Your identity is in the mail, so open your mail

Some time-saver experts have suggested consumers should only open their mail once a week. That’s a mistake. Why? Because it could make you more vulnerable to identity theft.

Why open your mail?
The U.S. Postal Service recommends consumers collect and open their mail every day. But why is it important to open your mail?

First, information in your mail could include personal information. And anything with account numbers, social security numbers, banking details, pay stubs, or identifying information (such as your date of birth) should be shredded. If you open all your mail, you’ll see if personal information is enclosed. And, you’ll know you should avoid tossing it in the recycling bin.

Second, your mail may include important information you need to know about including jury notices, driver license renewals or bills.  Some of these pieces of mail you will need to deal with immediately or the information will help you plan your schedule.

Third, it could be your first indication of identity theft. If someone steals your identity, the bills related to the theft may come to your mailing address. When you open your mail, you’ll see the bills and can immediately stop the thief from charging even more on your good name. However, if you assume that all mail from banks or credit card companies is “junk mail” and don’t open it, you could be letting the thief get away with the crime for months.

Identity theft warning signs
One of the most frustrating aspects of identity theft is that you may not discover it until it has already occurred. Here are some warning signs to watch out for:

  • You receive bills for a credit card account you never opened, or you notice unfamiliar and unauthorized charges on your bills.
  • Collection agencies may contact you regarding payment of debts you do not know exist. A billing cycle passes without receiving your credit card statement — or other expected mail
  • Your bank statements include transfers or withdrawals you do not remember, checks are missing from your checkbook, or new checks do not arrive in the mail.
  • You get turned down for a credit card, mortgage or other loan because your credit report includes debts you never knew you had.

This is why it’s important to open your credit card bills and bank statements right away. Check carefully for any unauthorized charges or withdrawals and report them immediately. Call if bills don’t arrive on time. It may mean someone has changed account contact information to hide fraudulent activities.

Also, review your credit report at least once a year. Check for changed addresses and fraudulent charges. Federal law gives you the right to request your three credit reports, one from each of the three major credit reporting agencies, every year through

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