How to Protect Yourself from Mail Theft and Identity Theft
Learn More About Identity Theft
Be Especially Aware at the Start of a New Year!
Sadly there are many different ways that thieves can steal your identity. As we spend more and more time connected to the web on a variety of different devices, the risks just grow. However, one of the most common ways for thieves to get hold of your identity is an old school way – through the mail. The problem increases in January due to the large number of financial statements that come through the mail at this time. Make sure that you protect yourself by being aware of any missing documents before it’s too late.
How to Protect Yourself from Mail Theft
Follow these steps to make sure that you don’t become a victim of mail theft in the busy month of January:
o Make a list of all of the financial documents that you should receive during the month of January. These documents are related to your taxes and may include:
o W2 forms from any of your employers (or 1099 forms if you’re self-employed as an independent contractor)
o End-of-the-year interest statements from all of your banks
o Statements related to retirement accounts
o Mortgage interest statements from your lender
o Take this list and turn it into a spreadsheet. This is the best way to keep track of the documents to make sure that you receive everything that you are supposed to receive. List the document, where it should come from and when it was received.
o Review your spreadsheet on February 1st. All financial forms for taxes are supposed to be sent to you during the month of January and no later. On February first, check out your spreadsheet to make sure that you’ve received everything.
o Update the spreadsheet for any items not received. Add an additional column to the spreadsheet for any items that you did not receive in January. This column will reflect when the items were reportedly sent out by the employer or financial institution.
o Start contacting the senders immediately. For every item on the list that has not been received, call the person who was supposed to send it. Confirm with them that the item was sent and what date the item was sent on. If the item was not sent, ask for the date that it will be sent. If the item was sent, confirm that it was sent to the correct address.
o Get your credit report. If there are items that should have been received (they were sent to the right address and have had enough time to arrive) then there’s a good chance that you’ve become a victim of mail theft. Immediately order your free credit report from each of the three credit bureau agencies and check for any unusual activity.
o File a fraud alert with the credit bureaus. This way the agencies know to keep an eye out for unusual activity on your account in the months to come. If you are especially concerned you can even freeze your account.Experian has a good explanation of the pros and cons of doing this.
o Monitor your credit carefully in the months to come. It can take many months for people to start using your identity after they have stolen. Often these thieves actually sell your information to others and that process takes time. Monitor the issue to nip the problem in the bud if it does happen to you.
Be aware of the risks for mail-based identity fraud during tax document season and protect yourself accordingly!
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