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Mailbox Security - An Added Layer of Identity Theft Protection

Secured mailboxes are not foolproof, but they are an added layer of crime prevention that can make it harder on thieves.

Post Date:01/04/2018

Open Mailbox with Red Flag Up thumbnailThe opportunity to find small delivered packages, checks, credit cards and other personal information used to steal someone’s identity and funds is enticing to thieves.  And because of that, more and more people have been replacing their traditional unsecured mailboxes.  Instead, they're opting for secured ones accessed by a key; either a standalone mailbox or part of community cluster mailboxes - used by an apartment complex or a small group of homes.

Secured mailboxes are not foolproof, but they are an added layer of crime prevention that can make it harder on thieves. 

But it’s not just the incoming mail that you have to worry about.  If you have a traditional mailbox and raise the outgoing mail “red flag,” you could be easily sending a signal to a thief that you have a check in the mail for them.  Thieves can “wash” checks - erasing the dollar amount and payee, and writing a new dollar amount with someone else’s name or payable to “cash.”  And it’s all as easy as driving by, opening the mailbox and grabbing whatever is inside.

The benefit of secured mailboxes is having areas for both receiving mail and sending outgoing mail.  And some have additional areas for accepting small packages, only accessible by a shared key (one key for each secured package section).

How do you get a secured mailbox or cluster mailbox?  If you want to replace your current traditional mailbox with something similar that has security features, you can go to your local hardware/home improvement store and find a similar size mailbox that has a locking door that only you and your mail carrier can access.  If you want a larger one that can hold small packages; those too can be found at your local hardware/home improvement store. 

A cluster mailbox is a little more work, but can be worth it.  The cluster mailbox holds mail for several different residences in your neighborhood – generally between 8-16 units/residences.   The initial cost for a cluster mailbox could easily be around $1000, plus installation, but when shared with 16 different residences, the cost per household amounts to around $65-plus, in addition to installation; though that could be done by yourself, if you’re handy.  The cluster boxes also usually have two larger package-size locked areas which are shared by the residences.  The two secured package areas are usually enough for participating residences because not everyone is expecting a package on the same day.

The first step to getting a cluster mailbox is for someone in your neighborhood to take the lead and gather a list of neighbors who want to participate.  Next, select an approved US Mail cluster box which can easily be found online.  Finally, the lead person would need to meet with the US Post Master/supervisors at 1330 SW Walnut Street, and gain approval for the location where the cluster box is to be installed.

If all else fails, and a determined thief breaks into your mailbox, please report it to local law enforcement and the US Postal Inspector online or by phone at 1-800-ASK-USPS. 

Other ways to protect your mail:

  • Pick up your mail promptly after delivery. Don’t leave it in your mailbox overnight.

  • Don’t send cash in the mail.

  • Use the letter slots inside your Post Office for your mail, or hand it to a letter carrier.

  • If you’re planning to be out of town, ask a trusted friend or neighbor to pick up your mail or request the Post Office hold it.

  • If you don't receive a check or other valuable mail you're expecting, contact the issuing agency immediately.

  • If you change your address, immediately notify your Post Office and anyone with whom you do business via the mail.

  • Report all suspected mail theft to a Postal Inspector.

  • Consider starting a Neighborhood Watch program. By exchanging work and vacation schedules with trusted friends and neighbors, you can watch each other's mailboxes (as well as homes).

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