CLEVELAND - It's the latest way Cybersecurity experts warn criminals are attempting to steal your mail and even more devastating, your identity.
"It's an important issue and one that's flown under the radar," said Brian Ray, Director of the Center for Cybersecurity and Privacy Protection at Cleveland State University.
The United States Postal Service says more than 13 million people are "enjoying the benefits and rewards" of Informed Delivery. It's a free service where users who sign up get a digital preview of letter-sized mail headed to their mailbox.
However, Ray says the convenience of knowing what is arriving soon could leave some at risk of identify theft.
"That creates an opening for hackers or identity thieves too, who decide to target you, to sign up as you," explained Ray.
He says users personal information may already be on the dark web. From there a criminal could use an unsuspecting person's email account to sign up for the Informed Delivery service after answering security questions.
Ray says many security questions, users think others may not know, are often easy to determine. For example, questions referring to maiden names and pets.
Once criminals have access to the account they can see the mail preview and swipe what they like before the rightful owner knows what happened. Ray adds it can be financially devastating if a criminal gets hold of credit cards, despite a feature of the program that sends a letter to users alerting them they have signed up for the service.
"So they know the card is on the way they intercept it," said Ray referring to criminal acts. "They get the card registered, you don't know a thing, by the time you get the notification from the US mail maybe three or four days later, after the sign-up, they've already been able to use the card."
A United States Postal Service Spokesperson released the following statement: "The fraud referred to is a matter of identity theft that has already been perpetrated by a criminal. Postal Service customer identities’ are not compromised by using the Informed Delivery feature. Unfortunately, in very few cases, an individual’s identity has already been compromised by a criminal who then has used it to set up an Informed Delivery account."
Ray says people concerned about the issue should sign up for the service to prevent impostors. Additionally, he adds, a credit freeze is one of the more secure ways to prevent identity theft.
The USPS spokesperson warns creating a fraudulent account is illegal. Customers have several options to report fraudulent Informed Delivery account activity. Users can report online or call 1-800-344-7779.
Customers can request an individual account at an address be blocked. They can also request no informed delivery account be allowed for the address at all. A postal service spokesperson says customers reporting fraud will also be blocked from signing up for Informed Delivery.
According to a news release, in 2019 the Postal Service will offer the option for customers to electronically sign for deliveries as a part of the Informed Delivery service.
To learn more about the program click here.