I Refuse To Bow To The Altar Of Holy Envelopes

Lani is doing what it takes to guard as much as possible against identity-swiping mail thieves. Time Warner Cable sends Lani return envelopes with unprotected holes to show the address, but this is one customer who refuses to play the game, modifying the envelopes until they’re secure enough to send:

I have been using Time Warner Cable services for a few months now. Since I’m old-school, I prefer using checks to pay for services instead of automatic bill pay.
Well, I’ve been noticing that whenever Time Warner sends me my bill, it always comes with a return envelope with a huge hole in it.

I know the hole is there so that the return address of the Time Warner processing center is visible, but every other company I know has a plastic film over the holes in their return envelopes.

I’m not one to trust my checks in an envelope that you can stick your fingers through, so I’ve always been covering up the hole with clear plastic, or sending my checks through my own sealed envelopes.

The easy way around the holes is to pay bills online, but for those who stick with snail mail, how do you feel about paying bills with holy envelopes?

Comments

Edit Your Comment

  1. Alvis says:

    This is not a problem.

    • DJSeanMac says:

      This is paranoia.

    • Griking says:

      Of course it isn’t.

      If someone really wanted the information in one of these envelopes then they’d open it or even just steal the whole envelope.

    • dcarrington01 says:

      Yeah, just put your check in there with the back of it on the opening side, then put lots of clear tape over the opening (attaching the back of the check to the envelope! that way you’re sure that it won’t fall out the opening. Makes removing the check alot of fun too!

  2. Gulliver says:

    Then use your own envelope. Not an issue. Do you think an identity thief wouldn’t just take the entire envelope with plastic on it and grab the check out of it? I don;t have auto pay with Comcast, but I pay my bill online each month. If he really wanted to, he could actually take it to the office and pay there as well.

  3. Nighthawke says:

    I cook my own using Office’s letter and label wizard. Buy a box of secure #10’s that are windowless and print, write or type the address on the front. Recycle the junk envelopes that they send you.

    Or you can use labels and print on them.

    Please make sure you write legibly or your payment might get delayed in its delivery.

    • pecan 3.14159265 says:

      I use the envelopes companies provide to hold coupons when I go to the grocery store. I use the blank side (though some of them don’t keep it blank) to write my grocery list and the coupons that are in the envelope.

      • delicatedisarray says:

        This is such a great idea! I’m always forgetting about my coupons when at the register and when I hold them with my shopping list I always end up losing one at some point during my trek through the store.

      • minjche says:

        +1 internets for such an awesome idea.

      • katstermonster says:

        Mom?

        • pecan 3.14159265 says:

          Hahaha. I do it because I can’t organize coupons (there’s a huge pile of them on the coffee table) and individual envelopes with only the ones I’m using that day is the only way of making sure I actually use them, instead of just forgetting them on the coffee table. Of course, what to do with coupons that don’t end up getting used because the store is out of stock, doesn’t have the advertised sale, or the scanner won’t take them… that I haven’t figured out.

  4. SerenityDan says:

    I believe that having a hole instead of plastic is actually violating postal regulations.

    • ridbx says:

      Open windows without the plastic are allowed. The postal regulation about windows in envelopes (Postal Regulation DMM 601.6.3, if you want to look it up) specifies how far the opening can be from the edges of the envelope, the color of the cover material and how it’s secured, if used, but not that window coverings must be used.

      /graphic designers, we have to know this stupid stuff

    • Calcbunny says:

      No it is not violating postal regulations. I oversee renewals for a large publisher, I use these holey BRE’s so I can change my return address on the fly by lasering it on the return coupon and using a window BRE as the to address shows through the hole. It saves a lot of money as I never have to print BRE’s, I just use the generic holy ones. I;ve never heard a complaint, and I mail over 3 milions pieces a year.

  5. dgm says:

    “Since I’m old-school, I prefer using checks to pay for services instead of automatic bill pay.”

    Even if you don’t want to use automatic bill-pay, there are better ways of sending money than by writing a check. Why not use manual online bill-pay instead? It’s more secure, faster and cheaper.

