How to Prevent Stolen Mail and Identity Theft From Rural Mailboxes
Preventing Stolen Mail and Identity Theft
If you have a rural mailbox located out by the side of the road as I do you, may have had your mail tampered with or stolen. In the past this was just a minor annoyance, an act done most often by bored, mischievous kids, but now mail theft has become a full time occupation for some people.
On a recent episode of the show "Dateline" an identity theft ring in Colorado was exposed. The group operated throughout the Western United States, and would drive hundreds of miles a day stealing mail and packages that were left in rural mailboxes. Because the gang operated at night they were able to work undetected for many years. Apparently when the police raided their hideout it looked almost like some kind of mail processing warehouse, with stacks of mail, computers and even fake ID printers. The gang specialized in stealing items of mail such as electricity bills and boxes of bank checks. Using these bits of information, the mail theft ring stole victims identities and drained their bank accounts.
Identity theft and mail theft are also on the rise in part due to the severe "meth" or methamphetamine addiction problem that is sweeping across both urban and rural America. In Colorado, where the meth, mail theft associated theft problem is among the worst in the nation, authorities are urging people with rural and outside mailboxes to avoid leaving outbound mail in their boxes
Our Mail Theft Problem
After our family experienced an act of mail theft, the crooks began to use a box of stolen checks they found. To make a long story short, the incident cost us over $5,000 in legal and other fees. I soon decided to adopt some measures to prevent such an act from occurring again. I guess that I could have chose to give up our rural mailbox and instead rented one in the city post office, but I decided that having the convenience of an outside mailbox was worth trying to solve the problem on our own.
The first step that I took was to change all of our banking statements to online statement. In addition, we changed our credit card statements to paperless online ones, so there would be no way that identity thieves could steal our credit card number from our mail.
Next I cleared the weeds and brush that obscured our view of the mailbox. Our mailbox is located about one hundred feet from our house, and since clearing out the vegetation, we can see it clearly.
Installing A Secure Mailbox
My next step was to purchase a mailbox with a locking compartment for incoming mail. The mailbox we chose is called the "Oasis Locking Mailbox", which still allows you to leave outgoing mail for the postman. Another option is to install a mailbox alarm or "mail chime" that buzzes each time your mailbox is opened. (This is a cheaper solution, and a good idea, but if nobody is home to hear the buzz, a thief can still get away with your mail.)
Since I have adopted these measures we have had no issues with mail theft or identity theft.
Other Steps To Prevent Identity Theft
To prevent identity theft, consider changing the way your bank statements and credit card statements are delivered, installing a secure mailbox or mailbox alarm and joining a credit alert company. Identity theft can be a real nightmare, just as we found out the hard way.