Monday, January 24, 2011

Thieves target tax documents – watch your mail

WASHINGTON – Jan. 24, 2011 – Tax season is here, which means you need to take some extra caution when receiving your important tax documents in the mail and ensure they don’t fall into the wrong hands, identity theft experts warn.

Year-end credit card summaries, W-2s, 1099 income tax forms, and brokerage statements contain critical information about you, such as your full name, Social Security number, and account numbers. In the wrong hands, that type of personal information can put you at risk for identity theft.

“People don’t understand that ‘walkers’ follow mail carriers and look through your mail for any bonanza they can find,” says Linda Foley, chairman of the Identity Theft Resource Center. “Mail thieves know the prime time is between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. Others take advantage of the dark of night and/or consumers’ tendencies of not checking mailboxes each day.”

Some experts warn that some thieves are even opening envelopes and making copies of documents and then resealing your mail and placing it back in the mailbox – so you never suspect a thing.

Here are some suggestions from experts on how to better protect your mail:

• Purchase a secure, locked mailbox for your home or get a post office box to prevent others from accessing your mail.
• Get your mail soon after it arrives and avoid having mail left in your mailbox for long periods of time. Put a vacation stop on your mail if you are going to be out of town.
• If you think your mail has been stolen, contact your creditors or bank about your bills and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service to investigate any missing mail or mail theft. You can file a mail theft complaint online here, or call 1-877-876-2455.

Source: “Mail Thieves Are Waiting for Your Tax Documents,” The Dallas Morning News (Jan. 17, 2011)
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