Mail theft prevention and best practices

Mail theft is another hot topic that has come up repeatedly. This past week we heard from several block captains in different West Seattle neighborhoods who are experiencing a rash of such thefts – so we are posting these pointers that Community Police Team (CPT) Officer Jon Kiehn sent us in February 2012.

Mail theft best practices.

I have gotten some requests from citizens about proper reporting of mail theft as well as what they can do to reduce the likelihood of that happening to them.  Here is a bit of information I have put together about that topic.

In some parts of the USA, mail theft is an extremely chronic issue.  Thieves can take mail from boxes of people who do not follow some simple safety rules and profit from what they steal.  This may include information in the post or items of value like cash, store gift cards, credit card applications, or a signed outgoing check.

In Seattle, however, mail theft is very seasonal.  During the Holiday season, mail thefts spike because of the high amount of gifts that people send through the mail.  I have noticed another spike in mail thefts as well, but don’t know how widespread that statistic holds.

Final jurisdiction regarding mail theft belongs to the US Postal Inspectors Office.  They have many methods of stopping the problem that I do not have access to, and are coming up with new strategies all the time.  If a local Police Officer catches a mail thief, there are a number of ways we can deal with them, however, in the end, the case is referred to the US Postal Inspector’s Office anyhow.

There are a few reasonable ways to report mail theft.  Because the US Postal Service obviously does not have units that they can dispatch and respond like local police do, there are times when calling 9-1-1 is reasonable.  If there is actual information or evidence pointing toward a specific suspect (video, someone saw them, they left something at the scene) call us and we’ll investigate.  The other reason to call us is if the theft is in progress.  In these cases, we can often catch the people and get them in jail so that US Postal Service’s job is much easier.  In these cases, good descriptions of the people involved as well as a vehicle description to include a plate number is great.

If you are sure that someone has stolen your mail, but have no evidence and no idea who it was, you can simply report it online directly to the US Postal Service, here: https://postalinspectors.uspis.gov/forms/mlntrcvd.aspx

Here are a few good ideas (taken directly from the USPS web site):

Follow these steps to Protect Your Mail

  • Use the letter slots at your post office to mail letters, or give them to a letter carrier.
  • Pick up your mail promptly after delivery. Don’t leave it in your mailbox overnight.
  • Don’t send cash in the mail.
  • Ask your bank for “secure” checks that can’t be altered.
  • Tell your post office when you’ll be out of town, so they can hold your mail until you return.

Report all mail theft to a Postal Inspector.

Call 877-876-2455.

Another page says this:

How to Protect Against Thieves

Every day, the U.S. Postal Service safely and efficiently delivers millions of checks, money orders, credit cards and other valuable items. Unfortunately, such items of value are also attractive to thieves.

That’s why Postal Inspectors across the country are at work to protect your mail. But with deliveries to more than 100 million addresses, the Postal Inspection Service can’t do the job alone.

Here’s what you can do to protect your mail from thieves:

  • Never send cash or coins in the mail. Use checks or money orders.
  • Promptly remove mail from your mailbox after delivery, especially if you’re expecting checks, credit cards, or other negotiable items. If you won’t be home when the items are expected, ask a trusted friend or neighbor to pick up your mail.
  • Have your local post office hold your mail while you’re on vacation, or absent from your home for a long period of time.
  • If you don’t receive a check or other valuable mail you’re expecting, contact the issuing agency immediately.
  • If you change your address, immediately notify your post office and anyone with whom you do business via the mail.
  • Always deposit your mail in a mail slot at your local post office, or hand it to your letter carrier.
  • Consider starting a neighborhood watch program. By exchanging work and vacation schedules with trusted friends and neighbors, you can watch each other’s mailboxes (as well as homes). If you observe a mail thief at work, call the local police immediately, and then call the U.S. Postal Inspection Service at 877-876-2455.

If you believe your mail was stolen, report it immediately to your local postmaster or nearest Postal Inspector. You’ll be asked to file a formal complaint using PS Form 2016, Mail Theft and Vandalism Complaint at https://postalinspectors.uspis.gov/forms/MLNtRcvd.aspx. 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.

Consult with your local postmaster for the most up-to-date regulations on mailboxes, including the availability of locked centralized or curbside mailboxes.

If you feel that you are a victim of a crime involving the mail, submit an on-line complaint at https://postalinspectors.uspis.gov/contactUs/filecomplaint.aspx.”

Another method of protecting your identity is simply to check your credit annually and verify all of your creditors.  Anything that doesn’t look right should take the necessary steps to stop the possible fraudulent credit lines.  (Not noted in the USPS site.)

Here is a page that links to all of the resources I have utilized in order to direct you regarding USPS Policy.  https://postalinspectors.uspis.gov/investigations/MailFraud/fraudschemes/mailtheft/MailTheft.aspx

If you have any questions, feel free to call me and we can chat.

Jon Kiehn

SW CPT

[Added, 12/27/13:]  Our subsequent monthly meeting focused on the subject of mail theft; we invited guest speakers from the US Postal Service who gave an informative presentation.

This entry was posted in Community Police Team (CPT), Mail Theft, Seattle Police Department and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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