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It's no longer safe to deal with mail the way you used to

POSTED January 8, 2013 4:49 p.m.
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It has been some time since I addressed the issue of mail theft, why preventing it is important and what can be done to improve the security of your mail. Mail theft is a major contributor to credit fraud, identity theft and other problems that people would want to avoid.

Earlier this decade, there were mail-drop boxes in most every neighborhood. Gradually, they have been reduced to being almost non-existent, owing to the cutbacks in Postal Service staff, and maybe more importantly, the frequency of mailbox vandalism and theft from those boxes. It simply became easier to eliminate the boxes rather than continuing to fight a losing battle. One of the biggest problems with the mailboxes was that thieves would use various devices to fish out mail that had been dropped in, particularly during the nighttime hours.

Not only did the mail thieves prosper by stealing mail for checks, credit card access and useful identity information, but even when the mail was simply discarded by them, checks and other forms of payment never made it to the recipients, so the consumer was left with credit rating problems and accounts in arrears. It was a loser all around.

My suggestions for keeping your mail safe amount to inconvenience, for sure. It was easier to just walk to a drop box and forget about it, but those days are gone. I do not even use the drop boxes outside of the post office unless it is during a weekday and before the last pick-up of the day. Payment boxes for the various utility companies are also at risk, so I suggest that you deposit the payments during the daytime (before pick-up times), or hand-deliver the envelope.

It is best to obtain a post office box, whether from a private company or the post office itself. Never leave your mail in an outside drop box unless you can be sure that it will not sit there overnight or over the weekends or holidays. As far as residential mail delivery, boxes external to the home are an invitation for theft and vandalism. Furthermore, one of the worst things you can do with your outgoing mail is leave it for the mail carrier, whether in an external box or hanging out of a mail slot in a door or wall. It is very risky to leave any kind of mail in public view, as there are almost always thieves walking around, driving through or riding bicycles looking for easy theft opportunities. Our society is not what it used to be, thanks to governmental policies regarding the handling of convicted criminals and those who have just been arrested, the overall deterioration of societal values, and the decrease in community commitment and involvement. It is sad but true.

Matters of postal theft are most often initially investigated by your local law enforcement agency, but there are also federal postal inspectors who get involved in the case, depending on the severity of the theft and the number of victims involved. It is important to report these crimes, whether making the report the postal inspector or your local police or sheriff's department. Following some basic mail security practices can substantially decrease your chances of becoming a mail theft victim, and despite the inconveniences that these security practices bring with them, I believe you will find them far less problematic than becoming a mail theft victim.

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