A Post Office Box, or PO Box, can be a very useful tool in your fight against would be identity thieves. Use them to add a layer of anonymity and thieves are likely to look for softer targets.
Thieves can’t steal mail from your PO Box. If you live in an area where your mail is accessible without a key, then you live in an area where an identity thief could come by and steal your mail! The easiest way to combat this is to get paperless statements. The second easiest way is to rent a post office box and get your bills delivered there. Your mail is safely locked away and no thief is going to waste their time trying to break into PO boxes when they can waltz down any street and open up regular mail boxes!
If they get your mail, they don’t have your address. When a thief gets your mail and sees your name with a PO Box as an address, they’re going to be upset. Without your physical address, it becomes much harder for them to steal something from you. My PO Box address isn’t listed on any of my credit reports because they aren’t residences. So without knowing my physical address, it becomes much harder to pretend to be me.
Thwart junk solicitations. One unintended benefit of using a PO Box is that you will personally receive fewer junk mail letters and your PO Box will receive more. Most post offices have locked blue recycling bins so you can dump the junk mail immediately.
Even the Department of the Treasury recommends using a PO Box to “outsmart the crooks” in their identity theft learning guide [PDF, 650kb]
If you’re sold on the idea, find out how much a post office box costs near you. I rent their smallest size for a mere $5 a month and it’s available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. I’d rather spend $5 a month and go the do-it-yourself identify theft protection route than pay for a service.
Do you use a PO Box or some other type of “secured mailbox facility” like Mailboxes Etc.?
Jim writes daily about personal finance at Bargaineering.com.