Printer-friendly versionPrinter-friendly version Share this

The U.S. Postal Inspection Service offers these tips to help prevent mail theft

November 5, 2011 (San Diego)  - The most likely times for mail theft to occur are around November 15, then again between December 1 and the Christmas holiday season.  How can you foil these grinches from stealing your holiday cheer?

PROMPTLY REMOVE MAIL FROM YOUR MAILBOX RIGHT AFTER DELIVERY:  This is especially important if expecting checks, credit cards, or other negotiable items. Do not leave mail overnight.

NEVER SEND CASH OR COINS BY MAIL:  Use checks or money orders and use Registered Mail when sending valuables. Ask your bank for “secure” checks that cannot be altered.
HAVE YOUR POST OFFICE HOLD MAIL WHEN YOU ARE ON VACATION: If a check or other valuable mail that is expected is not received, contact the issuing agency immediately. If a change of address, immediately notify the post office and anyone who business is done, via the mail.
DON’T SEND OUTGOING MAIL FROM YOUR HOME:  Always deposit mail in a mail slot at the local post office, or hand it to a letter carrier.
INSTALL A LOCKING MAILBOX: These mailboxes allow for incoming mail to be inserted into an opening and the resident retains the key. This type of mailbox can be purchased at most home improvement stores. Obtain Label 33 from the Postal Inspection Service and affix it to your mailbox, the sticker warns that willful damage to mailboxes and theft of mail are crimes. Keep the mailbox in good repair, and make sure it is properly installed. This may help prevent theft of the mailbox itself.

The United States Postal Inspection Service offers up to a $10,000 Reward for information and services leading to the arrest and conviction of any person for mail theft. Theft of mail or even possession of stolen mail is a Federal Felony and upon conviction each offense may be punishable by a fine up to $250,000 and imprisonment up to five years.
If mail theft is observed or suspicious activity, call the local police immediately, and then call the U.S. Postal Inspection Service at 877-876-2455. Watch for suspicious activity at mailboxes and record license plate numbers and descriptions, then report theft as soon as possible. The US Postal Inspection Service, 815 E Street # 2, Metro Area, San Diego CA 92101or Phone: (619) 233-0610.
If you believe your mail was stolen, report it immediately to the local postmaster or nearest Postal Inspector and you will be asked to file a formal complaint using PS Form 2016, Mail Theft and Vandalism Complaint. By analyzing information collected from the form, Postal Inspectors may determine whether your problem is isolated or part of a larger mail theft problem in your neighborhood--and it may help Postal Inspectors locate and apprehend the thieves. If you feel that you are a victim of a crime involving the mail, an on-line complaint may be submitted."
BACKGROUND: The U.S. Postal Service handles 668 million pieces of mail every day. The vast majority of it arrives intact, but thieves get to some of it before delivery. The U.S. Postal Inspectors, who investigate mail thefts, in the last year alone, arrested over 6,000 theft suspects. Some parts of the country are dealing with "volume" mail thefts, particularly Tucson and Phoenix AZ and portions of California and Texas. Thieves steal mail from postal trucks, collection boxes, apartment mailbox panels, co-op mailing racks, and neighborhood delivery and collection box units. Checks, credit cards and bank statements are of interest.
MAIL THEFT FACTS: Postal Inspectors report that Identity/Mail Theft has become the Number 1 white-collar crime in the country and new reports indicate that mail theft is up 71% versus last year. According U.S. Postal Inspectors, it takes a minimum of 44 months to recover from identity theft. One in three cases involving identity theft occurs via the mail. For the criminal, the mailbox is the gateway to financial fraud, and victims are left with empty bank accounts and shattered credit ratings.
Parcel packages are at their most vulnerable when left unattended on a doorstep; with internet shoppers increasing daily, more and more parcel packages never find their rightful owner due to thieves who follow these trucks and grab packages left unattended.
According to local police chiefs, mail theft is one of the nonviolent ways drug users use to support their drug habits when they steal bank checks and credit card statements from mailboxes. A mail thief can get up to $1,000 per box for a box of reissued and/or new checks you receive through the mail. Stolen checks are chemically "washed" of their ink, so the thief can make out a new amount and a new payee. For the sophisticated criminals, mail can be extremely valuable.
Mail theft has become so common that some states are considering legislation for stiffer penalties since current laws consider it only a misdemeanor theft. 


Error message

Support community news in the public interest! As nonprofit news, we rely on donations from the public to fund our reporting -- not special interests. Please donate to sustain East County Magazine's local reporting and/or wildfire alerts at to help us keep people safe and informed across our region.