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How to Protect Yourself Against Holiday Scams

The holiday season is basically prime-time for traveling. Whether you’re a retiree traveling to warmer, southern climates for the winter, or you’re a busy family trying to pack in visits with both grandparents before the holidays - everyone is jet-setting somewhere!

One frustrating thing that travelers face is the dreaded missing-of-mail. With increased Christmas and New Year’s cards being delivered, holiday gifts being ordered, and more - you’re probably receiving a lot more mail than usual. Unfortunately, during the holiday season, there’s also a significant increase in mail theft. Last year, 11 million homeowners in the United States experienced package theft during the holiday season.

Some best practices to protect yourself against mail theft during the holidays:

  • Know when your mail carrier arrives and make it a habit to pick up promptly after delivery.
  • Don’t leave mail in your mailbox overnight.
  • Tell the post office when you’ll be out of town, so they can hold your mail.

These are all pretty common sense in my opinion. However, I wanted to share with you a service you may not have heard about yet- Informed Delivery with USPS! It’s a completely FREE service for people to sign up for. Here’s how it works:

  1. You sign up for Informed Delivery on USPS’s website by creating an account and verifying your information.
  2. USPS will then start to send you images of all your letter-size mail processed through their automated machine.
  3. These pictures will be delivered directly to your email, phone, tablet - you get to pick!

The Value of this Service

In a perfect world, nobody would steal your mail and you’d never have a package mysteriously go missing. But that’s not always the case. By traveling regularly, or not bringing your mail in on time if you’re out and about, you’re putting yourself at an increased risk. Informed Delivery with USPS is just another security measure to help protect yourself against mail thieves and potential identity theft.

If you know what mail you’re getting, it’s easier to know what’s missing. For example, let's say you know Grandma always sends you a Christmas card with a $50 check in it. You know it's coming because you received an e-mail image of the envelope. However, when you check your mailbox, it's not there! You can call grandma to put a stop payment on the check before the thieves try to cash it and notify the proper authorities.

Selecting Your Options

Informed Delivery isn’t a one-size-fits-all deal, which is another reason I recommend it. You get to select where the images of your mail are delivered. You also get to pick the frequency of delivery. So, if you’re not interested in getting notifications when you’re home - but you are interested in receiving them while you’re out of town - you can set that up. It’s also important to note that this service is only for residential customers.

What It Will Look Like

If you’re concerned about the USPS carrier taking pictures of your mail (fair assessment - there are plenty of crazy scams out there!) - don’t be. The images are only of the outside of each piece of flat mail. Nobody will be opening your mail to take pictures of its contents. Although this may seem obvious, it’s worth mentioning so that we’re all on the same page.

USPS Informed Delivery Sample

Whether or not you choose to sign up for USPS’s Informed Delivery, make sure you’re staying mindful this holiday season. Mail theft is only one small piece of the potential identity theft scams that go on during the holidays so keep a close tab on your finances by monitoring your bank and credit card statements.

Other Holiday Mail-Scams to Watch Out For

It’s unfortunate that during this joyful time of year, some people capitalize on the increase in package and mail deliveries to scam others out of money - but it happens. Although USPS’s Informed Delivery service can help you avoid mail theft - there are a few other holiday-mail scams to watch out for!

Fake Shipping Notifications

Have you ever received an email claiming that the package you ordered was undeliverable - but you can’t remember ordering a package in the first place? Watch out! This is a common phishing scam.

UPS Fake Shipping Notification

Criminals will send you this “shipping notification” email with a link that redirects you to a web form asking for personal information. Alternatively, they may request that you “re-download” an invoice or receipt. Don’t do either of these things! Both cases are intended to either obtain personal information which can be used in identity theft, or have you download a virus that will affect your computer.


Sending e-cards (or electronic greeting card) is often more cost-effective than sending a card through regular mail. However, many scammers use this against you by sending what appears to be an e-card from a friend. If the sender’s name isn’t clear, or if you need to submit identity verification information to receive the “e-card,” it’s likely a scam. It could even be a dangerous virus or malware that will negatively impact your computer and information.

To avoid falling for an e-card scam, make sure to look for spelling or grammar mistakes, or links that lead to unusual looking URLs (such as www.http:// rather than the widely accepted http://www.) When in doubt, don’t open emails from people you don’t know, and switch to a more secure internet browser, such as Firefox.

Letters From Santa

One scam that has been cropping up in recent years starts with a fake ad or e-mail promoting a “Handwritten letter from Santa to Your Child.” Be cautious because these fake ads often are intended to steal your credit card information and identity. 

There is a legitimate company out there called Package From Santa who does great work and is family owned by a couple in Michigan. If you’re interested in doing this - make sure you’re working with the right people! Here’s a link to their website. And, because I did my due diligence in reaching out to the company to ensure they were credible, they offered my readers a 25% off coupon!

Use code: SNOW25 to get 25% off your Package From Santa!

You can learn more about how the *real* Package From Santa company got started in their video:

With so many scams circulating this time of year, it’s important to stay well-informed and to protect yourself! To take the right steps moving forward, consider signing up for USPS Informed Delivery and taking an extra few minutes to scan an email or site before you give away personal information or download any files. Nobody needs the extra stress of identity theft or a computer virus during this busy season!

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Desmond Henry, a fee-only CFP® professional in Topeka, KS

Desmond Henry is a fee-only CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional and founder of Afflora Financial Life Planning in Topeka, Kansas. He helps the retiring/retired plan their finances and invest their money. CLICK HERE to learn more.