Forestalling identity theft
January 25, 2006 10:51 AM   Subscribe

Lost mail and potential identity theft: what to do?

Someone in our household picked up mail from the post office, but lost a few pieces on the walk home (this was discovered immediately and I called the post office right away). They may have blown away, or someone may have put them in a mailbox, but the post office didn't find them in their lobby or at their front sidewalk, nor has retracing the path to the post office turned up anything.

I'm hoping they turn up in a day or so (PLEASE let someone honest put them in a mailbox!), but apart from tracking what we think was lost, is there anything else we can do to protect ourselves? And is there anything else besides identity theft that we should be concerned about?
posted by maudlin to Work & Money (6 answers total)
What was so different about this particular mail that worries you more than say, the mail that is delivered normally every day?
posted by Witty at 10:57 AM on January 25, 2006

Response by poster: A personal bank statement and a bill for our business, definitely. Nothing with any government identity numbers, as far as we know, but the person who lost the mail isn't sure of the exact number or nature of every single lost envelope.
posted by maudlin at 11:01 AM on January 25, 2006

Response by poster: It's tax time and I think we have all our receipts and government statements, but I can't be sure yet -- we're still tracking.
posted by maudlin at 11:02 AM on January 25, 2006

Well, someone else will have to take care of any legal advice that might be appropriate here. But personally, I think the chances of something like that happening are low. It would take the right (or wrong I guess) kind of person to find that mail and then know what to do with it in order to steal your indentity. More than likely, the mail will end up in the trash one way or another... possibly destroyed from exposure to the elements.

I'm not trying to downplay your concern here or suggest that it's "impossible". I'm just going with my gut feeling and what is more likely to (not) happen. With that, I will bow out and allow someone who might know what they're talking about chime in. {wink}
posted by Witty at 11:10 AM on January 25, 2006

I think the only thing you can do in forestalling credit theft is to catch it as early as possible in the game. Subscribe to a credit score monitor that will inform you of radical changes to your score.

See for example:

MyFico Identity Theft Security Deluxe

As I haven't used it, I can't endorse it, but you might search around for these kinds of products.

Also, check with your credit card banks to see whether they offer anything similar.
posted by poppo at 11:31 AM on January 25, 2006

The bank statement and bill for you business will each have at least an account number and your name and address on them. They'll also have balances, maybe credit limits if the bill is a revolving-debt kind of thing. This is enough information for "the wrong person" to try to call your bank and have the address changed to their own and to try to obtain checks or plastic (credit/debit).

Ask you bank and business creditor to change your account numbers, and ask if they can flag your account(s) so that any address changes requested require additional authorization (i.e., answering a challenge question, appearing in person, notarized letter, etc).

And monitor your accounts online, if possible. Studies show that ID theft losses are significantly lower for customers who conduct financial business online, since you're not waiting for a month to get your statement and discover the bad news.
posted by ersatzkat at 11:55 AM on January 25, 2006

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