Some people are unhappy with the government’s decision to discontinue mail delivery of federal benefit checks. By March 2013, federal benefits will be paid directly to a bank account or debit card.
Significant portions of U.S. recipients do not have bank accounts – nearly 10% for those in the southern states. Difficulty accessing ATMs and associated fees for debit card usage are also cited by opponents of this change. Others see it as a security threat, claiming that it gives the government the ability to track their expenditures.
Check theft and identity theft related to mailbox delivery is the government’s strongest argument, with US Postal Inspections reporting nearly five thousand mailbox theft convictions in a one-year period. This is probably a small percentage of the actual loss, since perpetrators may not be found or convicted.
Secure mailboxes weren’t much of an issue, when I was young. I don’t remember anyone claiming that mail had been removed from their box. When we moved from the countryside to a small town, our mail had to be picked up at the local post office. Security exceeded even that provided by a locking mailbox, since we had to go to the counter and request it from the postmistress. Identity theft was never an issue either. She knew all of the town’s residents by sight, children as well as adults. She knew that we picked up mail for our elderly neighbors along with our own. When their check arrived, she handed it over with a stern warning not to dawdle along the way.
I don’t have a problem with electronic delivery of my Social Security check. Delivery is quicker and more reliable than the U.S. Postal Service, even with a secure mailbox. Do I worry about the government tracking my expenditures? Of course not. After housing, utilities and food, there isn’t anything left to track!