Never Leave This in Your Mailbox Overnight, Experts Warn
It might seem innocuous, but this common mail behavior can put you at risk.
Unless you're waiting for something specific to arrive in the mail, it's easy to put off checking your mailbox until you have time. After all, you're likely to find a bunch of unexciting things in there, from junk mail to bills you might be avoiding. But as tempting as it is to let your mailbox sit as is overnight, you're leaving yourself vulnerable to thieves. Unfortunately, mail theft is even more common than you might realize—the U.S. Postal Inspection Service (USPIS) said it received nearly 300,000 complaints about mail theft in just the last year. Read on to find what experts say you should never be leaving in your mailbox overnight.
You shouldn't leave any mail in your mailbox overnight.
Your mailbox is a major target for thieves and leaving mail in it overnight is likely to put you at high risk of theft, according to the experts at U.S. security company Allied Universal. Adam Sale, a USPS inspector, told ABC-affiliate KATU 2 in Portland, Oregon, that most mail thieves tend to strike at night.
"Investigations of mail thefts are challenging. There are no witnesses to the theft. Often times they happen overnight, so people aren't around," he explained. To help prevent your mailbox from being targeted, you should never leave your mail in it overnight. Instead, you should get mail out as soon as it arrives or ask a neighbor to pick it up for you.
"Instruct the post office to hold your mail while you are away on trips," Allied Universal further advises. "If you change your address, immediately notify your post office and anyone with whom you do business via the mail."
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Certain types of mail are even more important not to leave in your mailbox.
Certain mail with personal and confidential information, like blank checks, bank statements, insurance paper work, and credit applications, is even more risky to leave overnight. "If you get statements with personal information in the mail, take your mail out of the mailbox as soon as you can," the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) warns.
You may become a victim of identify theft if you have had your personal information stolen out of your mailbox. To spot identity theft, the FTC advises that you continuously track what bills you owe and when they're due, review your bills, check your bank account statement, and review your credit reports.
"If you stop getting a bill, that could be a sign that someone changed your billing address. Charges for things you didn't buy could be a sign of identity theft. So could a new bill you didn't expect," the FTC says. In terms of your bank account and credit reports, withdrawals you did not make could be a sign of identity theft, as well as accounts in your name that you don't recognize.
If you're using a public mailbox, avoid allowing your mail to sit overnight, too.
When it comes to sending mail, never put outgoing mail in your mailbox either. "Deposit outgoing mail, especially if it contains checks, into the slot inside the post office or into a U.S. postal collection box," Allied Universal advises.
Unfortunately, the risk of mail theft does not only apply to your personal mailbox. The USPS recommends that you never leave items in their public, blue drop boxes overnight either. Sale told KATU 2 that despite these boxes being designed to be very secure, they can easily become the target of thieves just like personal mailboxes.
"People who are mailing using blue collection boxes—pay attention to the times that are marked on those boxes, and don't drop mail after the collection time for it to sit overnight," Sale recommends. Collection times can be found on labels on the blue boxes, but you can also check USPS's website for a specific box's collection time.
"Please note that Pickup Times may vary depending on the day of the week," the USPS notes. "Occasional changes in transportation may result in adjustments to collection schedules."
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Some types of mail theft have become more common over the last year.
Taking steps to prevent your mail from being stolen may be even more important now, as certain types of mail theft have become more common. Mike Adelman, president and CEO of the Ohio Bankers League, told CBS-affiliate WBNS-TV in Columbus, Ohio, that there has been a significant increase in bank fraud during the pandemic, particularly in relation to mail theft.
"Unfortunately, check fraud has been with us for probably as long as we've had checks, and we've definitely seen throughout the pandemic fraudsters of all types are really taking advantage," he told WBNS-TV. According to Adelman, it's become even easier for thieves to steal checks out of mailboxes and forge them amid COVID because they can deposit them through ATMs or using mobile phone apps without ever having to come face to face with an actual bank teller.