Over the past year, the Australian Federal Police have reported an increase in identity fraud, credit card fraud and other such scams. In fact, according to the Consumers Federation of Australia, identity crime is costing Australia over $1.6 billion per year, with $900 million of that being lost by individuals.
Although this private information can be stolen through practices like email hacking and card skimming, one of the most common ways criminals are obtaining information is through mailbox theft. Items such as Tax File Numbers, credit cards and Medicare cards are often sold for large amounts to crime syndicates, while documents like utility bills and bank statements hold important personal information that can be used for nefarious purposes.
Why are mailboxes targeted?
The sad fact is that letterboxes, especially in apartment buildings, are usually targeted because they are the easiest to access. Thieves have access to multiple mailboxes in one location, usually within easy reach from the footpath. Furthermore, many can be opened with a skeleton or master key, while hiding in trees and shrubs plus a lack of CCTV cameras means thieves do not need to worry about being spotted.
So, what can you do to prevent mailbox theft?
Are the mailboxes on common property?
The first thing to determine is whether an owner’s mailbox sits on their individual lot or on common property. Generally speaking, most letterboxes will be clearly located on common property (such as a brick wall outside the apartment entrance), but it is always worth checking the registered strata plan which will show the common property boundaries.
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How Body Corporate can prevent mailbox theft
There are a number of things Body Corporate can (and should) do to discourage mailbox theft.
1. Invest in CCTV surveillance
Security cameras not only act as a great deterrent towards thieves, but can also help the police with identifying any offenders who may be foolish enough to attempt theft. That said, they should still be aware of their responsibilities under the New South Wales Surveillance Devices Act when placing these in common areas.
2. Secure Locks
Australia Post recommends that all mailboxes have a secure lock that cannot be accessed with a skeleton key, and have slots that do not allow a hand to fit through.
3. Keep common areas tidy
Thieves can often hide in overgrown shrubbery and heavily leafy areas around common spaces. Ensuring these areas are kept clean and tidy will ensure greater visibility and less places to hide.
How individual owners can prevent mailbox theft
While Body Corporate can upgrade mailboxes and install security cameras, there are also steps that individual owners can take to protect their identity.
1. Go paperless
Many banks and government institutions now offer digital options for things such as bills, receipts and other personal documents. Property owners should consider going paperless and bypassing the risk of having their documents stolen completely.
2. Collect mail daily
It is often easier for thieves to steal documents if there is a huge pile of mail in the letterbox. Collecting mail daily means there is less opportunity for it to be stolen, while making it easy for owners to spot if something is missing.
3. Get a PO Box
There will be some instances where physical mail is required – for example, receiving credit cards or Medicare cards. In these instances, it may be worth obtaining a PO Box at your local post office.