The easiest way to lose your identity? Your mailbox

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Why is there a red flag on mailboxes? These days, it’s to alert thieves that there’s something to steal.

Unable to get to the post office, the other day I shoved a bill and a Netflix disk into my suburban mailbox and raised the flag to alert the mail carrier that there was outgoing mail. At the time, I knew it was a stupid thing to do, but there’s the matter of convenience.

As far as I know, the mail was picked up and is on its way to wherever it needs to go, but in this age of concern about electronic break-ins, this — the mailbox — remains one of the easiest ways to lose your money and identity.

A story in Maplewood today makes that point perfectly clear.

Bee Vang, 26, and Danah Vang, 20, both of St. Paul, have been arrested by Maplewood police after they allegedly tried to cash someone else’s check.

When police searched their car, they found W-2 statements, credit cards, and checks apparently stolen from mailboxes in Maplewood, St. Paul, Woodbury, North St. Paul, White Bear Lake, Oakdale, and Gem Lake. The intended recipients may not yet know that their mail was stolen.

In its news release today, Maplewood police offered several strategies for avoiding the problem, not the least of which is don’t leave outgoing mail in your mailbox. It might not be a bad idea for the postal service to begin refusing to pick up mail at people’s homes.

  • Dave
  • Kassie

    Every package I’ve gotten from USPS since moving into my new place has been put in the bushes, out of sight. Of course one of them it took me about a week to realize it was there. A package left on the front steps in the city is a package that has a decent chance of being stolen.

    • DavidG

      That is why I doubt the people that tout Amazon as a replacement for everything, everyday.

  • David

    my company offers online delivery of w-2s. I just need to log into the intranet site from within the company network and print it out. The tricky thing is to get to the printer before the nosy cube neighbor gets to the printer to pick up their print jobs.

    • Jordan Green

      This is why printers need to have a job release code. Press print on your computer, walk to the printer, type in your pin and out comes your document. My printer at home has it, but for some reason I haven’t seen it anywhere that I’ve worked…

      • Kassie

        Because of the confidential nature of some of our work, most of our printers are set up like this, but not with a pin, we use our work badges to activate them.

        • David

          They are installing the badge system soon.

  • Jack

    This is why I have willingly paid the post office to rent a box for the past 15 years. My mail is secure and I only have to deal with it when I visit the post office once a week. Makes for more efficient use of my time.

    If only I could redirect all of the bills there but the utilities have this thing about mailing to the service address.

    • boB from WA

      Out here in the wet coast the utilities will mail to a PO if you can prove that you live at the service address.

  • Jeff

    Yay – and excuse to post a link to a Dead Kennedys song!

  • davehoug

    In rural MN I often left money in the box with the flag up to purchase stamps. Boxes were delivered to a shelf in back but in plain sight. Life is easier when you are not surrounded by criminals.