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Identity theft

Identity theft loophole exploits postal change-of-address forms to steal mail, credit cards and personal documents

Tuesday, February 20, 2007 by: M.T. Whitney
Tags: identity theft, health news, Natural News

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(NewsTarget) The latest trick in identity theft: divert the mail by sending it elsewhere through a change-of-address form.

It's possible for criminals to have the post office send the mail to their doorstep, even while the real addressee is sitting at home wondering where their mail is, a recent investigation by television station WCBS of New York shows.

WCBS found that that it required no ID, no real hoops to jump through and not much gumption to file a fake change-of-address card.

Al Weissmann, an inspector with the Postal Inspection Service, told WCBS that U.S. Postal Service records indicate only 100 of the 45 million change-of-address forms filed were fraudulently filed. However, for the people affected, the impact is huge: it means bank statements, pre-approved credit card applications and all sorts of other personal information is being sent directly to an identity thief.

That's what Steve Zuckerman, of Great Neck, N.Y., found the hard way: identity thieves racked up $90,000 worth of credit using nine credit card applications that were illegally directed to them, according to WCBS. Great Neck is in Long Island.

This time of year poses a larger threat of identity theft for Americans, as W-2 and other tax forms are currently being mailed out by the Internal Revenue Service. These forms include your full Social Security number, the name of your employer and, in some cases, the bank account that your paychecks go to.

The Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, a nonprofit consumer advocacy group, states that more than 100 million records with sensitive private information have been stolen from Americans since 2005. More than 670,000 identities were stolen last year alone, WCBS reported.

Some tips to avoid identity theft include:
- If you receive your mail at your place, pay attention if you don't receive any mail in your name for more than a couple days, even if other people at your house are receiving mail. A change-of-address form does not necessarily redirect mail for everyone in the household; it can just affect the person that thieves targeted with a forged form.
- Consider mailing your letters and bills in a public mailbox instead of from your home mailbox. Send bills and other important mail before the final collection time for the mailbox, because thieves are known to tamper and steal from public mailboxes at night.
- Get your mail as soon as it arrives at your mailbox. Do not leave it sitting in the box overnight. Electronic sensors that alert you with a signal inside your home that the mailbox has been opened are available for purchase.
- Consider getting a locking mailbox.

For more, NewsTarget offers a safety guide to fight identity theft available online at this URL: http://www.truthpublishing.com/identitytheft_p/yprint-cat21322.htm

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