ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — There’s a new way to help battle identity theft, and it’s free.
The U.S. Postal Service earlier this year rolled out a program that gives a digital preview of the mail customers can expect to find in their box that same day.
Called Informed Delivery, the service sends you a morning email with black-and-white images of letter-sized pieces that have been processed by the agency’s sorting equipment. It’s the same mechanism the Postal Service uses to scan mail, so you’re getting pictures of what the carrier will be bringing you. Holidays and Sundays are not included.
The messages can be viewed on a computer or smartphone. Flat-shaped pieces, such as catalogs and magazines, and mass fliers, such as grocery circulars, are not included.
The great thing about this service is that you’ll know quickly if something is missing from your box.
“It allows users access to their household’s mail wherever, whenever – even as they travel – on a computer, tablet, or mobile device,” said Peter Hass, Postal Service spokesman.
Mail theft is one way identity thieves go about their business. Once they have credit card statements, banking information or other identifying data that’s included in your mail, they can fairly easily impersonate you and steal your money.
Consumers nationwide reported about 400,000 identity theft complaints to the Federal Trade Commission last year, making the crime the third-largest category of complaints.
Also, Informed Delivery tells you when something important is coming your way so that you can ask a family member or trusted neighbor to retrieve it for you if you can’t get to your box that day.
“If any mail is missing or there’s a discrepancy between the scanned images and the mail in your box, you’ll know to alert the local postmaster,” said the national Identity Theft Resource Center.
The morning email alert includes up to 10 mail piece images, but you can see any additional mailings on your online dashboard, in the same place you would track packages, the Poster Service says.
For more details and information on signing up, go to https://informeddelivery.usps.com/box/pages/intro/start.action.
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Antenna up, if you get a call from a 323 area code that purports to be from the Social Security Administration.
Although mention of a 1.7 percent cost-of-living increase might be appealing, the person at the other end of the line is a fraud as is the supposed hike in benefits.
The caller poses as a Social Security employee and says to receive the increase, the intended victim must verify personal information, such as name, date of birth and Social Security number. Once the impersonators have this information, they contact the agency and ask that changes be made to the victim’s direct deposit, address, and telephone information.
Here’s the reality: Social Security recipients this year are receiving a 0.3 percent cost-of-living increase, so talk of a 1.7 percent hike would fall into the too-good-to-be-true category.
Social Security employees do sometimes call people for customer-service purposes, the agency said. It is rare that they ask the person to confirm personal information over the phone; in cases where that happens it is a “limited special situation” that you will have been made aware of.
Report a suspicious call like this to the Office of Inspector General at 1-800-269-0271 or online at oig.ssa.gov/report.
Ellen Marks is assistant business editor at the Albuquerque Journal. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or 505-823-3842 if you are aware of what sounds like a scam. To report a scam to law enforcement, contact the New Mexico Consumer Protection Division toll-free at 1-844-255-9210â€‹.