If you haven’t already signed up for USPS Informed Delivery, I highly recommend doing so as soon as possible, particularly as we head in to the heart of tax season.
Informed Delivery can be very useful in a number of ways, it’s a free service, and as I’ll discuss in detail, signing up for it can help prevent mail identity theft by giving you information to get a leg up on thieves (and if you don’t – they could get there first).
But first, a quick overview of what USPS Informed Delivery is and how you can benefit from it.
What is USPS Informed Delivery?
If you’re not aware of what Informed Delivery is, you’re not alone. The United States Postal Service quietly launched Informed Delivery in early 2017, to little fanfare, and adoption has been fairly slow (reaching 13 million users in November of 2018). The service is still not available in all geographies just yet.
When you sign up for Informed Delivery, you can digitally preview actual photographic images of letter-sized mail pieces that are in the process of being sent to your address or P.O. Box through email notifications, an online dashboard, and mobile apps (Android here, iPhone here).
With packages, you are able to see what packages are on their way and expected delivery dates, as well as when they were delivered. You will be able to provide delivery instructions, manage notifications, and schedule re-delivery. Fairly soon, you will be able to digitally sign for packages, if required. You can even notify the USPS if a particular piece of mail was not delivered, by simply clicking a check box under the image.
I have signed up for the service and have seen a number of useful applications:
- Keeping track of what is on its way and what was delivered while traveling.
- Keeping track of roughly when a piece of mail will reach me, or if it has even been sent out, which can prevent a lot of time on the phone with customer service at various institutions.
- Make sure everything that I’m expecting to reach me actually does, and take appropriate steps if it does not.
How Do I Sign Up for Informed Delivery? What Information is Needed?
You can sign up for Informed Delivery by going to that link and clicking “Sign Up for Free”. Here is a more detailed guide of the signup process. In order to enroll, you will need to put in your name, address, create a login, and answer security questions around prior residences and home loan/financial information (if applicable).
And, if you’d like, you can opt to enroll in person.
How will Informed Delivery Protect me Against Identity Theft, Mail Theft, & Other Fraud?
For starters, with Informed Delivery, you will know if something is in the mail and on its way to your address prior to any thieves/scammers. If an item that you are expecting does not make it to your home, you can alert the USPS as well as the company that sent the information. This could be critically important for checks/payments you are expecting, credit cards, tax forms, legal documents, etc.
Informed Delivery, paired with a home security camera, could even help to identity who the thief might be.
Additionally, you will be able to see if unexpected mail, created by identity thieves, is on its way to your home (particularly important if a thief is getting to it first). If this is happening, you may want to immediately implement a free credit freeze (note: a credit freeze will prevent anyone from creating a new credit account in your name).
Unfortunately, the same convenience that allows you to prevent ID theft with Informed Delivery can also lead to it, if you don’t sign up before an aspiring thief. The bar is fairly low to enroll for the service, requiring a few basic pieces of information, such as cities and addresses of prior residence and sale price of home – all of which could easily be found through public databases and social media. And that has actually been happening…
There was an indictment of 7 individuals in Michigan who were accused of $396K in unauthorized credit card charges ordered in the names of residents (and stolen prior to receipt by the actual resident, through Informed Delivery). There have been other reported abuses elsewhere.
So, I’d recommend claiming your Informed Delivery identification first, ASAP!
If you’ve already been a victim of identity theft, I’d also recommend checking out the FTC’s identitytheft.gov.