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Snail Mail As E-Mail 309 309

techcon writes "An Australian startup Planetwide has launched an interesting product called Scan Me. The idea is simple, you redirect your snail mail to them and they scan your physical mail and email it all to you as a text searchable PDF. Targeted at the world wide traveller, it also looks like a good way to help prevent identity theft and getting nasty white powder in the mail."
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Snail Mail As E-Mail

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  • by SirCrashALot (614498) <.jason. .at.> on Wednesday October 01, 2003 @02:44AM (#7101385)
    How would this stop identity theft. Unless you use TLS/SSL email is less secure than snail mail -- its not traveling across bare network wires.
  • Privacy (Score:5, Insightful)

    by flibble-san (700028) on Wednesday October 01, 2003 @02:48AM (#7101406)
    I don't like the idea of someone reading my personal snail mail. I'm sure they get a laugh out of finding out "Mr Jones" subscribes to Busty Babes monthly etc.
  • E-Bills. . . (Score:4, Insightful)

    by villain170 (664238) on Wednesday October 01, 2003 @02:48AM (#7101408) Homepage
    Don't most services that require bills offer some type of electronic payments? Wouldn't scanning your bills just be more work than going to their website and paying it that way?
  • Hmmm... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by BJH (11355) on Wednesday October 01, 2003 @02:50AM (#7101417)
    Doesn't sound so great to me. A lot of things that come in the mail are sent that way *because* they have to reach you physically - a new credit card, etc.
  • by Worminater (600129) < minus city> on Wednesday October 01, 2003 @02:55AM (#7101445)
    I have a nice simple Q for ya,

    Think of all the spam you get...

    and picture getting that in your REAL mailbox...

    and sorting through that for your bills and such...

  • Are you mad? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by CGP314 (672613) <> on Wednesday October 01, 2003 @02:58AM (#7101458) Homepage
    Targeted at the worldwide traveler, it also looks like a good way to help prevent identity theft

    Are you mad? You mean having someone else read your mail and then send it in a searchable format over the Internet is a good way to prevent identity theft? Is today opposite day?
  • by Charbal (677787) on Wednesday October 01, 2003 @03:04AM (#7101486)
    I'm also not seeing how this could stop identity theft. If you use this program, aren't you putting your mail in front of the eyeballs of the person that's scanning them?
  • by PoisonousPhat (673225) <foblich&netscape,net> on Wednesday October 01, 2003 @03:05AM (#7101492)
    I'm sure there are many (especially here!) that celebrate the movement away from physical communications. Sure, it saves paper, it's faster (especially when compared to the slightly derogatory "snail mail", it's portable, etc. But let me wax a little sentimental here...

    There's just a little something that you get from actual mail, especially hand-written mail. True, it's terribly archaic, but when you're far, far away, a letter is one of the nicest things to receive someone willing to spend a buck and some time. Maybe it's just the amount of time invested in handwriting, or the lack thereof when typing an email, but the physical presence of personal mail is something people should not, in my opinion, be so eager to discard.

    That being said, business mail, provided it is sent via secure trasnmissions, seems perfectly suited for movement towards digitalization. The businesses themselves, though, should take more initiative to move themselves away from the massive and expensive paper usages and try billing electronically. I can only imagine the vast amounts of paper used by banks every month for high-speed printed glossy credit card applications.

  • by bigsteve@dstc (140392) on Wednesday October 01, 2003 @03:29AM (#7101575)
    If you are really worried about people reading your discarded mail, you would do better getting a paper shredder.

    A decent shredder with two sets of blades will reduce your bills to the size of punched card chads. For extra points, mix it with vegetable scraps and put it into your compost bin. Or reduce it to paper pulp by mixing with water, and boiling it for a few minutes :-).

  • by frovingslosh (582462) on Wednesday October 01, 2003 @03:38AM (#7101604)
    it also looks like a good way to ....

    Yea, like this is really going to work. And how much is it going to cost me to have them forward each rebate check I get, not to mention what it cost for them to scan it in the first place? Think spam was expensive before? Wait until you pay for scanning all the junk mail that you get in snail mail, or all the crap packed in with your bills. Say goodbye to ever getting a magazine subscription. No free samples in the mail any more, and no cookies from Mom at Christmas time. And I'm paying for this why? Because I fear identity theft? So that then they can e-mail my private mail to me as clear text? So that an unknown number of people at that company I know nothing about all see all of my mail?

    Face it, the always-on-the-go world traveler who just might (but I think it unlikely) get anything out of this has other means to deal with it: a personal assistant, express shipments that can catch up to the next hotel he will be at, faxes for some documents, he doesn't need an outside company poking through his business. The average smuck (like most of us) wants that mail, and knows that some of it needs to be dealt with on a timely basis (If someone sends me tickets, for example, I want them before the event, not a week after), and that some of it will get "lost" if an outside company is opening it and going through it.

    Bad idea. Oh, also, the company will be out of business in six months.

  • by Pretor (2506) on Wednesday October 01, 2003 @04:19AM (#7101729)
    The banks in Norway has been doing this for year already. With no or low cost, and no paper; the bills are electronic. Combinded with their really good Internet banking services I no longer go to the bank, have to check any of the regular bills and so on. And because of almost 100% "visa" card coverage I don't use cash any longer. I can even buy the bus ticket using a credit or debit card.

