Although cyber security issues and digital crime rates are rising, traditional mail fraud is also experiencing a surge. While it used to be limited to specific regions, mail fraud is now becoming more common across northern Alabama, especially in Birmingham. If you become a victim of mail fraud, recovering your losses can be difficult and time-consuming. Therefore, it’s best to follow the old saying, “The best defense is a good offense,” and take proactive steps to protect yourself.
How to avoid becoming a victim
- Avoid mailing checks whenever possible! Criminals are improving their ability to clean checks and pretend to be account owners, so minimizing your footprint is vital to reduce your risk of check fraud. If you must mail a check, avoid sending it through your home mailbox with the red flag raised or through the blue US Postal Service mail collection boxes.
- If you need to send a check using your home mailbox or USPS mailbox, drop it off as close to the pick-up time as possible. The raised red flag can attract criminals who may steal your mail. Criminals can also steal mail from collection boxes by bribing or robbing postal workers to get the master key, so it’s best to minimize the time your mail is unmonitored to reduce the risk of mail fraud.
- If away from your home for an extended period, it’s a good idea to ask a trusted friend or family member to pick up your mail regularly. If you cannot find someone, the US Postal Service can hold your mail until you return. See here for details on how to sign up!
- Consistently monitor your digital accounts to catch early warnings of issues. Regularly check your checking, savings, and investment accounts for any signs of suspicious activity. Monitoring your credit score is also crucial because fraudulent loan requests in your name can significantly change your score.
The list above may not cover everything, but these simple steps can help you avoid the costs and troubles of mail fraud.
If you suspect mail fraud
If you suspect you are a victim, immediately take the following steps:
- Report the fraud to the US Postal Service at https://www.uspis.gov/report or call the US Postal Inspection Service at 1-877-876-2455.
- Notify all your banking and financial institutions of the situation so they can place a freeze on your accounts.
- Contact local law enforcement!
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Marshall Clay CFP, J.D., is a Partner and Senior Advisor at The Welch Group, LLC, specializing in providing Fee-Only investment management and financial advice to families throughout the United States. Marshall is a graduate of the United States Military Academy in West Point, New York, the Cumberland School of Law in Birmingham, Alabama, and is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™. In addition, Marshall is a frequent guest on local television stations as an expert on various financial planning matters.
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