LAS VEGAS–New mailboxes spotted at the International Builders Show here this week promise to protect homeowners from identity theft by locking up their mail.

Identity theft typically is associated with the Internet because perpetrators have found easy ways to steal people’s credit card and Social Security numbers and other personal information by hacking into retail Web sites.

But the folks who designed the new combination lock mailboxes are also on the right track. Criminals can steal an identity by opening up snail mail just as easily as they can do it by pilfering information from the Internet.

Energy Technology Labs recently launched a product that promises to protect mail. The Secure Mail Vault curbside mailbox has slot that’s large enough for the postal carrier to deposit the mail, but too small for a hand to reach into.. Homeowners retrieve their mail through a separate opening protected by an electronic combination-lock system.

“It’s a brand-new product. It’s only been on the market for the last 45 to 60 days,” said ETL Marketing Manager Gina Guthrie.

The mailbox costs $349. It’s large enough to hold up to two week’s worth of mail. The company sells only a curbside model, but Guthrie said a model that would attach to the house is in the works.

Mail Theft Solutions also has designed a mailbox to deter thieves. This one, called “Defender,” also curbs damage from vandalism and comes with a lifetime warranty. Homeowners access their mail through an electronic combination lock.

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