Mail theft is a growing problem. Here's how to protect yourself.


Neighborhood Sweet Neighborhood

by Staff Neighborhood Safety Reporter

Chances are that you, or someone you know, has been a victim of mail theft! It is not uncommon to be walking around the neighborhood and find mail scattered in the bushes; discarded by thieves. This, too, is a ‘clue’ that can assist detectives in tracking mail theft from one location to another and possibly lead to identifying a suspect!

Mail theft is not a new problem. It is, however, a growing problem. Stimulus checks during Covid have made it even more alluring.

When your mail is stolen, it could be a single person hoping to find gift cards and checks. Or it could be a more sophisticated criminal gang looking to steal, alter and cash checks and to amass personal information from stolen mail to commit identity theft.

What are the FIRST and most basic things you can do to protect yourself?

1. Sign up for an “informed Delivery’ email. This is a free service from the US Postal Service that gives you a digital preview of incoming mail as it was scanned and sorted for delivery. It is extremely helpful to know what will be delivered today … or what is missing if you have been the victim of mail theft! Remember: “If they steal mail that you didn’t know was coming, you can’t report it.”

2. Check your mailbox DAILY! Make a daily routine out of collecting your mail — even if you aren’t expecting something important. Keep in mind: even a simple utility bill is valuable to an identity thief. The more time you leave your mailbox full, the longer a scammer has to grab it.

3. Don’t leave outgoing mail in your mailbox: Deposit mail in a mail slot in the post office building, at a Postal Service mailbox, or hand it to your letter carrier. Items sitting in a residential mailbox with the red flag up are especially attractive to mail thieves.

4. Report mail theft immediately: Remember, mail theft is a federal offense, punishable by up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. If you believe you were a victim of mail theft, report the incident to both local law enforcement and the Post Office. The Bellevue Police Department has a US Postal inspector in-house to assist with mailbox thefts and fraud investigations.

5. Opt-out of junk mail: Pre-approved credit card applications lie at the heart of the intricate relationship between mail theft and identity theft. You can choose not to receive unsolicited offers for new credit cards and insurance.

6. Go paperless when possible: This will decrease the amount of sensitive information being sent to you via mail. Your bank, credit card company, utility company, etc. can provide electronic copies of your statements or bills rather than mailing them to you.

NEXT STEPS: Get more physical security for your mail:

7. Change your address from home delivery to a more secure location: a post office box from USPS (United States Postal Service) or a private mailbox company, like a UPS Store (United Parcel Service), or an Amazon Locker for package delivery.

8. Invest in a mailbox with a locking mechanism. Some locking boxes are more secure than others. You don’t want one that can be pried open with a screwdriver!

Unsure what to get? You can start by asking your mailman for advice. Many local neighbors have recommended “Mail Boss” available in various sizes and styles, directly from the manufacturer, Epoch Design, in Arlington,WA or find a local retailer on their website.

As I mentioned earlier, mail theft is not ‘new.’ KOMO TV did a feature on it back in 2017:

9. Consider a home surveillance system.

For more information, you can download the following pdf with additional tips from the Bellevue Crime Prevention Unit:

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