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Protecting Your Credit Card Accounts from Low-Tech Crime

by Barbara Marquand

The media is full of stories about a new breed of sophisticated thieves--from hackers who steal credit card information online to scammers who trick innocent people into revealing account information through bogus e-mails.

Certainly it's prudent to protect yourself against these tech-savvy thieves by taking precautions with credit cards online. But don't get so focused on technology that you forget to protect old-fashioned targets--your garbage can and mailbox. Not on your computer--the ones outside your home.

Credit Card Fraud Through Mail Theft

Mail theft is an easy way crooks can get hold of your credit card and other financial account information and use it to steal your identity. Thieves can fill out credit card applications in your name, steal credit card bill statements, or swipe statements and checks you've placed in the box for the letter carrier to deliver.

You may not think about your garbage barrel as a target--after all it's filled with stuff you don't want--but your trash could very well be a thief's treasure.

Credit Card Protection: Low-Tech Tips

Follow these tips to prevent identity theft via the low-tech avenues of the garbage can and mailbox:

• Store credit card bill statements in a safe place, and shred them before throwing them away. Shred unwanted credit card solicitations, too.

• Deposit mail in Postal Service collection boxes as close to the pickup time as possible.

• Don't leave mail with sensitive information for the mail carrier in your own mailbox.

• Pick up your mail from your mailbox as soon as possible after it's delivered. Don't leave mail in your mailbox overnight or on weekends. Ask the Postal Service to hold your mail while you're out of town or ask a trusted friend or relative to pick up the mail every day for you.

Moving? Contact Credit Card Companies ASAP

• Contact the post office as soon as you change your address, and call your credit card companies and banks to change your billing address when you move.

• Put your return address on all envelopes you mail.

• Know when your credit card bills should arrive each month, and call the companies if you don't receive them on time.

Finally, if you see anyone suspicious rummaging in garbage cans or peeking in mailboxes in your neighborhood, call police right away. Report any mail theft to a Postal Inspector.



Published 02/02/11 (Modified 02/07/11)

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