5 New Warnings to Customers From the U.S. Postal Inspector
THIS ADVICE IS ESPECIALLY IMPORTANT DURING THE HOLIDAY SHIPPING SEASON.
The U.S. Postal Service (USPS) is now in the midst of the most hectic shipping time of the entire year. During the 2022 holiday season, the agency is expecting to handle roughly 13 billion pieces of mail from its customers. But if you're one of the many Americans planning to send and receive letters or packages to celebrate the season, don't make careless mistakes that could let criminals take advantage of you. The U.S. Postal Inspector, who oversees the law enforcement arm of the USPS, recently told ConsumerAffairs that "holiday mail can be a holiday for thieves, too." To help keep your mail safe from theft, read on to find out what the U.S. Postal Inspection Service (USPIS) is warning you to do—and not do—with your mail.
READ THIS NEXT: 6 Warnings to Customers From USPS Mail Carriers.
Only deposit your mail at certain times.
Thieves have recently started "fishing" letters out of mailboxes in order to catch a check, David Maimon, an associate professor of Criminal Justice and Criminology at Georgia State University, told ConsumerAffairs in November. "Criminals are increasingly targeting USPS and personal mailboxes to pilfer filled-out checks and sell them over the internet using social media platforms," he said.
To avoid having any of your holiday letters snatched this season, the USPIS told ConsumerAffairs that customers should only deposit mail close to pickup times. In other words, the USPIS "suggests that if you're using one of the USPS blue collection boxes for outgoing mail, you deposit those items before the last collection or inside your local Post Office," the outlet explained.
According to the Postal Service, pickup times are posted on the label of every collection box and may vary depending on the day of the week.
Don't send certain things through the mail.
It's not just checks you need to worry about going through the mail system, however. You should also avoid sticking any cash in your holiday cards this year. The USPIS told ConsumerAffairs that it recommends customers do not send cash in the mail, and instead, use a USPS Money Order, if necessary.
"The Postal Service does not prohibit sending cash in the mail [but] reminds customers about the options they have," a spokesperson for the USPS said in a previous warning (via WUSA9). "It is advisable to send money via a personal or certified check or money order, as these are traceable and a stop payment can be put on a check if it doesn't arrive at its destination."
Ask about overdue mail.
Delivery delays have wrecked havoc on USPS customers this year, and you might expect they'll be even worse during the holidays with the influx of mail volume. But don't let that assumption allow you to ignore missing mail.
Instead, the USPIS actually suggests customers "inquire about overdue mail," per ConsumerAffairs. If you don't receive an expected mailpiece "within a reasonable amount of time," especially if it is a check or credit card, you should contact the sender as soon as possible.
"Sometimes packages are delayed or rerouted because of unusual circumstances. Before contacting us … contact the shipper for further information on your expect mail," the USPS says on its website. "If you were notified by a shipper that they have sent out a package and believe it has been delayed or possibly lost, contact the mailer of the item and request them to provide the tracking number or track the package."
Pick up your mail in a prompt manner.
You could be putting yourself more at risk of mail theft through certain habits. The USPIS is warning customers to not leave any letters or packages in their mailbox or at their door for an extended length of time. "If you do, you're essentially advertising that someone's not home," ConsumerAffairs explained.
Instead, postal inspectors stress the importance of picking up mail in a prompt manner. But what if you're out of town for the holidays? Use the USPS Hold Mail service.
"Other than vacations, Americans probably don't use the USPS Hold Mail service as often as they could, but during the holiday, the Postal Inspector thinks using it would be smart for anyone who might be away for even a day or two," according to ConsumerAffairs.
The Postal Service will "hold your mail safety at your local post office" for up to 30 days with this offering, per its website. "To hold your mail longer or to reroute your mail, please sign up for a forwarding service," the agency said. "You can make your request up to 30 days in advance or as early as the next scheduled delivery day."
Make sure packages get to the right person.
If you're the one shipping out packages, there are things you can do to make sure they get to their rightful destinations as well.
The USPIS told ConsumerAffairs that package senders can also ask that mail be held. Customers can request the Hold for Pickup option when shipping packages, which allows recipients to collect the package at their local post office.
"This endorsement is used by mailers for items they do not want left at the recipient's door," the USPS explains. "This enhancement is designed to meet the unique needs of mailers who ship high-value goods or to better meet customer needs regarding convenience."
Another tip for senders is requesting signature confirmation. The USPIS said this is "another layer of security" to ensure your package gets to the correct recipient because it requires the USPS mail carrier to get a signature prior to delivery. "Signature Confirmation requires that the recipient (or a responsible person at the residence) be present to sign for the item," the Postal Service says.