Connecticut BBB Cautions Consumers about Dangers Posed by Certain Mailbox Offers
Wallingford, CT - January 19, 2010 – Opening someone else’s mail carries a major penalty. It is a federal crime punishable by up to ten years in prison and a $250,000 fine. That however, is not enough of a deterrent to criminals who poke through people’s mailboxes to find a golden nugget hidden in routine junk mail received by many Americans.
Unwanted mail is as much a threat to personal information as it is a nuisance. A Javelin Strategy and Research survey on ID theft finds almost ten million Americans were victims of identity theft in 2009, at a loss of $48 billion. According to Connecticut Better Business Bureau President, Paulette Scarpetti, a growing number of such cases are the result of stolen mail.
“Many consumers believe that high tech methods account for most identity theft, but old fashioned methods, such as rifling through someone’s mail box can yield a wealth of information that aids in the theft of consumers’ personal information.”
Some protect themselves by installing secure mail boxes, but the risk of this kind of identity theft can be significantly reduced by opting-out of unwanted mail by telephone, or filling out an online form.
Connecticut Better Business Bureau offers the following tips to staunch the flow of incoming junk mail:Close the door on pre-approved credit card offers:
Identity thieves can use these offers to open fraudulent credit accounts. Stopping pre-approved credit offers reduces opportunities for identity theft. Consumers may opt-out of receiving pre-approved credit offers for at least five years by calling 1-888-5-optout (567-8688) or visiting www.optoutprescreen.com.
This service was set up by the three credit reporting agencies. Consumers will be asked for personal information including name, address, birth date and Social Security Number. This information is used only to process requests and will remain confidential.Stopping other mailings to keep your absence private
Conventional wisdom dictates consumers heading out of town should either temporarily stop mail delivery or have someone pick up mail while you’re away. Junk mail piles up quickly and is an indication that you are not home for an extended period.
- Direct mail offers can be stopped by contacting the Direct Marketing Association, a trade group of 5,200 member companies that pitch their products directly to consumers by mail, telephone and Internet. Consumers can put an end to DMA member mailings by visiting www.dmachoice.org. Though the Association updates its list on a regular basis, it may take as many as six months before DMA member solicitations stop.
- Consumers’ mailboxes can be stuffed with retail catalogues even if they have never shopped with the companies. The catalogues begin showing up if someone makes a catalogue or online purchase with another company that shares sales information with an alliance of catalogue and publishing companies called ABACUS. Consumers can stop mass catalogue deliveries by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org or writing to Abacus, Inc., P.O. Box 1478, Bloomfield, Colorado 80038.
- Consumers may opt-out of “Resident” or “Occupant” mailings by contacting Valassis, Inc. either by telephone at 1-888-241-6760 or an online form at www.advo.com/consumersupport.html. The request also may be made by mail addressed to ADVO, Inc. Customer Assistance, P.O. Box 249, Windsor, Connecticut 06095.
If a child under age 13 is receiving mailed advertisements or credit card offers, it could be a sign that identity theft already has occurred. BBB recommends, in such cases, contacting the three credit reporting bureaus and informing them of the situation.
Stopping unwanted mail is also environmentally-friendly. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Americans throw away more than 4 million tons of junk mail each year.