People that are moving are prime targets for a variety of different types of theft. You’re stressed out, typically a little disorganized, and in a vulnerable position. Your home, belongings, and important papers are on display for real estate agents, prospective home buyers or bored passersby, and movers to see (or rifle through, if they’re malicious), not to mention you’re participating in large transfers of money. This is the perfect time for bad actors to take advantage of the chaos of the move and your distracted state—it could be months before you get fully unpacked and notice something is missing. This is precisely why we want to share some tips on how to protect your identity and your home from theft during a move.
Protect yourself during the sales process
Whether you are buying or selling a home, or both, there are a few different ways you are vulnerable to theft during the sales process. Thankfully, there are some simple ways to protect yourself:
1. While you are showing your house, be sure to lock up or remove important documents such as:
- Social security card
- Birth certificate
- Tax returns
- Financial statements
- Pay stubs
- Utility bills
Papers that you store in an unlocked filing cabinet should be sorted and safely disposed of or stored accordingly (i.e. shredded or locked in a safe). If you decide to shred important papers it’s a good idea to separate the pieces into a few opaque trash bags and throw them away in different dumpsters. Alternatively, they can be used for kindling.
2. Don’t forget to lock up or remove valuable and easy-to-pocket items as well, such as jewellery, credit cards, and small or portable electronics.
3. Notify the post office of your change of address 2 weeks in advance to allow for a confirmation letter to be sent to your current residence. This letter validates your request. Change of address notification should also be done with:
- Your employer
- Credit card companies
- Financial institutions
- Insurance companies
- Retirement managers
- Health care providers
- Utilities providers
- Charities you donate to
- Magazine and newspaper subscriptions
Doing these necessary tasks ahead of time will prevent fraudulent interceptions of your change of address forms.
4. Carefully check the source of all incoming emails regarding the purchase or sale of a house before returning requests for more information and transferring any funds. If you’re not sure, don’t be afraid to reach out to your real estate agent or the seller’s real estate agent through other channels, including over the phone or even in person. While it may feel overly cautious, mortgage wire fraud is becoming increasingly common and it can be incredibly difficult to recover your money.
Protect yourself throughout the move
Personally pack your most valuable and important items and paperwork. While labelling boxes is an important part of staying organized, make sure to never label boxes as “jewelry” or “heirlooms,” etc. Instead, simply label the room it belongs in, or use a code word. Just like with jewelry and boxes containing precious objects, do not give the movers your important paperwork or electronics. Store these items in boxes that will be taken with you in your car or in your luggage.
Make sure you are there when the movers are loading the truck and if there are multiple movers, you will need multiple people around to keep a close eye on the process. This will help discourage any theft.
PRO TIP: To avoid becoming the victim of moving scams (though these are few and far between) you need to validate the moving company that you choose. This can be done by researching the moving company to make sure that they are registered with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and that they have a USDOT number assigned by the US Department of Transportation. Also, make sure to check out their online reviews to see what previous customers are saying.
Protect yourself after you move in
After one month in your new home, double check that all of your mail has arrived and that no mail is still going to your old address. Make sure that old accounts have been closed, such as your cable and utilities. And lastly after a few months, request a copy of your credit report and verify that all payments and bills are legit. It always pays to be cautious!
It’s undeniable that moving is typically a stressful experience. Taking a few simple steps to protect yourself and your family can help shield you from the even greater stress of having these things stolen. Keep your identity and your belongings safe, remember to:
- Lock up or move valuable items during open houses
- Update your mailing address
- If conducting business over email, double check that sender information is correct and there’s nothing suspicious about the email before wiring money or sending your personal information
- Pack valuable items yourself and keep them with you during your move
- Keep an eye on movers
- Confirm that all of your mail is has arrived