All across the globe people are “Going Green” to reduce emissions and our carbon footprint in an effort to protect the environment. However, many people don’t know that going green can also help to protect your identity by reducing the amount of personal information that is available to potential thieves looking for their next victim.
In today’s digital age, many people think of identity theft as a technological adventure where thieves use computers, scanners or other smart gadgets to gather information. In many cases this is true however, identity thieves can also use non-technological methods and be just as effective in finding information. The United States Postal Services handles more than 207 billion pieces of mail each month, many of which contain personal information1.
Each week we receive several pieces of mail covered in personal information that thieves can use to open accounts or make fraudulent purchases. Even a simple utility bill generally includes your full name, address and telephone number which is enough to open some simple credit accounts. With this information available, your identity could be taken with fraudsters never having breached an online account.
The easiest way for thieves to get their hands on this information is through dumpster diving and simple mail theft2. Dumpster diving occurs when thieves go through your garbage, searching for personal identifiable information that may have been discarded such as account statements, pre-approved credit offers, bills or medical statements. With mail theft, thieves remove mail from your mailbox to gather personal information along. Thieves can also file fraudulent change of address forms with the post office to re-route mail without your permission.
By reducing the amount of information readily available to thieves, you can reduce your risk for theft.
- Go Paperless. Most banks and utility companies allow for paperless billing which reduces the amount of paper mail that is distributed. Many times this is free to do and can be turned on or off at any time.
- Watch Your Mailbox. Check your mailbox each day, making sure that nothing with personal information contained inside is left for an extended period of time.
- Have Someone Check Your Mailbox While Gone. While traveling or on vacation, a friend or relative check your mailbox to keep items from accumulating. The more mail that is left, the easier it is for thieves to gain information without you noticing.
- Shred Documents After Use. Once you are finished with your bills, be sure to shred documents before throwing them into the garbage. This makes it much more difficult to thieves to gather information.
While there is no sure way to prevent all instances of identity theft, PrivacyArmor® offers peace of mind by monitoring your digital identity for instances of misuse. For more information on PrivacyArmor, talk to your benefits provider or visit MyPrivacyArmor.com.