It sounds like an awesome service – especially in the coronavirus era.
Under its “Informed Delivery” program, the U.S. Postal Service e-mails residential customers daily photographs of the front exterior of their incoming mail. The idea is to give you a heads up about what you’re going to receive in the mailbox that day. That way, if you have to hike to your mailbox in the lobby of your apartment complex or around the corner in your subdivision, you can decide if it’s worth the trip or if it can wait.
For any busy person, that sounds like a pretty good deal. And in this season of social distancing, when we’re all trying to stay indoors and away from other people as much as possible, Informed Delivery might appear particularly enticing.
Don’t be suckered in! Informed Delivery could potentially make you vulnerable to identity theft.
It's all about the information
As we’ve discussed a lot on this blog, identity thieves traffic in information – that’s how they make their mischief. Without information, they can’t cause havoc. So, the best way to protect yourself is to eliminate needless information sources that criminals can hijack for their own nefarious purposes.
Today, when we think of identity theft, we think of hackers slipping into databases to steal people’s personal information. But, keep in mind, criminals don’t need digital information in order to steal your identity. They just need information. And information can come from anywhere.
In fact, one low-tech strategy identity thieves often use to steal a person’s information is by rifling through their trash or peaking into their mailboxes, to see who they’re getting mail from.
You can see where I’m going with this, right? USPS’ Informed Delivery service creates a whole new avenue for identity thieves to steal a person’s information.
Get There Before the Criminals
A couple of caveats. USPS does deserve some credit. It eventually
recognized that Informed Delivery could be used for identity theft. Part of
the sign-up process now involves the agency confirming the identity of new
subscribers. It’s encouraging whenever government agencies acknowledge
identity theft dangers. (As I’ve found out the hard way, too often they don’t.)
Also encouraging: USPS offers an Informed Delivery option in which you
receive e-mails from USPS website to view the photographs of your mail.
That’s a better choice, but still not great, as a hacker could, in theory, steal
your login information and get access to your online dashboard. This is
why you need to sign up for this service, and especially for this
option, as soon as possible. You need to do this BEFORE an identity
thief jumps in there, pretending to be you, and gets access to all of your
And just to be clear, Informed Delivery is not available for business clients
– only residential ones, and some post office boxes. So, it’s not like
Informed Delivery can directly endanger businesses.
But, then again, I know a lot of business people who receive all or some of
their business correspondence at their homes. If they subscribe to Informed
Delivery, they could be endangering their businesses and not even know
it. That is, if they get the original type of Informed Delivery. By signing up
for the alternative, where you need to sign in to get those photos of your
mail, you add an important layer of safety. USPS will confirm your identity,
and then you will be able to sign into a more secure website, using your
personal login information, to see the images of your mail. At this point,
you will need to guard your password for the login, but if you do so, this can
be a safe and secure way to learn what to expect in your mailbox.
Yes, Informed Delivery is a cool-sounding idea, especially now that as
we’re all social distancing in the time of the coronavirus. But in this day and
age, when cyber criminals are peering into every nook and cranny for
people’s personal information, you need to use caution in every move you
Should you do it?
My recommendation: Sign up quickly, making sure that someone has
already stolen your identity so they can check your mail. Stop this potential
threat before it has a chance to occur. Or, if it has already begun, let the
USPS know. Once they know your identity, and confirm that you are their
real postal customer, they will take steps to pursue the thief. Perhaps this
will not only help you but also deter the thieves from finding further.
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