Sometimes it’s easy to forget that there is little protecting the contents of our mailboxes. All too often, people toss sensitive mail into their box to await pickup without a second thought — especially if they live in a quiet neighborhood where there isn’t much crime. But they may be taking a larger risk than they think, especially around this time of year. And it’s not just documents with sensitive data that are at risk–thieves are becoming more bold each year even going as far as using different apps to track your packages and steal them right off your porch after they’re delivered.
The weeks leading up to and immediately following the holiday season are prime times for mail theft — even more so today, thanks to the rise of online shopping. During the holidays, people frequently receive packages on their doorstep, which may sit there for several hours unattended. Busy street corners and quiet side roads alike present plenty opportunities for thieves who are looking to quickly snatch a package or two and some mail along with it.
Having a package stolen right before the holidays can be a big inconvenience if it happened to contain a valuable gift for a friend or relative. The consequences of mail theft can go far beyond simple property loss. A thief could also take the opportunity to steal pieces of mail, which may contain valuable personal information. Medical documents, financial statements or a replacement credit card are just some of the items that could be used to compromise a victim’s identity and credit.
Protect your mail from theft
Millions of Americans receive mail delivery every day, making it difficult for the U.S. Postal Service to guarantee the security of every single parcel and document. Here are some helpful tips in securing your mail:
- Pick up your mail promptly: This is the simplest solution, but it is one that many people forget. If you have the opportunity to get your mail as soon as it arrives, do so. If not, see if you can arrange for someone to be home at that time. The same applies to when you drop something off in your mailbox. Wait until your mail carrier is around the corner, to minimize the chance of someone stealing it.
- Immediately notify the post office of an address change: Moving is complicated, and there can be a lot to remember. Changing your address should be at the top of the list. If you allow your mail to be sent to your old residence, the odds that it may be stolen will only increase.
- Follow up on expected mailings: Were you expecting to receive a check in the mail? If it’s late, don’t wait to reach out to the party sending it to you. It may have gone through, only to be stolen from your mailbox. Don’t assume that everything that doesn’t reach you was lost at the post office.
- Consider a locking mailbox: Local regulations may vary, but some people might have the option to install a locked mailbox. If you’ve already been a victim of mail theft, this is one way to prevent it in the future.
- Customize your mail delivery: Some mail carriers allow you to customize residential deliveries. What this means is that you can change the time and location of the delivery, ask for a signature upon delivery, or even have the carrier hold your mail for pickup if you know you won’t be home to receive it.
- Consider an alternate destination: If you order something online you might want to think about sending the package to your workplace or to a family friend or neighbor who you know will be home at the time of delivery.
- Request a vacation hold: If you know you’ll be out of town request that any shipments be held.
- Ask for a ring: Some carriers allow you to leave instructions for couriers and you can ask them to ring the doorbell or knock on the door when they leave the package on your doorstep to alert you.
- Buy insurance: We all like to save money on shipping and the last thing we want to do is pay extra, but paying a few extra dollars to insure our packages and mail can go a long way.
If you suspect that mail or a package has been stolen from your mailbox, file a police report. And if the stolen mail contains sensitive personal information be sure to stay alert for any changes to your credit. A credit monitoring servicecredit monitoring service can be your best friend in this kind of situation, notifying you of certain activities that may indicate fraud. This can give you much-needed peace of mind.