    Even if you fix the window envelopes, the same potential for theft of your checks exists. Someone who wants your check doesn’t care that they have to tear the envelope open.

    • pecan 3.14159265 says:

      I think she probably meant online bill pay. It’s inane in any case, because online bill pay is a lot more secure. If she’s concerned about security to the point where she’s modifying envelopes to avoid thieves stealing her check (not that a plastic film is going to deter them, but that’s another discussion altogether) she should understand that online bill pay is a lot more secure than sending your bank account number and routing information through the USPS, especially because the envelope is most likely labeled “billing” in some way.

  6. benh999 says:

    If someone were actually able gain access to the envelope and manipulate the paper inside the envelope through the hole so that the ABA and account numbers on the check were exposed, why would they not just rip the thing open and take what they want, then throw the rest away?

    • Murph1908 says:

      Agreed. My thoughts exactly. Dumb story.

    • haggis for the soul says:

      Exactly. I’m thinking that an actual thief won’t respect the plastic window.

      • Mphone says:

        “Man, I am gonna steal me some checks for identity theft purposes. Oh, this one has a plastic cover over the window. That one is off limits. However this one is just an open window. Pay day indeed!”

        /read as Mitch Hedberg

  7. AustinTXProgrammer says:

    Save the stamp, use online bill pay (not automatic). Most banks let you see copies of the canceled checks and all. I see no reason to waste time and money using their return envelope.

    On the other hand, why don’t businesses save themselves money, the environment trees, and make the few consumers who still pay by old fashioned check buy their own envelopes?

  8. Crosberg says:

    I feel like a complete jackass saying this, but didn’t you mean holey, as in having holes, not holy as in sacred or divine?

    I’ll admit the title is clever…but confusing.

    • Applekid ┬──┬ ノ( ã‚œ-゜ノ) says:

      I’m a big fans of puns, so, the answer to your question is “yes.”

    • Silica says:

      You should not feel like a jackass (whatever that feels like). This site is not known for its close attention to grammar and spelling.

  9. summeroflove says:

    I imagine if she weren’t comfortable with computers, she could even call Time Warner up and pay by phone.

    • summeroflove says:

      Or better yet why doesn’t she DRIVE to the Time Warner processing center and hand them a check personally. (Sorry, couldn’t resist the sarcasm).

  10. Scoobatz says:

    I think you’re worrying about the wrong thing. I would be more concerned that someone would take the entire envelope. Why would a thief go through all the trouble of removing the check through the window?

    • summeroflove says:

      For sure. The check has to be in back of the address slip so it would make it doubly hard to get the check out without damaging the envelope. In that case, it would just be better to take the envelope.

    • aloria says:

      Was about to post the same thing. Sticking an entire envelope in your pocket or ripping it open and grabbing the check is faster. I doubt most check thieves have the luxury of spending all that extra time trying to cram a hand into the slot so that to get the check behind the invoice.

  11. bluevideo says:

    I don’t see why an identity thief would zero in on Time Warner Cable payment envelopes just because they have an open hole. If they wanted your check, they wouldn’t spend 10 minutes contorting the envelope (and probably fail)… they’d just rip it up, no matter how much clear plastic you added to it.

    Considering how many mail-in-rebate checks in postcard form (!) flow through the mail every day, I just don’t see this as a problem… not in the least.

    • pecan 3.14159265 says:

      Or for that matter, whether Lani drops off her mail into a mailbox or if she does what a lot of people with freestanding mailboxes do (if she has a freestanding one), which is put the outgoing mail into the empty mailbox with the red flag raised, anyone could just walk by and take her outgoing mail.

      • bluevideo says:

        The mail just isn’t terribly secure in general. For instance, I’ve lost count of how much of mine has ended up in my neighbor’s mailbox (and vice versa).

        I’d love to see a clip of someone successfully removing, and then replacing, a check from one of these TWC envelopes without opening it or ripping it any further than what faulty mail-handling equipment might (maybe slight tearing around the hole). It might not even be possible.

