Keeping your mail safe

Prevention Advice:

  1. Limit Exposure:  You can limit your exposure to mail fraud by utilizing online conveniences like eStatements, online bill pay, direct deposit and online banking.
  2. Opt-Out:  You should opt out of receiving credit card and insurance offers. You can do so by calling 1-888-5OPTOUT or on the web at  https://www.optoutprescreen.com.  This tells credit card companies from sending pre-approved credit card applications to your house.  By filing a simple change of address form with the post office or by contacting your creditors, an identity thief can have your personal mail sent to his or her own address.  Banks and other companies now send letters to both the new address and old address when a change is made in order to stop this type of fraud.
  3. Lock your mailbox:   If your postal carrier is willing, you can buy a padlock for your mailbox. Place it unlocked inside your mailbox. When the carrier delivers your mail, he or she locks the box. This works well with rural-delivery style boxes with a hole to accommodate a lock, or you can drill holes in a wall-mounted box. The method is not foolproof, however.  Persistent thieves have been known to use hacksaws to remove locks; some smash open mailboxes with baseball bats -- or even steal the mailbox, lock and all. 2. Keep your mailbox visible: Trim shrubbery to keep your mailbox as visible as possible, eliminating hiding places for thieves.
  4. Replace a wall-mounted mailbox with a mail slot:  If you have door-to-door delivery, ask your local Post Office if you can replace your mailbox with a mail slot on your front or garage door. The postmaster needs to approve any changes in delivery. If you add a mail slot, make it large enough to accommodate catalogs and boxes of checks. Mail slots are not allowed, however, in rural delivery areas or newer neighborhoods with cluster boxes.
  5. Buy a security mailbox:  Check the yellow pages under "mailboxes" for listings of companies that sell tamper-resistant mailboxes. Heavy-duty metal boxes are available in both wall-mounted and free-standing models (the latter may be sunk in concrete to prevent vandalism.) Security mailboxes typically have a slot for the carrier to deliver mail. Mail goes down a chute and into a locked compartment.
  6. Ask your apartment manager to improve security:  If you're a renter and your mailbox lock doesn't work, insist that the management repair the damage. Counterfeit keys are another problem in rental communities, since often the same key opens all the boxes. Managers can counter these problems by installing security cameras or moving mailboxes into a mail room where residents must use an access key to get inside.
  7. Get a post office box:  If theft is a concern, the cost of renting a post office box may be worth the investment, since thefts from such boxes are rare, according to postal authorities.
  8. Consider a parcel locker:  If you own a home-based business and receive frequent shipments of valuable goods, you may wish to invest in a parcel locker. If you use multiple delivery services, however, you'll need one for postal deliveries and a separate locker for others, such as Federal Express or United Parcel Service.
  9. Pick up mail promptly:  Mail thieves often follow carriers on their routes, striking within 15 minutes after delivery. If you're home during the day, pick up mail as soon after delivery as possible. If you're not home, ask a trusted neighbor to get your mail.  Thieves can steal mail from your mailbox in order to get credit card applications and other sensitive data.
  10. Outgoing Mail:  Outgoing mail is especially lucrative for thieves because it can include bills that you are paying by check or credit card. It's more common for mail to be stolen from apartment or housing complex mailboxes because they combine several households - mail in one place. 

Theft of your Mail

If you have had your mail stolen from your mailbox then you have become a victim of mail fraud, a federal crime. It is important to report this crime immediately and to take steps to protect your assets and credit rating. 

Here's a checklist of actions you should take:

  1. Notify your local postal authority.  Ask to fill out Form 2016, available at your local post office, or by mail. 
     
  2. Call your local police agency.  Report the theft to police or the sheriff's department, particularly if you suspect that checks or other valuables were stolen. Local law-enforcement authorities have caught some thieves by circulating lists of stolen checks to local banks, then nabbing suspects who showed up to clear out a victim's bank account. 
     
  3. Close accounts:  If you suspect the thief obtained a credit card, checks or bank statement, cancel your accounts immediately and notify creditors both by telephone and in writing. 
     
  4. Take action on missing checks:  If a check payable to you is stolen, ask the sender to stop payment and issue a new one. Give police the stolen check number. 
     
  5. Protect your credit:  Make a list of creditors and see if any bills are overdue to arrive. Call creditors and obtain duplicate copies to avoid late payments, which could damage your credit rating-or worse. Be sure to pay your mortgage payment and car payment to avoid the risk of foreclosure or repossession. Don't forget other bills that could be missing, such as an annual insurance premium, property-tax levy or income tax refund. 
     
  6. Determine what else is missing:  Contact professional organizations to learn if you've missed meeting notices or dues statements. Ask friends and relatives if they've mailed anything to you recently. Were you expecting a new driver's license? If so, contact your state Division of Motor Vehicle (DMV) promptly. 
     
  7. Talk to neighbors:  Find out if their mail was stolen. Ask if anyone saw a strange person around your home or an apartment mailbox, then pass any information along to postal and law enforcement authorities.