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Identity Theft: An Unexpected Way to Protect Yourself

With the rapid rise of data breaches around the globe, the fear of identity theft is at an all-time high. Just yesterday, I received an anxious phone call from my neighbor asking what she should do to protect herself. She is justifiably worried someone is going to open a credit card in her name. Alongside the usual advice I give — weighing the pros and cons of a credit freeze versus paid credit protection services versus making it a monthly habit to check your credit score for any major changes — I decided to share some new advice: sign up for USPS Informed Delivery.  

The US Postal Service recently launched this free service to allow you to see your mail before it arrives. How does it work? Once you register, you receive a daily digest email providing scanned images of mail scheduled for delivery, and an ability to look back at 7 days of history. It’s a great feature to use to monitor for important deliveries.

But why did I suggest this service to my neighbor? What does it have to do with identity theft?

Fraudsters are nothing if not creative. I recently attended a conference where US Postal Inspector Brian Plants shared his perspective on the manifestation of a classic account takeover scheme. In this MO, fraudsters apply for a new credit card or engineer their way into an existing account using stolen personally identifying information (PII) to order new plastic. On the day the credit card is set to arrive, they swing by the unsuspecting consumer’s home to pick up the parcel and the victim is none the wiser.

Inspector Plants has even worked cases where fraudsters signed up for Informed Delivery for the customer’s address so they would know exactly what day to visit your mailbox. For example, this case where victims were exposed to $1.2 million in fraud losses.

Report on Florida fraud scheme

It’s worth nothing, the US Postal Service has since improved ID Verification and authentication fraud controls to stem the tide of abuse with great success.

Signing up for Informed Delivery, or a similar service your country offers, is yet another way for you to stay vigilant. If you see unexpected mail in your daily digest — such as a credit card you did not order — you can report it faster. If you don’t receive an anticipated package, you can report theft.

Remember that the breaches in the news today will have impacts far down the line. Fraudsters are hoping that in one year, two years, five years, you will forgot that your information was exposed and that’s when they will strike. From one consumer to another, be proactive in defending yourself!

Want to learn more about stopping fraud? Follow me on Twitter @lizfightsfraud

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