Officials Issue New Warnings as Mail Theft Spikes: "Your Mail Is Not Safe"
Residents are still looking for help and clarification from the USPS going into the holidays.
Even at a time when our digital data can be compromised in the blink of an eye, our physical mail is still a highly sensitive item. After all, we rely on delivery services to handle everything from safely securing packages and parcels to sending and receiving important documents. Unfortunately, it appears more criminals have begun to take advantage of this situation by intercepting and stealing letters. Read on for the latest warnings from officials as mail theft spikes and why they warn "your mail is not safe."
A Virginia community has been searching for solutions amid an increase in mail theft.
Experiencing a slight delay in receiving your mail can definitely be a nuisance. But for the residents of Richmond, Virginia, a spike in mail theft has left many without deliveries for weeks on end and led to frustration, local ABC affiliate WRIC reports.
"I just want some answers. I want it resolved," Cynthia Urquhart, a Henrico County resident whose mail has gone missing for several consecutive days since the summer, told the news outlet. "We are human, and humans make mistakes. Humans make errors, but when there's no carrier at all coming on my street and my neighborhood—that problem becomes bigger."
According to officials with the Richmond Commonwealth Attorney's Office, there has also been an increase in mail reported as stolen or found discarded in alleyways in the area, as well as a spike in mail carriers and blue mailboxes getting robbed, WRIC reports.
Now, officials have warned residents not to trust blue mailboxes due to the spike in crime.
In hopes of quelling public concerns and getting some answers, the Commonwealth Attorney's Office scheduled a "postal town hall" for residents on Dec. 5, where they hoped a representative from the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) would be able to respond to questions and provide some solutions. But in a statement released on Dec. 3, officials scrapped the meeting after representatives from the agency said they wouldn't be on hand.
"Unfortunately, despite multiple conversations with, and assurances from, USPS inspectors and supervisors, the U.S. Postal Service has declined our invitation to participate in a Town Hall meeting to provide answers to the residents they are supposed to serve, especially during this holiday mailing season," Commonwealth's Attorney Colette McEachin said in the press release, per local NBC affiliate WWBT.
"The Postal Service is the sole agency able to answer questions regarding their non-delivery of mail," she continued. "In light of their decision not to participate, we have reluctantly decided to cancel the Town Hall at this time. We urge the USPS [to] reconsider their decision and to hold a public forum to discuss the issues related to non-delivery of mail, mail fraud, and mail theft."
McEachin also added a warning to residents to conclude the release. "Please avoid using the blue mailboxes that are in the public and outside of post office buildings," she wrote. "They are being vandalized and your mail is not safe if you deposit it in the blue boxes."
The Commonwealth Attorney's office released an FAQ for residents in the meantime.
Following the cancelation announcement, McEachin made it clear she was disappointed with the USPS's decision to no-show the town hall.
"I really thought, 'Well, let's get all the people together who have the questions and who could answer those questions and have a town forum,'" she told local CBS affiliate WTVR. "The fact that mail is not being delivered just makes me curious, if not suspicious. And I wonder where that mail is and who is doing what with it and why no one from the postal service was willing to at least have that conversation with Richmond."
Following the pointed press release, the agency explained their absence. "There was a scheduling conflict for the U.S. Postal Inspection Service personnel that did not permit our attendance," a spokesperson for USPIS told WRIC.
In place of the meeting, McEachin released an FAQ grid for residents that could address some basic issues. The form lists problems such as "my mail never arrives," "the check I mailed is never received," and "I'm being charged late fees or service is canceled for bills I never received or received too late to timely pay [sic]." Listed alongside each problem is the agency or division responsible for responding and their contact information.
The USPS has previously provided tips on how to avoid mail theft and check fraud issues.
Unfortunately, Richmond is far from the only community to experience problems with mail theft. The USPIS has previously released information and suggestions on how people can avoid becoming victims or losing their personal information—especially regarding check washing.
Anyone depositing outgoing mail in a freestanding blue collection box should aim to do so before the last pickup of the day occurs and hopefully as close to the scheduled pickup as possible, per the agency. However, dropping the mail off inside your local post office is still ideal.
The USPIS also warns against leaving incoming mail in your mailbox overnight, where it's vulnerable to theft. They also suggest arranging for a neighbor or friend to pick up mail or having your items held at the post office if you plan on being out of town.