- Limit exposure: You can limit your exposure to mail fraud by utilizing online conveniences like e-statements, online bill pay, direct deposit, and online banking.
- 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 optoutprescreen.com. This tells credit card companies to stop sending pre-approved credit card applications to your house.
- 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, they lock 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.
- 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 door 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 small boxes. Mail slots are not allowed, however, in rural delivery areas or newer neighborhoods with cluster boxes.
- Buy a security mailbox: Search “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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Pick up mail promptly: Persistent thieves might 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.
- Keep your mailbox visible: Trim shrubbery to keep your mailbox as visible as possible, eliminating hiding places for thieves.
Protecting 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.
- Don’t leave outgoing mail in your mailbox: That little red flag is an invitation to thieves. Take outgoing mail to your office, or mail it at a post office or mailing outlet store.
- Don’t mail holiday gifts from home: Keep the holidays a cheery time by mailing gifts from the Post Office to avoid having them stolen.
- Don’t put mail in street mailboxes: The highest rate of mail theft locally is from those big, blue Postal Service mailboxes located on street corners and at other public places.
- Send valuables via registered mail: Registered mail is kept under lock and key, and it is signed for every time it changes processing centers.