Tis the Season for Mail Theft

Nextdoor app screenshot of post warning of mail thieves

Homeowners are using apps like Nextdoor to prevent mail theft and to catch burglars. Photo Courtesy of Nextdoor.

By Patricia L. Garcia

Tis the season for gift giving! Soon your mailbox will be full of season’s greetings from family and friends alike. The U.S. Postal Service (USPS) estimates that it will deliver anywhere from 450 to 470 million packages this holiday season — and that has the grinches of the world out and about and ready for thieving. That’s right – the holidays make it a season ripe for mail theft.

“During the holidays, thieves will follow delivery trucks and snatch the packages that drivers leave at people’s front doors,” says Robert Siciliano, a personal and home security specialist for BestHomeSecurityCompanys.com. “Thieves will cruise around neighborhoods in search of boxes left at front doors and steal them.”

While stealing mail is a federal crime enforced by the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, that doesn’t seem to be stopping thieves. But, here are a few tips you can use to keep your holidays merry and prevent mail theft from happening to you:

The Bigger, The Better

If you can, install a locked mailbox, like a Florence mailbox. Doing so will ensure that your letters and packages — both small and large — will be safe until you open the box with a key. For more on mailbox requirements, visit the USPS mailbox regulations page.

Neighborhood Watch

We don’t really mean that your neighborhood should be on lock down, but we do mean that neighbors should help each other out. “Neighborhoods can be the first line of defense when it comes to preventing and combating package and mail thieves this holiday season,” says Anne Dreshfield, a Communications associate with Nextdoor, an app that allows residents in a particular neighborhood to create their own private social network to connect with one another and stay in touch about neighborhood issues.

Through the Nextdoor app, neighbors are able to “meet” each other online. These relationships can come in handy when you’re headed out of town or are expecting a package. Simply walk next door and let a neighbor know, so they can keep an eye out or ask them to pick up your mail and hold it for you.

Some Nextdoor users who have had their packages stolen have used the app to alert the community of thefts by posting surveillance footage of the incidents.

Put a Hold on It

If you’ll be out of town for the holidays, request a mail hold from the USPS, says Siciliano. You can request the mail hold up to 30 days in advance or as late as 2 a.m. on the start date. You can request a mail hold at your post office, by calling 1-800-ASK-USPS or online for added convenience.

Don’t Put Your Name on It

You may be tempted to put your family’s name on your mailbox, but according to some alarm companies, this is a bad idea. 1st Security Home Security says that your home address is enough to suffice – if family and friends are looking for your home, the postage number on your box is enough for them to get there. By including your last name on the box, burglars can check online to see if you are out of the home (yes, even private social media accounts can be accessed by thieves).

Shout to the Rooftops

Or maybe just tell your family and friends that if they are mailing a package, the postal carrier or delivery person should need to get a signature before leaving a package (you can even request that an adult signature is required), Siciliano says. This means that if you’re not home, you’ll get a note that says you have a delivery and will need to pick up the package at the post office or shipping center. Such a service will cost only a few dollars more. And, if you are the sender, be sure to insure the package in case it gets lost or stolen.

During the holiday season, thieves are on the prowl. Don’t make it easy for them to access your mail and packages by taking these easy steps.

Patricia L. Garcia is content manager for NewHomeSource, where you can search for and get information on new homes and new construction communities. You can find her on Google+.

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