GA Anderson is a freelance writer for private and commercial publishing platforms.
Mail Theft Is a Serious Problem
Mail theft is a serious problem and a serious offense. A victim of mail theft faces the loss of more than just everyday correspondence; they could miss important notices, financial information, checks, and perhaps even become a victim of identity theft. So what can you do to protect your mail? How do you stop a mailbox thief? Who do you call?
There are several things you can do to protect your mailbox from a thief. They range from diligent routines and safe practices to lockable mailboxes and alarms. Protecting your mail can be easier than you think, and so can catching the mailbox thief.
Contact USPS If Your Mail Has Been Stolen
If you already know your mail has been stolen—don't play around! Immediately contact the Postal Service and report it. No matter how high or low your expectations, report it and get it on record.
Mail theft is a federal offense, and the USPS takes it seriously. You can contact them and file a complaint online with this link. You can also call them toll-free from anywhere in the U.S. at 1-877-876-2455.
Be Proactive: Tips to Prevent Mail Theft
These proactive tips will help protect you from becoming a victim of mailbox theft or reduce the opportunities for it to happen again.
- Don't allow your mail to accumulate. If you are going to be away for more than a couple days, arrange for a trusted neighbor to pick up your mail, or ask your mail carrier to put a delivery hold on your mail until you return and retrieve it from the Post Office.
- Get to know your mail carrier's usual delivery time to your mailbox, and retrieve your mail as soon as possible.
- Make sure your mailbox door closes firmly and stays closed. An open mailbox with mail in view is an inviting target.
- Do not use your mailbox flag when you have outgoing mail. To a mailbox thief, it's like a red flag saying, "Here I am, come get me." Your mail carrier will see your outgoing mail, even if the flag is not up. If possible, the best choice is to post your outgoing mail in an official USPS box, or at a local Postal Center.
What If You Suspect a Neighbor?
What if you suspect a neighbor, but have no proof? Do you stake out your mailbox? Bang on the door and accuse them? Spend a couple hundred dollars to set up a surveillance system?
Or you could try using a little psychology. Strike up a conversation. Mention you think someone is messing with your mail. Ask them what they think you should do. Wonder aloud if you should call the FBI, since stealing mail is a federal offense, etc. Watch their reaction to your conversation. If they are the nervous type, maybe their nervousness will give them away. At the very least, you have made them aware that you are aware and watching. That might be all it takes.
If that doesn't solve the problem:
- If appropriate, (trust and convenience), ask your neighbors to help you keep an eye on your mailbox.
- If you are an apartment dweller, speak to the super, (and doorman if you have one), make them aware of the problem, and ask for suggestions.
However, you may need more drastic measures to stop a mailbox thief... Read on for some more simple methods for stopping a mail thief.
Stop Mailbox Thieves With a Lockable Mailbox
The easiest way to stop a mailbox thief is with a sturdy lockable mailbox. It is not an inexpensive option, but it is a pretty surefire one. And there are a lot of styles to choose from. Just make sure to consider your normal volume of mail so you will know which sizes to consider.
Lockable mailboxes are available as curb or roadside with traditional posts or stanchions, wall mount, column inserts, and pedestal styles.
Simple and easy-to-install mailbox chimes will let you know when your mailbox is being opened. A small modular wireless transmitter fits on any kind of mailbox door (even mail slots), and when the door is opened, a signal is automatically sent to the wireless receiver in your house. Installation only takes about ten minutes and doesn't require tools or wires.
Several companies make them, ranging around $45 or less. The transmitter is battery operated, and the indoor receiver plugs into a standard AC outlet. Typical transmitter range is about 300 feet. It's an easy way to be alerted when your mail arrives, or warned when your mailbox is opened.
Scare That Mailbox Thief Away!
Want a little satisfaction for about $10? Scare the heck out of that mailbox thief. Just put an inexpensive motion-sensor alarm in your mailbox, and as soon as they open the door—BAM! Up to 130 db's of ear-piercing alarm will scare the pants off them, and alert you too. You might even be able to catch them in the act of running away.
