MAIL THEFT has always been common, but it gets worse around the holidays and at tax refund time. In the past two weeks, over a dozen people in my Kirkland neighborhood have had mail stolen -- and that's just the ones I know about. Mail theft is a huge problem everywhere, and it happens far more often than many people realize. If you have an unlocked mailbox and your mail hasn't been stolen yet, it's just a matter of time.
Mail theft often leads to identity theft, fraudulent credit card charges, and other nightmares.
"Absolutely everyone in this day should have locked mailboxes," said Audra Weber, Neighborhood Resource Officer with the Kirkland Police Department. "The money and time spent on getting a locked mail box will save you massive headaches in having to deal with ID theft, which is an absolute pain."
One Highlands Neighborhood resident says that when her mail was taken, "They left junk mail behind so we didn't realize that anything had been stolen from our box. Unfortunately they stole our newly ordered checkbooks and forged a check which emptied our bank account."
Kirkland Postmaster Kathy de la Cruz said that the U.S. Postal Service can't require locking mailboxes, and also can't recommend vendors or installers. "We just tell people to Google," she said. Outgoing mail is vulnerable too. "Don't put outgoing mail in an unlocked mailbox."
How can you prevent mail theft?
- Get a locking mailbox or use a padlock or a Post Office box. The inexpensive locking mailboxes you can buy at hardware stores will deter many thieves, but a determined thief can easily break into them. The best vendor I know of is Security Safe and Lock in Bellevue. They sell high quality products, you can see before you buy, and their prices are competitive.
- Never put outgoing mail in an unlocked mailbox.
- If you'll be out of town, sign up here to have your mail held.
- Alert friends and neighbors who have unlocked boxes.
What should you do if you find stolen mail?
Collect the mail, call 911, and a police officer will come to your home to collect it and return it to the victims.
What should you do if your mail is stolen?
- Call your bank and credit card companies and have a watch put on your account.
- Contact the credit reporting agencies to put a fraud alert on your credit file. Transunion will automatically notify and process fraud alerts to Experian and Equifax also.
- Call 911 to file a police report.
- File a US Postal Service report here.