        If the thief wanted to copy/scan the check and put it back on its way to TWC undetected (why?), it’d be much easier to just cut envelope open and tape it shut. If, more logically, the crook didn’t care about sending it along, just take the whole dang envelope. If OP is worried about the check just “falling out”… it would take the kind of mail sorting equipment failure that adding plastic won’t prevent at all.

        The logic here reminds me of those customers I’d encounter who refused to sign or mark the back of their credit cards for fear of “giving the crook (their) signature”.

        • Mom says:

          Years ago, out of curiosity, or maybe it was that I had too much time on my hands, I tried to get the contents out of one of these envelopes through the hole. It wasn’t going to happen without ripping the envelope. Once you give yourself permission to rip the envelope, it’s all over anyway, hole or not.

          If she’s really that paranoid, all she has to do is put a couple of pieces of clear packing tape over the hole, one piece on the inside, and one on the outside. That would cover the hole, but still allow the address to be seen.

  12. donjumpsuit says:

    I love people who feel like thieves are very specific in what they target, and that they can prevent being a victim by small steps.
    If a thief wants that personal information you posses, the individual envelop that is addressed to COMCAST will not stop that thief from opening your mail.

    A thief will target you randomly (which is something you can’t prevent) or specifically (like knowing you are wealthy, and leave your house to go to work M-F 9-5.

    You may deter thieves by locking your doors, but it is real easy to break a window. You may take a bunch of steps to keep your credit card numbers safe on the internet, but a simple swipe by the waitress at a restaurant, and they are printing your information on a new card.

    Vigilance is not the same as paranoid. Not leaving your laptop unoccupied at a Starbucks is Vigilance, handcuffing it to your person is paranoid.

    • dulcinea47 says:

      But thieves will go for an easy target first. They’ll try for unlocked doors and open windows before they’ll decide to break in. (At least here they do… I can’t tell you how many burglaries take place b/c the dumb college students don’t bother to lock up!)

      However, I don’t really think this applies to envelopes… tearing into one with clear plastic is not any harder than tearing one without.

  13. nova3930 says:

    I feel like people should extract themselves from 1955 and quit paying $$ to pay your bills (ie checks and stamps cost $$$)

  14. sufreak says:

    I’d like my 60 seconds back that I used on this post.

  15. sendmoney2me says:

    sounds pretty anal to me

  16. evnmorlo says:

    If you want to be old-school pay in coin at the office. Sealed envelope windows aren’t going to make checks any more secure.

    • pecan 3.14159265 says:

      You can go to the office to pay with credit card or a check, and the person behind the counter is still going to record your information. And if you pay with cash, an unscrupulous person can pocket the money and there’s no record (unless there are security cameras) that you paid unless the person gives you a receipt. The reason why I pay online is because there’s an actual record of payment (e-mailed confirmation letters). I don’t get this with checks or with cash.

  17. sendmoney2me says:

    what does she do about the person at Time Warner thats opening the envelope and reading her info? lol

    • pecan 3.14159265 says:

      Maybe she thinks Time Warner’s online bill pay system is some kind of sentient HAL-like system that cares that she ordered pay per view last week.

  18. Gramin says:

    Really??? This is an issue for someone? I think there are more important things to be concerned about. If the thief is going to take your check, I bet he takes the entire envelope instead of trying to reach through the slot.

    Geez Phil… get with it please.

  19. johnrhoward says:

    I don’t understand what horrible things someone can do with an envelope with a hole in it that they can’t do with an envelope with a hole in it covered with plastic film.

    Also, if you’re so worried about things like this, why would you be “old-school” and pay with checks anyway?

  20. DanRydell says:

    lol @ thinking that plastic film makes the envelope secure

  21. Rachacha says:

    Dear OP, If you are concerned about someone stealing your identity or stealing your check, use online banking as no person ever handles your check and you can verify instantly if payment was received. Sealing the window will do nothing because if I were a thief, I would do one of the following:
    1) Take the whole envelope
    2) Pull out the plastic window you added as I assume it is only being secured with tape or glue, so it is not very secure.

