Simple steps can help keep your identity safe
Identity theft is one of America's fastest-growing crimes, costing billions of dollars each year. Victims can spend months or years and thousands of dollars cleaning up their financial records and restoring their good names.
A recent Federal Trade Commission survey on identity theft determined that only 2 percent of all victims reported that the theft was connected to the mail. But for the Postal Service, even 2 percent is too much.
The Postal Service teamed up with the FTC to provide tips and tools to help Americans protect their identities and information on actions they can take if they become victims of identity theft. The FTC brochure, "Deter. Detect. Defend. Fighting Back Against Identity Theft," is included in the mailing from the postmaster general.
Americans depend on the security of the mail and they trust the U.S. Postal Service, above all other federal agencies, to protect their privacy. The Postal Service has ranked first among all federal agencies for the past three years, according to the national survey by the Ponemon Institute. And more than four out of every five Americans rated the Postal Service as their favorite federal agency in a national public opinion poll from GfK Roper Consulting.
In addition to educating consumers about identity theft, the Postal Service, through its Postal Inspection Service, is leading the fight against this crime. More than 1,700 postal inspectors stationed nationwide are charged with protecting the nation's mail system from criminal misuse. In fiscal year 2007 alone, they opened more than 1,500 identity theft investigations and arrested more than 2,000 suspects for related crimes.
The FTC and the Postal Service offer the following tips to help protect against identity theft:
» Check credit card statements, bank documents and financial reports every month for unauthorized activity.
» Protect Social Security numbers. Don't carry Social Security cards in wallets or write the number on a check.
» Don't provide personal information over the phone or the Internet.
» Never click on links sent in unsolicited email messages.
» Keep personal information in a secure place at home.
More information on identity theft and information on reporting the crime can be found at these Web sites:
» U.S. Postal Inspection Service (usps.com/postalinspectors)
» The Federal Trade Commission
» The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (www.fdic.gov/consumers)
» The Department of Justice (www.ojp.gov/topics/identitytheft.htm)
We will keep working to make the mail even more secure. Your identity is valuable. The value we place on your trust and our role in delivery and protecting your mail is immeasurable.
Daryl Ishizaki is the district manager for the U.S. Postal Service.