These days, most people make cyber security a top priority. The problem is, many cyber hackers are turning to old school snail mail scams to commit identity theft and financial crimes.
For instance, a woman named Francis J. recently fell victim to the latest snail mail scam.
Basically, the way it worked, was someone completed a fake change of address form for Francis and sent it to the United States Postal Service.
The change of address form meant mail was forwarded to a Philadelphia post office address, but Francis lives in Florida.
The problem was that Francis couldn’t stop the forwarding because whoever requested the change had access to the PIN needed for authorization.
The PIN # was mailed to the new address that the thieves controlled.
Francis says she didn’t receive any notification from the USPS regarding the change, but even if she had, it would have looked like a postcard mailer, something that would easily be overlooked and thrown away.
Once the thieves started receiving Francis’s mail, they obtained a bank statement, then they ordered new checks to be sent to the new address.
In addition, they accepted and applied for credit card offers that came through the mail to the new address.
Now, if you are wondering why cyber hackers would get into this kind of physical crime, its because they can take all of the victim’s information such as banking, credit card and identity information and sell it online.
Just think, if the criminals intercepted a tax return, they could sell that for big money online if someone is looking for a new identity.
Francis reached out to the USPS once she discovered what had happen, but according to her,
“The inspector general’s office in Washington, D.C., was useless. It had zero interest in investigating, let alone prosecuting.”
One of the biggest problems is this scam can be carried out by physically going into a post office and completing the form or it can be filled out online at the USPS website.
Another problem is there are many fraudulent websites that appear to look like USPS website, therefore, people submit their personal information and it oftentimes falls into the hands of the cyber hackers.
The truth is, this type of crime is another way for criminals and cyber hackers to obtain our personal information to use for fraud or to simply sell to the highest bidder online.
Back in the day, most people were only concerned with shredding their mail to prevent fraud, but clearly, criminals are creating new ways they can steal your identity using your mail.
With that being said, here are some ideas to help you from falling victim to this type of snail mail scam.
Go paperless. Nowadays, most banks, utility companies, credit card companies, or anyone who may send you regular bills, will allow you to go paperless.
So, you can opt-out of receiving a paper bill or notice in the mail and you can have them e-mailed to you.
This way, if someone physically gained access to your mailbox or submitted a change of address form, they would receive less mail containing your personal information.
So, check with all your banks, utilities, credit cards and anyone that has your personal information and ask them to stop sending paper correspondence.
Check your credit report. By law, you can request your credit report from each of the three main reporting agencies once a year.
This is something you should definitely do by contacting Experian, TransUnion and Equifax.
Of course, you want to make sure that any credit changes were authorized by you and that nothing appears fraudulent.
In addition, you may want to considering checking your score more often.
You can pay for companies to monitor your credit or you can check your credit score for free using various websites.
Lastly, I would definitely recommend placing a credit freeze with the three main reporting agencies.
With a credit freeze, you will simply have to provide a PIN # whenever you needed to access your credit.
The last thing you want is for your credit to be ruined by a scammer and not realize it for years, since you never check your score.
(By the way, I’ve had a credit freeze for more than 15 years now.)
Pay attention to mail. We all receive junk mail and probably some type of credit offer.
Even if you have opted out of receiving credit card offers, chances are, a few still slip through and end up in your mailbox.
The thing is, if you suddenly stop receiving mail, this could be a red flag that someone has submitted a change of address form with your information.
Another thing is, if you and your spouse receive mail, don’t forget to make sure that you both are still getting the usual mail.
The scammers may simply change the address for one person and not the other to avoid suspicion.
Finally, always pay close attention to any mail that appears from the USPS. In the event that someone does complete a change of address form, the USPS will usually send a postcard type notice to the old address.
So, make sure and pay attention to these notices and if you receive one, immediately contact the USPS.
It’s also a good idea to have your mail come to a UPS store (and not to your home) so scammers can’t steal mail out of your mailbox.
This just happened to a fellow I know in Las Vegas.
The bottom line is, bad guys are always looking for new ways to steal our personal information.
The less information that you send and receive in the mail, the better off you will be.