Locking Mailboxes Mitigate Identity Fraud — BP #57


Last week Boomer and Echo shared a great post about preventing identity fraud. Be sure to check it out and read the tips. One anti-fraud tactic that I use — a locking mailbox — was missing.

Growing up, I lived in a cookie cutter middle class suburban home with a so-called Super Mailbox. Now I live in a neighbourhood where, for some bizarre reason, mail is still delivered house-to-house every single business day. This is a significant convenience for me, and a massive cost to taxpayers by way of lower Canada Post profits. It also creates a greater risk for fraud (particularly identity theft). People can walk up, check the box, and grab your mail. PO Boxes mitigate the identity theft issue, but paying $100 to Canada Post for the privilege of driving several kilometers every day just to grab my mail seems like a Pyrrhic victory. A simpler, cheaper tactic is to install a locking mailbox.

And that’s exactly what I did. For $60 plus HST I got a locking mailbox, new house numbers (the old ones were on the mailbox), and necessary mounting hardware (Tapcon screws and a hardened drill bit). Installation took about a half hour, but only because I had no experience with Tapcon screws.

new locking mailbox

Note that a committed thief can still steal mail from a locking mailbox.

If a would-be fraudster can steal my mail anyway, why bother?

For starters, my mailbox would be more challenging to fish the mail out of, unlike the one featured in the above clip. But a thief could easily rip this unit off the wall using a pry bar. The key is that, to steal my mail, a thief would need to damage or steal the mailbox. That’s valuable. People who have gotten their mail stolen often don’t realize it’s happened for a long time. I, on the other hand, would know on the same day. I could take immediate corrective action. Contacting the police would be an obvious step #1, followed by getting fraud alerts on our credit reports with both credit reporting agencies. It takes time for a criminal to steal an identity and use it to profitable ends. The key is to identify it early, stop it definitively, and go on the offensive.

All of this adds up to one important point: I am not a low-hanging fruit for home or auto robberies. It’s the same impetus for making sure every door has a deadbolt or religiously using a steering wheel lock on an 03 Malibu. Such tactics mean it takes more effort and risk to victimize me. Most thieves would pick a different target. A locking mailbox moves its owner to a higher branch on the tree.

//Cat Awards “Dad of the Year” Title to Joe//

Cat does this really adorable/sad thing where, when I laugh (at a TV show or whatever), she starts pouting. That makes me laugh harder which then makes her pout more and finally start crying. Once the chain reaction starts, it’s like a nuclear meltdown that ends with my partner whisking away our screaming baby while I continue to laugh. Here’s an example, after she started the pout cycle because I was laughing at a YouTube video. It’s also my submission for the “Dad of the Year Award” (warning: crying baby).

And here are pictures to remind you that she’s not always crying with Dad; she spends a lot of her time falling asleep when I hold her:

She had a busy dayCat likes sleeping on people

Cat’s Great Uncle and Aunt sent her nice presents last week, all the way from the West Coast. Come next summer she will look adorable in them.

Cat's Great Uncle and Aunt sent her presents that she'll look really cute in next summer

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10 Comments… Share your views

  1. We have to go to the post office to retrieve mail from our mail box, the old school type where there’s a wall of boxes. When we have to pick up packages, they use the personal recognition safety system – everybody knows everybody so the posties just hand over the packages.

    It’s kind of funny when we get a new person working at the post office. They transfer in from the city and are used to checking ID at the front desk for every package. They’ll ask for ID, and I’m normally a bit surprised, until I remember that they’re probably supposed to ask for ID :). About the second month they get to know everyone and don’t ask for ID anymore. I’ve also seen their fellow employees yell from the back “It’s OK, just give him the package” :).

    • lol That’s the same as in Omemee. If PO Boxes were a 10-minute stroll or 2-minute car drive, I might have used one again but that’s not the case here. They’re obviously tough to beat in terms of security. Well, except Super Mailboxes. Why are people are so resistant to change?

  2. I’ve read a few articles that the biggest problem here is in the early morning. Thieves will look for the “up” flag on a box and steal the outbound mail hoping to get their hands on checks which they presumably bleach the ink off and write it out to themselves. We really haven’t had much of a problem in my neighborhood (Joe can take a good guess why). The bigger problem is drunk teens in cars with baseball bats!

    • Educated, broad gun ownership prevents crime. Here, people would literally waltz up to your mail box and steal your mail because what can a homeowner do? Exercising the right to self-defence against theft in Canuckistan can result in catching charges. Exhibit 1: David Chen, Toronto grocer who arrested a repeated shoplifter and held him for police ended up getting arrested himself. He was acquitted – AFTER A YEAR of legal bills, a trial, etc. I know America has got its problems but definitely be thankful you at least have the right to defend yourself with reasonable force.

  3. The added effort for thieves is probably a huge deterrent. I can’t tell you how many times people would leave pay stubs laying around at my old job, probably not even caring that they are effectively handing over everything an identity thief would need.

    There are so many people out there with open doors that a fake lock would probably be enough!

    • Yeah exactly. People complain about high insurance costs and then most undertake so few steps — the tiniest of baby steps — to reduce theft and other crime.

    • Speaking of leaving pay stubs around, about 5 years ago we bought some surplus desks from a local university (I was expanding our office). In one of the desks we found a bunch of paperwork and a disk with pay and other info from the university employees. As you’d imagine, I shredded it and destroyed the disk.

      Which is why I never sell old hard drives. And I don’t just recycle them. My normal procedure involves a drill and a hammer to destroy the platters completely before I dispose of them. It’s harder than you might imagine to destroy a hard drive. I understand that the FBI could still probably recover data, but it should be enough to stop anyone except government agencies and aliens. :tinfoil hat:

      • lol. Yes absolutely. It’s stunning how lackadaisical a lot of huge organizations are about private data (just look at the federal student loans debacle!).

        I think the big data destruction companies employ some kind of huge magnets for that purpose. I only have one external hard drive which I keep locked up (for fire purposes rather than theft — I encrypt data to deal with theft) but if I had significant data processing needs I’d need to figure something out for safety.

  4. Burglary is a high-risk activity for a thief ’round here in gunned-up Oklahoma. Even so, we don’t leave any outbound mail for pickup, to specifically guard against identity theft. On the inbound, Mrs. 101 is home to pick up the mail almost as soon as it’s delivered. A locking feature would be a little difficult to retrofit into the mailbox’s brick housing, but now that I’ve read this, likely will give it some thought. Might be able to add a spring loaded locking feature and a small sign to the mail carrier to please let the mailbox door spring back to a closed position.

    • Nice lol. Yeah seriously, thieves are usually rational and most crimes are crimes of opportunity. If a thief knows a homeowner might have a 12-gauge by the door and see what they’re up to, it’s a whole different calculation.

      Obviously I can’t give great advice without seeing your specific unit (and it’s not like I could give great advice anyway lol). But sometimes there are lock boxes designed for placement INTO existing mailboxes.

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