Mail theft occurs when someone steals mail that is not their own. The United States Postal Service handles about 668 million pieces of mail each day. Most of this arrives intact, but some is stolen before it can be delivered. The U.S. Postal Inspectors, who investigate mail thefts, arrested over 6,000 theft suspects last year alone. Also, some areas of the country, such as areas in California and Texas, are prone to volume mail thefts.
Thieves steal mail because they want the checks, money orders, credit card applications, and bank statements inside. They may steal from:
- Postal trucks
- Collection boxes
- Apartment mailbox panels
- Co-op mailing racks
- Neighborhood delivery and collection box units
The United States Postal Service recommends making it harder for thieves to steal your mail by:
- Never sending cash in the mail (use checks and money orders)
- Removing mail from your mailbox after delivery or asking a neighbor to pick up your mail when you are away
- Requesting your post office hold your mail while you are away for a long period of time
- Contacting the issuing agency immediately if you do not receive an expected check or other valuable mail
- Immediately notifying your post office and others of a change of address
- Depositing your mail in a mail slot at your post office or handing it your mailman
- Starting a neighborhood watch program
If you witness mail theft, call the police immediately and contact your nearest Postal Inspector. Also, if you believe your mail was stolen, report it immediately to your local postmaster or Postal Inspector (this will require you to fill out a formal complaint).
Rural area mailboxes are more vulnerable to vandalism than city residential mailboxes. This is because they are usually isolated, located on public roads, and often not visible to the homeowners from the house. Mailboxes are considered to be federal property and under federal jurisdiction. It is a crime to vandalize mailboxes and violators may be fined up to $250,000 or receive a term of imprisonment up to three years.
A criminal lawyer may be able to help inform you of the various laws surrounding mail theft. If you follow the above tips, mail theft should not be a problem to the majority of households.