How Low Tech Theft Feeds High Tech Cybercrime

How are these things different: physically breaking into someone’s house, and hacking a person’s email account? It’s essentially the same action, but one is a low tech approach and one is high tech. It’s important to remember that cyberattacks can often be a blend of low tech combined with high tech tactics.

Identity theft is another good example of low and high tech merging in the real world. A good portion of the time, identity theft occurs because a person’s social security number or other personal information has been exposed, or has been made accessible to cybercriminals. But sometimes, information stolen physically (like postal mail from an insurance company) gets used later digitally—for example, by socially engineering the recipient with a fake phone call claiming to be from their insurance company.

In the world of cybersecurity, we like to think in layers. The more layers of security you have, the more secure you will be and the harder you will be to attack. Maybe you are diligent with your passwords and use a password manager? Maybe you go a step further and use Multifactor Authentication on sites that support this security option? If so, well done. But have you done your due diligence with securing yourself against physical attacks, such as postal mail theft?

Mail theft is the “low hanging fruit” for cybercriminals because many times, people either don’t know how (or haven’t taken steps to) secure their physical mail. The sad news is that the number of people arrested for theft of mail and packages was only around 2,500 in 2018.

What kinds of things can be used against you from your mail? Jackpots for identity theft criminals include tax documents, new credit cards, credit card statements, health insurance claims, and investment information. It’s fair to say that the bulk of mail you receive is personal and can be used for identity theft. Mail related to your health insurance can be used for medical identity theft. Tax information can be used to file bogus tax returns or worse, used to open new lines of credit or credit cards. Credit card statements can be used as an entry point for criminals and with this information, an attacker could socially engineer the credit card company to send credit cards to different addresses or to harvest other personal information about the card holder.

Then there is the topic of porch pirates. Stealing packages from someone’s doorstep/porch is as low tech as it gets because you physically walk up and steal the package. Porch pirates strike at any time, but they typically ramp up thefts during the holiday seasons.

The good news is that there are some practical things you can do to help protect yourself from mail theft/porch pirates. You can choose one or all of these options to boost your security around mail and packages.

Sign up for Informed Delivery – USPS provides this free service where you can get informed about upcoming mail deliveries. This can help you plan mail pickup if you know sensitive documents will be delivered soon.

Get a secure mailbox – A secure mailbox is either a PO Box or a mailbox somewhere like the UPS store. As an added bonus, the UPS store will send you a text/e-mail when packages arrive, so you know when something has been delivered. Locking mailboxes are not very secure because they can be easily pried open.

Invest in a doorbell camera – Adding a video doorbell can serve as a deterrent to mail/package theft and while not perfect, you may be able to catch the thief in the act and submit that information to your local police department. There have been instances where the police were able to use doorbell camera footage to catch two porch piratesRing or Nest Hello doorbells are two possible options.

Use e-statements – For credit cards or banking/investment accounts, sign up for e-statements to prevent sensitive physical mail from being sent to you. Check with your financial provider for information on what e-statement options are available for your accounts.

Add a security freeze to your credit reports – Security freezes are now free to add to your credit reports and can help protect you from identity theft that may occur from physical mail being stolen. Be sure to add security freezes to these four credit reporting agencies: ExperianEquifaxTransunion, and Innovis.

By taking a few moments to add some or all of these layers of security, you can help take back control of your mail/packages and help curb potential identity theft from happening to you in the future.