Monday, November 17, 2014

Maintain the Quality of your Holidays - 6 Tips to Prevent Postal Theft

As holiday festivities and shopping become forefront in everyone’s mind, remember crime traditionally increases between Thanksgiving and Christmas. 

A vulnerable aspect of your home is the mailbox. During this season, thieves hope to find gift cards and cash sent by friends and relatives. My family was a victim of this crime 3 years ago. Two nights before Christmas we were entertaining relatives. Several times during the day I had thought about retrieving the mail from our mailbox, but kitchen duties distracted me. 

At 8:30 PM the doorbell rang. Our neighbors reported seeing a car stop and open our mailbox. They described following the car down our long street, turning around in the cul-de-sac, back past our house, and out on the highway. They followed the suspicious vehicle long enough to determine (A)the alleged mail thieves didn’t want to be followed because they turned off their headlights during the “chase” and (B) the license plate number. 

We verified our mailbox had been emptied, and called the sheriff’s department. Despite having a license number which was traced to a resident in a neighboring county, nothing was done. The next morning, we walked down the street and found an opened and discarded Christmas card from a nearby town. Apparently these thieves had been trolling several neighborhoods and taking mail.

Because of the danger of a credit card statement with a full number on it being in the mailbox, we had to cancel that credit card. 

We also reported the theft to the Postmaster General. Because a mailbox is considered Federal property, mail theft is a federal crime under U.S. Code of Regulations Section 1708 Title 18. A fine and/or prison sentence up to 5 years is assigned.

Here are some tips to protect your mailbox contents:

1 - Retrieve your mail as soon as possible. If you are away all day, arrange for someone else to get the mail.

2 - Do not mail any important mail from your mailbox. Drive through and use the drop box at the post office.

3 - If you mail from your mailbox, do not put it in the box the night before.
4 - If sensitive account numbers are on statements, consider changing to e-statements.

5 - Discuss mail theft issues with relatives that might send cash or gift cards. Electronic gift cards or personal checks are alternatives.

6 - When you travel, place a mail hold with the post office.