Sunday, June 20, 2010
Special to the ShorelineAreaNews
by Jenny DeRaspe-Bolles, Epoch Design
Identity theft is the fastest growing crime in the country, affecting 11.1 million Americans in 2009.
Many people mistakenly believe that cyber crimes account for the majority of identity theft. However, research indicates that “old-fashioned” methods – stealing wallets/purses, mail, and trash – account for the majority of identity theft.
Most of us are careful to keep our wallets or purses out of criminal hands, and know immediately (responding accordingly) if they go missing. Similarly, most everyone uses a paper shredder to destroy sensitive documents before discarding them. The majority of us, however, do not have a locking mailbox to secure the very documents that we so diligently shred.
The reality is that mail theft is one of the most common ways that thieves can steal your personal information, and with an unlocked mailbox you are highly vulnerable to identity theft. Mail identity theft happens in small towns and big cities alike, and has recently plagued the Shoreline community. Most individuals do not even realize when their mail has been stolen, and may never know until it is too late.
There are several steps you can take to protect yourself from mail identity theft.
(1) Secure your incoming mail. Bank account statements, pre-approved credit card offers, courtesy checks, social security statements and even utility bills that can in your mailbox can be used by criminals to steal your identity. The best way to prevent thieves from stealing your mail is to protect it with a high quality locking mailbox.
(2) Never send sensitive mail from an unsecured mailbox. Putting up the red flag on your mailbox signals thieves that there is mail (often containing checks) just waiting to be stolen. Bring your outgoing mail to a secure blue USPS mailbox or the local post office, or better yet, use online bill pay. It’s more secure.
(3) Shred sensitive documents before discarding them. Do not throw away anything with your personal information before first shredding it. Cross-cut paper shredders are ideal, as they make the little bits and pieces of paper nearly impossible to piece together. Remember, most everything you shred comes in your mailbox, and you cannot shred it if a thief gets to it first.
There are several important factors to consider when purchasing a locking mailbox. First and foremost, where is your mail delivered? If you live in an area with drive-up mail delivery, you will need to have a curbside locking mailbox; if you live in an area with walk-up mail delivery, you will need to have a wall-mount locking mailbox.
Regardless of what type of locking mailbox you need, make sure it is secure. Many “security” mailboxes can be easily violated by savvy criminals. In fact, most locking mailboxes can be fished by hand or pried open with a screwdriver in just seconds.
Secure Locking Mailbox Checklist
- Made of quality materials – A “secure” mailbox made of plastic, aluminum, or thin-gauge metal is usually vulnerable to thieves.
- Cannot be “fished” by hand – If you can reach your arm into the area where the mail is deposited, so can a thief.
- Resistant to leveraged entry – The locking mechanism should look as though it can withstand prying with a screwdriver.
- High quality lock – Avoid locks that can be easily picked.
The Mail Boss locking security mailbox fits the criteria of a secure locking mailbox. Available in both wall mount and curbside models, the Mail Boss is made of 12- and 14-gauge galvanized powder-coated steel and cannot be fished by hand. It features a commercial grade 7-pin brass core tube lock to deter picking, and a patented anti-pry locking mechanism to prevent leveraged entry.
Mail Boss locking mailboxes are manufactured by family-owned Epoch Design, based in Redmond, and were developed after President David Bolles had his personal and business mail stolen three times in as many months.
In the Shoreline area, you can ask for the Mail Boss by name at any Ace Hardware or True Value, or see the Mail Boss in person at:
- Dunn Lumber 1108 N 185th St Shoreline 98133
For more information, call (800) 589-7990 or go to MailBoss.
Photo: The Townhouse mailbox is a secure wall-mount mailbox designed to securely hold mail, but does not accommodate average sized packages. The Mail Boss "Package Master" (not shown) is the package mailbox. Photos courtesy Epoch Design.