Who Opened My Mail?

How worried should I be about receiving credit card offers in the mail that have obviously been already opened by someone else? This has happened to me twice in the last six months, and I even notified my post office after the first time it happened. What else can I do to protect myself against identify theft and keep my mail secure? — M.V.

When I was in grad school, someone began stealing my mail, including an offer from my bank to include a spouse or child under my account and send him or her a debit card to use. The thief forged my information and signature, received a copy of my card, and withdrew $500 from an ATM (my daily limit for cash withdrawals). I only discovered that this had happened because I check my balances once a day, and when I called my bank to sort it out, it took them a month to return that money to me.

If someone is stealing your mail, you should be very worried. If someone is tampering with your mail, you should be less worried, but still worried. I’m not sure where you live and what your mailbox situation is. Do you live in the ‘burbs with a mailbox post in your front yard where anyone can just reach in to steal or tamper with your mail? Do you have a mailbox that requires a key? If you have the former, consider getting a secure mailbox that locks.

Notifying your post office was the right thing to do. I’d follow up with them. Next, if you’re not in the market for a credit card, opt out of receiving credit card offers in the mail (you can do that online here). Even if you are looking for a credit card, you can research and apply for them online, so you don’t need those prescreened offers.

Finally, pull your credit report (you can request one free copy a year by going here) and do a line-by-line review of the accounts that are open in your name. If you see anything suspicious or fraudulent, contact the credit bureau (i.e. Experian) that’s reporting the account, and file a dispute, and then contact the creditor of the account (i.e. Citibank, Amex, Discover, etc.), and let them know that the account is fraudulent and that they need to shut it down.

Photo: John-Morgan