    The only concern that I would have with the windowless envelope would be the possibility that my check could somehow fall out, but the payment stub usually fits in tightly securing in the contents.

  22. searonson says:

    Instead of using automatic bill pay use online bill pay. The payment has to be manually initiated. Almost all banks have this option now (even the small credit union that I’m a member of). Essentially, with the online bill pay you are telling the bank to mail a check for x amount to x payee. On larger payee like TWC, they probably will have arrangements to credit your account electronic. If you are wary of this, just remember that your paper checks are scanned and debited electronically. I personally have had a paper check electronically debited twice, but I have never had a problem with the online (non automatic) bill pay.

  23. adamczar says:

    I can’t believe this is even an article.

  24. LightningUsagi says:

    Plastic covering /= impenetrable forcefield

  25. peebozi says:

    i take scotch tape and tape over the whole while still allowing the USPS the ability to read the address. i don’t know how they get the pay stub out when they open the mail but i figure, that’s on them…thereby raising the cost of cable for everyone in the country as we know they’ll simply pass the added labor cost onto their customers…instead of trying to keep the prices as low as possible for their customers….not as high as possible for their shareholders like the socialists would like us to believe!

    • DJSeanMac says:

      This is either one of the most intelligent jokes posted on Consumerist, or the saddest, most depressing comment I’ve ever read.

  26. teamplur says:

    You pay bills by…. mail? What is this 1920?

  27. elangomatt says:

    Stupid post. The envelope is made of paper!!! If someone wants to steal your check they aren’t going to manipulate the envelope to somehow sneak the check out through the blank window. They are going to rip open the paper! I would be really surprised if a person could even get a check out of an envelope through that little window without ripping it anyway since you put the payment slip in front of the check anyway.

  28. milty456 says:

    What you don’t know is that little plastic piece, when put in place, totally secures an envelope from being opened by anyone but the receiver…..

  29. watchwhathappens says:

    fewer things more annoying than free-floating paranoia.

  30. TacomaRogue says:

    People like the op make my brain hurt. As many before have posted, sending a check through the mail is the worst idea if you’re worried about your information being stolen and used by someone else. OP your checks have not only your name and address, but also your account number and routing information, so not only would a savvy theif have full run of your bank account, they would also know where you live to target you for future mail scams and/ or burglary. No ammount of clear plastic in the world is going to save you from that.

    Please, join us in the 21st century, it’s nice here. Use online bill pay.

    • RandomHookup says:

      I would be curious as to the percentage of online transactions compromised vs. traditional check transactions. I’m guessing that electronic transactions aren’t quite as safe compared to checks as we like to believe. I’ve never had a check go astray, but have had fraudulent charges a couple of times.

      Not that this is exactly what you are advocating, but every method has its issues.

  31. TacomaRogue says:

    People like the op make my brain hurt. As many before have posted, sending a check through the mail is the worst idea if you’re worried about your information being stolen and used by someone else. OP your checks have not only your name and address, but also your account number and routing information, so not only would a savvy theif have full run of your bank account, they would also know where you live to target you for future mail scams and/ or burglary. No ammount of clear plastic in the world is going to save you from that.

    Please, join us in the 21st century, it’s nice here. Use online bill pay.

  32. Emperor Norton I says:

    Every cable company uses open window envelopes for return payments.
    In fact, they all seem to use the same format for their bills.

  33. Powerlurker says:

    The reason the make the envelopes without the plastic over the window is to make them more easily recyclable.

  34. jdmba says:

    Posting as #70-something may as well be written in the sand on the beach but …

    … recurring fixed bills which HAVE to be paid may as well be paid automatically. You are going to pay the cable bill, and you are going to pay it on time, so why not just let this be handled automatically.

  35. bwcbwc says:

    Don’t worry about the hole.

    The plastic cover would only help against a casual view of the check or the billing statement. As long as the check is behind the billing statement the hole doesn’t make a difference. A serious ID thief will just take the whole envelope.