Protecting against mailbox theft is not a new issue for strata properties, but the scale of the problem in modern times requires heightened vigilance from apartment communities.
Favoured by opportunistic thieves and identity criminals, the mailrooms and doorsteps of strata communities have often been targeted by fraudsters.
Preventing identity theft in your strata community is a vitally important. We have put together some tips to help your community tighten up security measures and prevent identity theft as well as mail and package theft.
- A quarter of Australians have had a package stolen in the last five years
- Over 5 million Australian households are shopping online on a monthly basis; increasing the risk for credit card and social security numbers
- Australian Federal Police have reported an increase in identity theft, credit card fraud and other such scams.
- According to the Consumers Federation of Australia, identity fraud costs Australians over $1.6 billion per year, with $900 million of that being lost by individuals.
- The popularity of food delivery services like UberEats has opened the door for numerous delivery driver thefts, where drivers let into strata communities have left with mail and packages.
Why it’s a Problem?
Criminals deliberately target mailboxes because they are an easy target and breaking into them is relatively simple. Mailboxes in apartment buildings are especially targeted because they are the easiest to access and are usually less scrutinised because they are used by multiple people.
Thieves have access to multiple mailboxes in one location, usually within easy reach from the footpath. while hiding in trees and shrubs plus a lack of CCTV cameras means thieves do not need to worry about being spotted. Furthermore, many can be opened with a master key.
A mailbox often has sensitive bank or identity information, useful for identity thieves.
If your strata complex is experiencing mailbox theft, it can compromise your residents’ safety and your reputation.
Common signs that your identity has been stolen:
- calls from creditors, debt collectors, or solicitors
- new credit cards arriving
- unexpected denial of credit
- refusal of services such as mobile phone
- bills arriving for goods you didn’t order
- unfamiliar charges or bank withdrawals
How a Body Corporate Can Prevent Mailbox Theft
There are a number of things a Body Corporate can do to discourage and protect against mailbox theft.
Common sense and Simple Processes
Require signing for packages and collect from work
The simplest method to avoid mail and package theft is to have the items delivered to work instead of the home. You should also require that the package be signed for, meaning that a local post shop will store the item until you pick it up.
Know your neighbours
A reason why fraudsters are targeting apartment buildings is that when there are multiple residents, they are less likely to know each other. If you know your neighbours, you can alert them to suspicious activity and vice versa.
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.
Key Return Policies
Ensure the body corporate has a process for getting keys returned from people who no longer need them.
Deterrents and Improved Security Measures
The Body corporate can invest in CCTV cameras and monitor the mailbox areas. Having a monitoring system that keeps an eye on the mailboxes can help deter and also catch thieves.
Although it is quite an investment, it will provide a safety net and peace of mind to residents. That said, they should still be aware of their legal responsibilities when placing these on common property.
Another thing to consider is the actual security of the mailboxes.
All apartment buildings should have mailboxes with sturdy locks. Flimsy locks can be pried open by screwdrivers and other tools. Australia Post recommends that all mailboxes have a secure lock and have slots that do not allow a hand to fit through.
Australia Post recommends using unique locks per mailbox rather than a universal key. It’s important to ensure that it is not an easily breakable or pickable lock either and manage who receives a mailbox key.
Some mailbox and lock experts also recommend locks that aren’t operated by a master key.
Mailboxes that are in obscure areas are easier to target than open and obvious locations. Make sure shrubs are not creating a hiding spot and the mailbox area is well lit. Also, keep it clean and tidy, ensuring no junk mail piles up and gathers.
Rules in Your Community
Bodies corporate should consider new and improved rules or bylaws to create accountability and structure in preventing identity theft and maintaining mailbox security.
Encouraging owners to collect mail daily or meet drivers at the door for food deliveries may be a way to ensure that risks are mitigated in your community.
If owners are going away for extended periods of time, perhaps there need to be rules to arrange mail re-directs or notify the strata committee so that mail can be collected securely.
Encourage residents to collect their mail daily. It can quickly become obvious if there is a build-up of mail. And if there is mail sticking out of the slot, then it can easily be snatched even without any lock-picking.
If residents go on holidays, urge them to make arrangements with post offices to hold their mail or instruct a trusted family or friend to collect the mail.
Going paperless is not only a great way to help the environment, it also eliminates the chance of sensitive information being delivered physically and falling on the wrong hands.
Regardless of your community’s size or makeup, online shopping and food delivery are here to stay, and whether you like it or not, the increased threat of mail, package, and credit card theft also. Small security tweaks will help you enjoy the convenience of delivery services without them becoming a point of frustration in your community.