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Posted on: January 7, 2021

Tips on Preventing Mail Theft

Row of mailboxes

Nearly every city in the United States is seeing an increase in mail theft, and Bothell is no exception. Prevention isn’t as easy as it used to be.  Gone are the days when mail arrived at the same time, every day.  What can you do to keep your mail safe?  

“Make it harder for thieves,” said Bothell Police Sgt. Ethan Nguyen. “Nothing works 100 percent against determined thieves, but making it harder is your best strategy.” Copy of Untitled (6) At his own mailbox,

 Nguyen has learned to never leave mail in his mailbox overnight.   He doesn’t place outgoing mail in his mailbox.  

Nguyen recommends people take outgoing mail to a secure U.S. Postal Service Box. “You’re less likely to have problems if you take your mail to a secure blue box,” said Nguyen.  “As for packages, if you work outside the home, see if your boss will allow you to have packages delivered at your workplace.” 

Many stores online now offer conveniently located purchase-pickup spots from locked bins.  Curbside pickup for local purchases also an option at most stores. 

As we’ve seen in recent, local cases, locking mailboxes help – but they’re no guarantee against the most determined mail thieves.  However, there’s no doubt that with a locked mail box, you are less likely to have your mail stolen.

Here’s some other information on mail theft and prevention:

What are mail thieves looking for? 

Thieves are looking for almost anything in people’s mail but there are some things they usually look for:

  • Checks or cash: They will alter the checks and amount, then cash it for themselves.
  • Utility bills, bank statements or packages of checks enable a thief to steal your identity.
  • Pre-approved credit card applications: Thieves will apply for this credit, then rack up charges in your name. You can opt out of many credit offers, by filling out a form online that takes moments to complete.   Learn more from the Federal Trade Commission https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0148-prescreened-credit-and-insurance-offers or go directly to the consumer credit industry’s official opt-out website

 Consider getting a locking mailbox

  • Most of our mail thefts are from unlocked, standard mailboxes.
  • Single-locking mailbox: You can find them at many hardware stores. The cost of these mailboxes start around $90
  • Make sure the one you pick is “Approved by the Postmaster General.”
  • Look for an anti-fishing slot that doesn’t allow a hand to fit through.
  • You have a key to this mailbox, but the post office does not.
  • If you are renting a home, ask your landlord for a locking mailbox.

 Consider a cluster or “group” mailbox.  Choose one or two neighbors to lead, organize the effort

  • Contact the post office about converting boxes to locked mailboxes.
  • Lead the petition process for neighbors to complete necessary paperwork.
  • The post office has a master key to the group of mailboxes.
  • Make sure neighbors understand they’ll have to split the cost of the box purchase and installation.
  • Learn more from the U.S. Postal Service about cluster boxes and parcel lockers.

 Other tips

  • Retrieve incoming mail as soon as possible. Most importantly, empty your mailbox before nighttime.
  • Do not use the red flag. When possible, take your outgoing mail and drop it into a secure U.S. Postal Service box, or inside the Post Office. 
  • When you go on a trip, have a trusted neighbor retrieve your mail so that it does not get left overnight in a mailbox.
  • Sign up to place a “hold” on mail delivery until you’re back home. You can place a hold online at USPS.com. https://www.usps.com/manage/hold-mail.htm 
  • Bothell Police takes mail theft seriously.  You can report mail theft online with Bothell Police.  For non-emergency situations, you call also call 425-486-1254.  If you see mail theft in progress, call 911

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