Stealing mail is a Felony offense, a federal crime. The penalty for theft or receipt of stolen mail is imprisonment, not more than 5 years or a fine or both in accordance with 18 U.S. Code § 1708. The fines can be up to $250,000. In addition, the perpetrator may be subject to state prosecution.
Now, during the summer, is the perfect time to figure out how to prevent mail theft, "before" the holidays. If you did not received an item that USPS tracking says was delivered, then ideally, you need to capture a video or photo of your mailbox when it is approached and opened as proof.
The easiest preventive measure for mail theft is to set up a USPS "Informed Delivery" notification which will email or text you when delivery is made. Signup is Free!
Started in 2017, Informed Delivery, will even send you an image of the item being delivered and can give you expected delivery dates as well as when they are delivered (although this is not instant and could be hours later). The key is to know when to start looking for that item. All though we have documented some incidents where the package is marked as delivered but does not show up until the next day, we suspect this is drivers with bad habits or trying to save time and you need to inform your local postmaster.
The most important reason to be proactive is to protect you against Identity Thief and of course the delivery of your mail and packages. Regardless the value of the mail item or if you have a taken photo or not of the delivery you should take action to help authorities stop the thief.
If your mail or packages are stolen, follow these steps:
- Check with your neighbors and family members to make sure it was not already brought in to your home.
- Alert your "local" Postmaster" in writing with a tracking number if you have it. Document the date, time and name of whom you reported it to and try to find out the name of the postal person who delivered that day.
- They can check the delivery truck.
- They can check with the delivery person and notate if there has been similar issues with the driver or the neighborhood you live in.
- Alert the Postal Inspector online or by phone at 877-876-2455 (press 3).
- File a police report to get the incident down on record.
By filing reports you help establish a history for these officials. - The Postal Inspector can work with the local postmaster and police.
- The local postmaster can work with employees and police
- The local police can establish a neighbor thief pattern.
Other Delivery Protection Methods:
- Electronic image capturing of your mailbox run from sensors that ring a bell in your house to alert you when the mailbox has been opened to cameras. There is also a wide range of cameras from home Surveillance Video, Wireless Sensors the take camera snapshots to outdoor hunting cameras that are camouflaged and waterproof. Some methods require power and/or wireless internet access.
- Have a lock installed on your mailbox which means deliveries can go in but not come out unless you use a key but they must meet the same functional requirements as standard mailboxes and must be approved by the postmaster.
- Get a PO Box at the Post office.
- Setup Package Intercept setup with you local post office as "Hold for pickup"
- Setup arrangements with your postmaster to leave you a notice in your mailbox when they can't fit a package in the mailbox asking you to pick up the package as the Post Office.
- Delivery to your Door: Shippers like FedEx and UPS usually deliver packages to peoples' doors, but the USPS does not but you can use one of the above options.
There are "Package Delivery Boxes" available to supplement your mailbox or front porch package deliveries. They remind you of a stylize plastic Garbage Can in that they are weather proof, have large interiors and if you need security, come with a hinged lid that will lock upon closing the lid, then you use your key to open it. These tend to deter thief because the packages cannot be seen and they would have to forcibly open to access your packages. Depending upon your mailbox, these boxes could be screw mounted to the side of your mailbox post too.
In the end, you must be proactive! Don't expect a door bell to ring upon delivery, delivery people are timed and rated on expected amount of deliveries. Gone are the days of personalize services and knowing the person’s name who is servicing your route.
Each of us must be proactive and now before the holiday season is recommended to protect your parcels and you from identity thief.