These "mail box marauders" are probably
the most brazen identity thieves, right up there with common burglar. Stealing mail
directly from your mailbox is by far the riskiest method, which leaves the potential
of being identified from eyewitnesses. Never the less, it does in fact occur and is a
Needless to say, the most effective way to avoid this financial nightmare is
to prevent it from happening in the first place. Though ID theft is growing problem
for consumers and small business alike, it is not an inevitable part of modern life.
Hence the old saying, "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure". And that
ounce of prevention begins right at home, in your mailbox.
Over 4 million tons of paper "junk mail" are mailed in the U.S. every year,
and 50% of it is never even opened. These are staggering statistics and only grows
as time goes by.
Here are several tips and tricks to drastically reducing or eliminating bulk mail
and credit card offers, thus aiding in the prevention of identity theft.
Credit Card Offers- The major credit agencies all sell credit information to the highest
bidder. Direct mail and credit companies generate mailing lists based on certain demographic
information including you zip code, annual income and general credit history. Stopping these
types of offers are useful in preventing identity theft for two reasons: First, it narrows
down and separates the "legitimate" offers from potentially fraudulent offers. Second, it
simply cuts down on the amount of mail you receive, thus reducing the potential for information
to be physically stolen from your mailbox.
Simply contact the three of the major credit bureaus, Equifax, Trans Union, Experian and Innovis
with your current address former address within two years, and social security number. Request
to be "opted out" of these mailing lists. These requests will be granted immediately as required
First Class Mail- This is a sneaky tactic used sometimes to make a credit card offer seem
exclusive or more appealing. After you receive one of the first class offers, simply cross out
the address and bar code, circle the first class postage and write exactly this: refused: return to
sender. Mail it in any mail box and it will be returned directly to the sender.
Bulk Mail in General- Your local post office will always dispose of bulk mail it cannot be delivered,
so "returning to sender" does absolutely no good. The USPS actively provides for bulk mailers to
accumulate their mailing lists. As hard as it is to belive, they actually encourage it. Simply
write "address correction requested" circle it, and drop it in any the mail box.
If Bulk Mailing persists, simply send a letter or postcard to the Mail Preference Service,
There address is: Direct Marketing Association, PO Box 643, Carmel, NY 15012-0643
Be sure to include your full name, current address, zip code and request to "activate the preference service".
This will stop mail from all of it's member organizations for up to five years.
A Secure Mail Box- Obviously, this is probably the simplest method protect mail from
being stolen out of your mail box. Don't be afraid to buy a lock for your mail box. Get to
know your neighborhood delivery schedule and your mail carrier. Your home is the front line
in the ongoing battle against identity theft, pure and simple.