Web Stories Friday, March 1

The U.S. Postal Service is cracking down on mail theft this holiday season and beyond by installing 12,000 high-security blue collection boxes in high-risk areas around the country.

The iconic blue mail collection boxes are a main target of thieves, comprising a significant portion of the more than 25,000 mail theft incidents that occurred in the first half of the 2023 fiscal year, according to officials with the Postal Service and its law enforcement arm, the Postal Inspection Service.

“We are hardening targets — both physical and digital — to make them less desirable to thieves and working with our law enforcement partners to bring perpetrators to justice,” the Postal Inspection Service’s chief postal inspector, Gary Barksdale, said in a statement. 

As of October, 10,000 of the advanced security collection boxes have been installed. The new collection boxes do not look any different on the outside from the old boxes, according to Michael Martel, a spokesman for the Postal Inspection Service.

“There is no plan to stop until the mail is secure,” he said, adding that more boxes would be installed as needed. 

He declined to provide details about the enhanced technology, citing security concerns, but said the new versions are designed “to thwart a number of different attacks or ways that criminals try to break into them and steal our mail.” 

Massachusetts resident Deborah Gordon became a victim of mail theft earlier this year when she put two checks in a blue box outside her local post office on a Saturday before pickup scheduled later in the day. She said she used that particular box regularly because the mail was picked up on Saturdays.

But the following Monday morning after one of the checks had cleared her bank, she noticed the recipient’s name had been changed from the commonwealth of Massachusetts to the name of someone she did not know. 

“So between 1 o’clock on Saturday and 8 o’clock on Monday morning, it happened,” Gordon said of the mail theft. “I am more careful now, I go into the post office, I don’t mail it in a mailbox.” 

While Martel acknowledged that no preventive measure is surefire, he advised people to place their mail in the boxes as close to the scheduled pickup time as possible, which is what Gordon tried to do. 

He also suggested that people going out of town for the holidays have their mail held at their local post office until their return.

“If you’re going to visit family for the holidays, I highly recommend you do that,” Martel said. “So you don’t leave your mail piling up in your mailbox or packages piling up on your front porch, that’s just an invitation for folks that are driving around looking for opportunities.” 

Additionally, scammers have found a way to target customers through text messages, he said. The scam text messages may read: “A USPS delivery is awaiting your action,” the inspection service said on its website, and they usually include a link for customers to click on.

“The Postal Service never sends a text message unless you request text updates for a particular tracking number,“ Martel said. 

The updates, which must be requested by the recipient, are for a specific package only, and signing up once does not sign up the customer for future mail notifications, he said, adding that the Postal Service does not send links via text messages.

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