Identity Theft

Junk Mail Poses Identity Theft Risks

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Junk mail: It seems like it never stops. From various credit card application forms to coupons to a local pizzeria, these pieces of mail that are often tossed straight into the trash are not only an annoyance but a threat to your personal information.

Pre-approved credit card offers are especially dangerous, as they are an easy target for identity thieves. Criminals can steal the incoming mail and actually apply for the credit card using your information.

Cut Down on the Junk

However, U.S. consumers can opt out of receiving these applications in the mail by calling 888-5-OPTOUT. Signing up with the Do Not Call Registry is another way to protect yourself from identity theft, as unsolicited phone calls and text messages can also pose a risk to consumers.

While stopping all junk mail isn’t likely to happen, you can cut down on the number of advertisements, “free” vacation and product offers and other advertisements by registering at Dmachoice.org. This site will stop member of the Direct Marketing Association from mailing you coupons and other spam mail, the BBB reported.

Shred Before Throwing Junk Mail Away

Many consumers may not think twice about simply throwing junk mail away. But those credit card applications and other pieces of mail contain personal information, such as your address. It would be smart to shred these documents before discarding them.

“Most of the time, I walk from my mailbox directly to the recycling bin,” wrote Lisa Scottoline in a column for Philly.com. “In fact, if the mail were addressed to my recycling bin, that would save a lot of time.”

However, many advise against going straight to the trash with this mail. The Better Business Bureau of Northern Indiana recently held a “Shred it Day” to encourage local residents to shred all materials, including spam mail, that contains personal information.

Andrew Gottfried, a U.S. Postal Inspector, told Fort Wayne TV station WANE, that identity theft is a serious problem and Americans need to take the proper steps to protect against it.

“The nature of this crime and the effect it can have on its victims makes it even more important to shred personal information, even those papers or labels that may seem harmless,” Gottfried said. “Identity thieves have no scruples in what they can and will do. Dumpster divers truly do exist and it’s up to you to be proactive.”

Image: Brand X Pictures

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