Mail theft is one way criminals gather information to commit identity theft. (Photo credit: RCMP)

Mail theft gives criminals the ingredients for costly recipe

Theft of mail usually decreases in spring, but not this year

The federal and provincial governments are helping Canadian residents and businesses with a variety of support programs and benefits, and the Canada Revenue Agency is offering some relief by extending the tax filing deadline to June 1, 2020.

However, not everyone out there is trying to help. Criminals are victimizing Canadians by stealing mail, falsifying identities, and defrauding taxpayers. The North Vancouver RCMP has noted an increase in mail thefts since the beginning of the year, and while they usually see an increase around tax time — with would-be thieves targeting in-transit tax documents — the seasonal increase isn’t trailing off as usual.

“It’s possible that with greater numbers of support funds being mailed to Canadians, coupled with the extension in time to file taxes, criminals are continuing to try their luck,” says Sgt. Peter DeVries of the North Vancouver RCMP.

It’s not the value of any one item that has police most concerned, however. “Aside from packages, mail typically has little monetary value,” explains DeVries. “A thief might luck out and get a cheque or a couple of credit cards, but unless they’re into couponing they’re not generally doing it for the cash value. More often they’re aiming for identity theft. That can be an enormous nightmare for people.”

Just as everyone out there baking during the COVID-19 pandemic has a recipe for their favourite type of bread, thieves and fraudsters have a recipe for identity theft, and mail theft is one way they gather the ingredients. The top 10 things on their shopping list are:

• Full name

• Date of birth

• Social Insurance Number

• Full address (P.O. box and street number)

• Mother’s maiden name

• Driver’s licence number

• Personal identification numbers (PIN)

• Credit card information (numbers, expiry dates, and the last three digits printed on the signature panel)

• Bank account numbers

• Sample of signature

If they get hold of some or all of these ingredients, criminals can use them to commit a variety of crimes in someone else’s name, says DeVries.

“They can open new bank accounts and transfer funds out of your legitimate accounts, rack up charges on your credit cards or apply for new ones, apply for loans, credit lines, or government benefits, and they can even apply for a passport in your name.”

North Vancouver RCMP and Canada Post recommend that people take some simple and easy steps to reduce the likelihood of your mail and personal information and/or your identity being stolen:

• Collect your mail frequently (ideally, every day).

• When you change your address, make sure to notify people who regularly mail things to you, such as all relevant financial institutions.

• If your mail fails to arrive, contact senders to ensure they have your correct mailing address.

• Don’t just recycle; shred documents that contain personal financial information, such as statements and credit card offers.

• When shopping online, as more and more people are doing these days, avoid having packages delivered to your front door if you won’t be home during the day. Instead, have them shipped to your work or to a friend who is home and who can accept the delivery on your behalf.

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