Scammers are going after mail like never before, causing people to lose money and have their private info exposed. Business Insider says banks reported 680,000 cases of check fraud last year, which is double the number from 2021. The U.S. Postal Service got hit with around 300,000 complaints of mail theft in 2021, which is approximately twice as many as the year before.
Mail became a particularly tempting target during the COVID pandemic when millions received government relief checks. The most popular kind of check scam involving mail is called “check washing.” Basically, some sneaky person swipes the envelope from your mailbox and messes with the name and the amount of cash written on the check. The USPS claims their postal inspectors seize over $1 billion in fake checks and money orders every year, and a bunch of those have been tampered with through “washing.” These can be government-issued checks, but also personal checks.
Tighter security for mail.
To tackle mail theft head-on, the U.S. Post Office recently rolled out 12,000 fancy security mailboxes all over the country. These blue collection boxes will be strategically placed in areas where there’s a higher risk of fraud and theft happening.
The USPS is in the process of replacing its outdated “arrow” locks with 49,000 electronic locks. This decision was prompted by incidents where letter carriers were specifically targeted for their specialty keys, which grant access to the mailboxes. The new electronic locks have already been installed in select cities, and they are planning to extend the installation to other major metropolitan areas soon.
Mail theft and fraud prevention.
The USPS shared some great tips on how to prevent theft and fraud. One important tip is to avoid leaving incoming or outgoing mail sitting in your mailbox. By simply taking your mail out every day, you can lower the chances of becoming a victim.
When it comes to sending out mail, the safest option is to deposit it inside your local post office or hand it directly to your letter carrier. This way, you can ensure it doesn’t fall into the wrong hands.
Another helpful suggestion is to sign up for Informed Delivery. This service provides you with daily digest emails that give you a preview of your upcoming mail and packages. It’s a handy way to stay informed and quickly notice if anything goes missing.
It’s also important to stay vigilant and keep an eye out for your letter carrier. If something seems suspicious or you notice someone following them, don’t hesitate to call 911. Reporting any concerning activity is crucial for preventing potential theft or fraud.
Lastly, if your mail does get stolen, it’s crucial to report it right away. You can submit an online complaint to the Postal Inspection Service at www.uspis.gov/report or give them a call at 877-876-2455. The sooner you report it, the better chances they have of taking action.