    I wonder why people in other countries has to still use checks, bills and etc. I haven't seen a checkbook in Norway for about 10-15 years.

    My sister lives in San Francisco, and boy do the US need to get into the modern age when it comes to banking and payment.
  • Re:Hmmm... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by patriceCH (321022) on Wednesday October 01, 2003 @04:31AM (#7101759) Homepage
    Don't know if you read the page. They also batch-forward you the physical mail.

    So you get the mail immediately wherever you are and have Internet access but also get the physical stuff a few days later if you really want it.

    At least that's how I understand the product site.
  • by oobar (600154) on Wednesday October 01, 2003 @05:23AM (#7101894)
    Interesting point. It's a good thing that regular snail mail delivery doesn't expose your mail to hundreds or thousands of people with low paid labor-intensive jobs. Oh wait, it does.

    Sorry, I agree about the electronic issues (i.e. email not being secure) but your snail mail passes through MANY hands and has far more opportunities to be physically stolen or opened. It even sits right there out in the open in your mailbox for several hours.

  • by reallocate (142797) on Wednesday October 01, 2003 @06:24AM (#7102065)
    What security? If they scan my mail, they have to open it. If they open it, they can read it. Why should I trust these folks?

    And what about all those times when the recipient really needs hardcopy, not email.

    Besides, if I'm in, say, the UK, how long is it going to take for my mail to get to Australia?
  • by inblosam (581789) on Wednesday October 01, 2003 @06:58AM (#7102138) Homepage
    Could this be a way for europeans to get US credit cards (if a service was used in the US like this Australian one)? I know a lot of mac users wish they had a US Credit card to use iTunes, among other things. Also, the USPS seems to be hurting due to electronic mail. What if they offered a service like this for a premium. They surely would have some takers. And they would just need to buy some big automated scanners and a bit of online infrastructure. Sounds like they would be the best candidates for the job seeming they are the hub. Reduce ID theft en route that way.
  • by vidarh (309115) <> on Wednesday October 01, 2003 @07:18AM (#7102190) Homepage Journal
    You miss the main purpose: If I'm out travelling a lot it would be a hassle to make arrangements to make sure I receive any important mail. I might not stay long enough in one place to be able to rely on normal mail forwarding. Or I might simply want to be able to check my snail mail from whenever I happen to be, instead of waiting for a pile of paper when I get home.
  • by vidarh (309115) <> on Wednesday October 01, 2003 @07:24AM (#7102205) Homepage Journal
    Presumably a company making a living of this will be careful about who they hire. So the reduction in risk of identity theft would be from having a small set of strangers who rely on their customers trust to make money open your mail instead of some strangers who happen to be a criminal intent on stealing everything you've got going on a rampage through your mailbox every now and again.
  • spam? (Score:1, Insightful)

    by size1one (630807) on Wednesday October 01, 2003 @08:22AM (#7102424)
    Sounds good as long as I can add filters so my junk mail doesn't get turned into spam.
  • by calethix (537786) on Wednesday October 01, 2003 @08:59AM (#7102637) Homepage
    Even if you used some secure method to get your email, there's still the fact that someone at PlanetWide has to open up your mail and scan it. I just don't see any way that could be beneficial in terms of identity theft.
  • by stomv (80392) on Wednesday October 01, 2003 @09:15AM (#7102749) Homepage
    Why use a checkbook? float.

    If you're a small business, a few days of float can make a big difference. You know that you'll have $foo days (3 = $foo = 7) between when you put that check in the mail or a suppliers hands and when it clears. This allows you to "pay" your bill, knowing you won't get the cash until tomorrow or the day after. You're getting 0% interest short term loans with virtually no hassle.

    Small businesses like checkbooks. It allows them to pay their bills "late". Many a small business need this float to stay above boards, if only from time to time.

  • by BrokenHalo (565198) on Wednesday October 01, 2003 @09:26AM (#7102822)
    This company is asking for a whole lot of attention from black-hat crackers

    True, but I would be more worried about the security credentials of the company. Given that many security firms have had experience with staff of negotiable honesty - and they have to have police clearance (at least here in Australia) I would be intensely suspicious of this type of company.

    For this kind of service to be useful, it would have to be hitched up to a heavy-duty encryption algorithm and have an equally heavy-duty audit trail listing everybody who has had contact with the mail.

    In my own case (even though my mail is probably quite boring to others, and I don't have anything in particular to hide) I still wouldn't like the feeling that someone has read my mail first.

  • by BrokenHalo (565198) on Wednesday October 01, 2003 @09:30AM (#7102859)
    Worse still, my mail has been stolen from downstairs several times and used for identity theft.

    Sounds like you need to get a decent mailbox with a lock on it.

  • by hal9000 (80652) on Wednesday October 01, 2003 @12:28PM (#7104346) Homepage
    "it also looks like a good way to help prevent identity theft and getting nasty white powder in the mail."

    Are we really so blinded by fear in this country that Joe American is afraid he'll be targeted with an envelope of anthrax? Jeez!

There are worse things in life than death. Have you ever spent an evening with an insurance salesman? -- Woody Allen