When I came home on Wednesday, there was no mail in our mailbox. That seemed strange, but it happens sometimes. I didn't think much about it.
Tonight, though, we realized we were missing our latest Netflix movies. We checked the web site, and sure enough — they should have arrived Wednesday. “Uh oh,” I said. “This could be trouble.”
“We mostly get catalogs and personal finance magazines,” Kris said. “We don't get checks in the mail. Could a thief really have nabbed anything important?”
“It's tax season,” I said. “We've received most of our documents, but not all of them. We don't have the interest statement for your bank account, for example. That probably has your social security number on it.”
“What can we do?” Kris said. It was 8 p.m. Friday evening.
I googled for information about stolen mail. Ironically, one of the top results was a Get Rich Slowly article from last February: “What To Do If Your Identity is Stolen”. After re-reading that post (and the comments that follow), I plan to:
- Check our credit reports. AnnualCreditReport.com is an official, government-approved site through which consumers can request one yearly report from each of the three major credit reporting agencies. We cold request them all at once or we could stagger them. I'll stagger my requests. I'll make my first check tonight, and my second in a couple weeks. (Update: my credit report is currently clean.)
- Open a post-office box. I rejected the idea before now because it seemed like an unnecessary expense. I'm going to do more research into this. I'll also price security mailboxes.
- Speak with our postal carrier tomorrow. It's too bad we didn't realize there was a problem today — she had to bring a package to the door, and we could have talked to her then.
- Report the theft to the police. I'm sure there's nothing they can do, but it never hurts to alert the authorities.
- Check with the neighbors. If they're missing Wednesday's mail, we can be certain there's a problem.
I've been dreading something like this. The rising threat of identity theft is one of the reasons I've been moving to a paperless personal finance system. We're pretty diligent about shredding documents, but I've always felt the mailbox was the weak link in our security chain. It's time we address that, I guess. Odds are nothing critical was taken. However, there's a possibility that you'll be seeing a lot of articles about identity theft here in the near future.
Have you ever had your mail stolen? Can you offer us any advice? What can you tell us about post office boxes?
(See also the U.S. Postal Service's guide to protecting your mail from thieves.)
Our mail carrier just came to the door. She says that her route has had a terrible problem with mail theft lately, though not on this street. While we were with her, she called her supervisor, who said that we should contact the county sheriff's non-emergency line and go to the USPS site to file a notice. The supervisor also noted that there was a huge bout of mail theft all over the area last week (not just on our carrier's route). People are apparently after refund checks to fund their drug habits.
Our carrier told us a story about how one time she'd left mail in a fellow's box, drove up the street and then back down, and the guy came out wondering where his mail was. In just a few minutes, it had been stolen. The guy eventually found it in some nearby bushes, torn open and left behind.