Gone are the days when personal communications regularly came in the form of hand-written letters, but we still rely on the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) for the delivery of medications, bills, legal notices, online orders, and much more. The mail is even more important during the winter holidays, as gift wrapped presents and holiday cards crisscross the nation. Unfortunately, it’s also when mail theft surges.
So, what should you do when expected mail is stolen and what are some of the best ways to protect yourself from mail theft? We’ll discuss some important tips for safeguarding your mail during the holiday season and throughout the year, as well as the proper procedures for reporting stolen mail.
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1. Minimize the time your mail is unattended
The longer your letters and packages sit unattended in your mailbox or on your porch, the more opportunity thieves have to take them. If you know when mail typically arrives, either pick it up promptly yourself or ask a neighbor to help. Likewise, wait until closer to delivery or pickup time to put mail or packages out for pickup.
Consider sending letters in public USPS mailboxes, which are more secure than the standard curbside mailbox, and sending packages from a USPS office or through a mailing service. If you’re expecting a package but won’t be around until long after it’s delivered, place a hold on it until you can pick it up. This is something you should always do when you go out of town.
2. Enhance your security
Here are some relatively simple ways to secure your mail:
- Replace your standard mailbox with one that locks.
- Put a motion detecting surveillance camera at your front door.
- Install security lights.
- Rent out a Post Office Box.
Smart security is about more than just locks and cameras, though. You’ll also want to be on the lookout for suspicious patterns, suspicious traffic on your street corresponding to delivery times, and missing mail that could be used to steal your identity. You should also talk to your mail carrier if you see or suspect any possible signs of mail theft.
3. Be on the lookout for change of address forms
One tactic mail thieves employ is to file a fake change of address form in an effort to route your mail to another location, perhaps a mailbox that is less secure. The USPS will send you a verification form if a change of address form has been filed. If you receive an address change verification form but haven’t made such a request, be sure to alert the postal inspectors by following the instructions on the form.
4. Request signature confirmation when sending important mail
There are ways you can help prevent theft when you are the one sending the mail. If you request signature confirmation when sending a letter or package, then you will receive a confirmation of the date, time, and place of delivery, as well as the recipient’s name and an image of their signature.
5. Take immediate action if your mail is stolen
If you believe your mail was stolen, you’ll want to report it to the USPS and file a police report right away. Sending a Letter to Report Mail Theft to the postal inspector can help speed up the process or put earlier communications about the incident into writing. When you report the incident with the USPS, you will be asked for a tracking number. If you don’t know this, don’t worry, it’s not a requirement. You may select “Unknown Tracking Number” and the USPS will still follow up on your report.
The more information and evidence you can provide, the better the chances of confirming the theft or even catching the thief. Surveillance footage identifying the suspect would be particularly useful, but also ask you neighbors if they saw anything suspicious or unusual at the time the mail was likely stolen.
6. Safeguard your credit
It’s not always expensive electronics or other items of value that thieves are after. One of the top targets of mail theft is personally identifying information. Your Social Security Number or birthdate, for example, can be used for identity theft. Identity thieves will use this data to open up fraudulent credit cards under your name or access online accounts. If you believe you are at risk of identity theft because of a mail theft incident, then you will need to take additional actions.
First, you’ll want to set up a fraud alert with one of the three main credit reporting agencies (Equifax, Experian, or TransUnion). You will be alerted if there are any inquiries into your credit, which could indicate possible fraud. It’s also a good idea to request your credit report (free once a year, in accordance with federal law) and look for any suspicious or unusual activity. These additional Rocket Lawyer resources will help you report identity theft and fraud.
Don’t let mail thieves spoil your holiday fun this season
Whether it’s an ugly holiday sweater you’ll probably never wear (except when Mom’s in town) or a precious family heirloom, holiday gifts are always special in their own way. It can be particularly distressing when packages or letters go missing any time of the year. Make sure you take proper precautions to protect your mail from theft and follow the right procedures if you fall victim to this crime. Be sure to ask a lawyer if you have legal questions about mail and identity theft.
This article contains general legal information and does not contain legal advice. Rocket Lawyer is not a law firm or a substitute for an attorney or law firm. The law is complex and changes often. For legal advice, please ask a lawyer.