You've just been to the mail box, and once again it’s filled with pesky junk mail and pre-approved offers for credit cards. Once you get back to the house, you know all this junk mail will be going straight to the trash.
However, while junk mail may just seem like a daily annoyance, it can actually be much more. Junk mail is also a window of opportunity – if not a treasure trove -- for identity thieves. See more on this below.
While opening pre-approved credit offers may seem like a waste of time, they can provide you an indication of your credit rating, for instance, if you're getting offers for credit cards with high fees, then you might have poor credit. Many companies will send these types of offers to people with lower credit scores because they assume that they are desperate enough for credit to accept a less than great deal. A common tactic of identity thieves is to comb through your mailbox - not looking for a card from grandma - but for pre-approval offers or junk mail with personal information. Identity thieves can then use this information to open false credit lines in your name.
To fight this, it’s always best to shred credit card and like solicitations before throwing them away in your trash, as identity thieves are also known for “dumpster diving”. Mailbox combing and dumpster diving are amongst the most effective tactics for identity thieves to get your information and open new accounts in your name.
Here are a few tips to reduce the amount of solicitations and junk mail you're receiving:
· Zip on Zip Code. Stop giving out your zip code when asked by major retailers. A recent news report revealed that giving out your zip code in the checkout line can link them to your personal information, and lead to even more junk mail and telemarketing calls.
· Opt Out. Sign up for OptOutPrescreen, which is a free service that takes your name off the lists that the three major consumer credit reporting companies supply to financial services companies.
· Hold Mail. While you're on vacation, arrange for a neighbor or friend to pick up your mail, or ask your post office to hold delivery until you get back.
· Credit Monitoring. Credit score monitoring services can alert you to unexpected changes in your credit reports and scores from each of the bureaus. You may want to evaluate use of these types of services.
So next time you visit your mailbox and find a stack full of junk mail, take a minute to look through it, and then shred it instead of throwing it into the nearest trash can. In the end, the simple actions listed above could save you thousands of dollars in identity theft restoration costs, not to mention countless hours of time and trouble in restoring your identity.