Guest Author - Carol Margolis
Whether you travel for pleasure or business, your mailbox could be sending you danger signs. A few days away and the mailbox may be overflowing. Packages may be lying around on your doorstep. Delivery service slips may be stuck to your front door – “Sorry We Missed You!”
When you plan on being away from home, arrange for the post office to hold mail. As well as ensuring the security of your mail, it ensures the security of your house. Potential thieves won’t see an overstuffed mailbox and think it’s an open invitation to help themselves to your belongings.
A request to stop mail delivery can be done at any United States Post Office (USPS) branch or online at www.usps.com. A hold mail request can be done 14 days in advance of the date you need the hold to begin. Mail can be held at the post office between 3 and 30 days. The accumulated mail will be delivered on the date that you specify, or you may pick it up at your local post office branch. There is no fee for this service.
If you are a frequent or long-term traveler, a Post Office (PO) Box is a great option. Simply use the PO address for important mail, bills and contacts, knowing that you can pick it up whenever you want from a secure location. Fees do apply for a PO Box. The hassle of stopping the mail at your home and never worrying about a change in your travel plans is easily alleviated with a PO Box. If the mail happens to overfill your PO Box during your travels, the post office will hold the balance of your mail.
If you are expecting a package to arrive via UPS or FedEx when you’ll be traveling, consider having it sent to your place of business instead of your home. It can be safely accepted by a co-worker and kept until you return from travel.
Mail boxes can also be set up at a local shipping location, such as The UPS Store. At every location of www.theupsstore.com, you can get a mailbox with a real street address and secure 24-hour access to mail and package deliveries. Additional services include mail forwarding, fax receiving and the ability to call in and check for new mail. They can even text or email you when a package arrives. While these services cost more than a USPS PO Box, the features of receiving any type of package (regular mail, FedEx, UPS, etc.) all in one secure location may be for you. This may be the best solution if you’re not sure exactly what will be showing up while you’re away.
Identity theft can happen “offline” in the form of lost checkbooks or stolen bills, bank statements and other paper trails. Eliminate this worry by switching to paperless billing or automatic bill payment. Each month, you will be notified of your billing statement by e-mail and you can then review and pay electronically from anywhere. Most wireless providers are compatible with the major e-mail providers, including MobileMe, Yahoo! Mail, Gmail and AOL. With an automatic payment option, regular bill payments will be made automatically according to the schedule you set up. So, while you’re texting, tweeting and keeping touch during travel, you can stay on top of important bills and business at the same time. [Note: While “offline” identify theft is reduced, you may be increasing the risk of “online” identify theft. Watch for my upcoming article on tips to be smart about online usage.]
While a hold mail request keeps your mail safe, and automatic payments keep it paperless, you still have to sift through all of that junk mail upon return. Statistically speaking, the average American receives the equivalent of 1.5 trees a year in junk mail, most of it going unopened and into landfills. Of those that do choose to open it, an average of eight months will be spent on that task alone over the course of a lifetime (yikes, who’s got that time??). One way to cut down on unnecessary mail and wasted paper, and protect the environment in the process, is by getting off of junk mail lists.
A few ways to remove your name from junk mail lists:
•Contact the Mail Preference Service, Direct Marketing Association at P.O. Box 643, Carmel, NY 10512 or online at www.dmachoice.org. There is a small fee for this service and you will have to re-register every five years, but it is well worth the effort.
•Contact OptOutPrescreen.com to Opt-Out (or even Opt-In, if you so desire) of receiving preapproved or prescreened offers from magazines and credit card, insurance and mortgage companies.
•Contact major credit card companies to request to be taken off of their mailing lists.
•Request an unlisted phone number or use only your name and phone number (without your address) in the phone book.
•Refrain from entering contests and surveys that may share your information with other mailing groups.
With a little planning ahead, and the help of modern technology and available services, it is not a tough task to keep the danger thermometer low. Your important mail, bills and valuables will be safe and secure while you’re off on your business trips or leisure getaways. And you can have fun shopping online from your hotel room, with eager anticipation of the pile of goodies that will safely await you upon your return home.
Wishing you safe and enjoyable travels!
Carol Margolis of Smart Women Travelers
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