These types of alarms are simple battery-operated gizmos that have an adhesive backing. Just stick it on the back of your mailbox, (on the inside), and when the door is opened and they stick their hand in, it will set-off an ear-piercing alarm.
Of course, you need to either be home to arm it AFTER you mail has been delivered, (don't want normal mail delivery to set it off), or talk to your mail carrier and ask them to push the button to arm the alarm when they deliver your mail. Either way, it would be $10 well spent, and will almost certainly deter your mailbox thief from ever coming back for more of your mail.
Video Monitoring to Catch Your Mailbox Thief
Of course, there is also the oft suggested video surveillance of your mailbox. This process is complicated by several issues:
- The location of your mailbox—can you see it from a window? If you can, you may be able to just use a video camera on a tripod if you will be home to turn it on or off.
- Is it in a location where there are places to mount a remote video camera?
- Do you have the necessary video equipment, or want to spend the money to get it?
Ideally, a video camera with motion-sensing capabilities is what you want. That way the camera only turns on when it senses movement and is not recording all the time. If you want to use a remote camera set-up, then your choices would be video cameras like the ones hunters use for game-tracking or remote wireless cameras known as IP video cameras, which have their own URL address and can be monitored over the web.
Questions & Answers
Question: I have a lockable mailbox with a slot to put the mail through after you open the flap. However the flap is not catching when you close it even though it has a magnetic catch, is there a remedy for this?
Answer: There are several possible reasons; look for some type of debris between the mailbox's magnetic latch and its base plate. Check that the catch base plate hasn't fallen off. And finally, look at the flap's hinges to make sure they are moving freely.
Question: My mailbox is 1/4 mile away from my house. I have had other peoples mail dropped into my box already open, and there have been days when I see tire tracks by my box but no mail. How can I be notified when the mail comes when I am that far from my mailbox?
Answer: I/4 miles away presents quite a problem. For mail security, your best choice would be a lockable mailbox. For notification, that is a tough one. You may be able to find wireless internet devices that would notify you, but of those I am aware of, 1/4 mile exceeds their range. It looks like the security of a lockable mailbox is your best choice.
© 2012 ga anderson
Stop Mail Theft Comments
yike on July 19, 2018:
I have an expensive lock mailbox. My sister puts her whole arm in and takes out the mail. She is not authorized to open the box. She had kept my government mail from me for 3 months. She says she did it "accidentally". What should I do? firstname.lastname@example.org
Melissa on May 19, 2017:
I live in a apt & do law work mail fraud carries a fine of 5-30 years of jail & each item is at least $300-100000 if a third party ( someone gets to your mail before you) it is also a violation of privacy get a report from your pd and make a case
Demas W Jasper from Today's America and The World Beyond on December 27, 2016:
If you find someone else's discarded, stolen mail, the Post Office will do nothing at all unless the addressee files a complaint! That surprised me when I turned some in to the post office and then had to personally contact the injured party rather than the Post Office doing so.
How many times I have gone to check my mail only to find it hadn't been delivered yet! (Sometimes mine is as late as 7 PM!) The wireless remote solves that problem and saves enough time to warrant the nominal expense. plus providing some protection from theft.
ga anderson (author) from Maryland on March 10, 2012:
@samadaslam - good to see you again, and thanks for reading "How To Stop a Mailbox Thief."
I appreciate the comment and fan follow
ga anderson (author) from Maryland on March 10, 2012:
@Aelxsaez - Thanks for reading "How To Stop a Mailbox Thief," and taking the time to leave a comment.
LOL - yes I thought about the mousetrap idea, but that is an "after-the-fact solution. I am offering, (hopefully) solutions that don't require constant attention.
Samad Aslam Khan on March 09, 2012:
Anderson I'm great fan of you now. Strange that you have such a great research in every topic. Hats off!
alexsaez1983 on March 09, 2012:
I prefer the simple approach. Just put mousetraps in your mailbox. Effective AND funny.