USPS Slammed for Collection Boxes That Make It Easy to Steal Checks, Customers Say
Some residents claim the agency is not picking up mail when it should be.
We put a lot of trust in the postal system. From valuable belongings to prescription medications, the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) ends up handling many of our most important items. As a result, the Postal Service has often touted the reliability and security of its operations—noting it works hand in hand with the U.S. Postal Inspection Service (USPIS) to ensure that our mail is protected at all times. But some customers are now casting doubt on these assurances. Read on to find out why the USPS is being slammed for collection boxes that some say make it easy to steal checks.
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Mail theft has been rising significantly.
Mail theft is affecting more and more people these days. Data from the USPIS indicates that there were 33,000 reports of incidents involving mail carrier robberies and mail theft in 2021, according to AARP. This is a major increase from pre-pandemic times—there were 24,000 reports made in 2019.
Amid this national spike, financial checks are the most common target. David Maimon, a professor that researches cyber crimes and mail theft at Georgia State University, told The Crime Report that when he and his team initially started researching mail theft, they only saw about 100 stolen checks a week being sold online. Now they see around 2,000 a week.
Customers are slamming the USPS for allegedly making theft easier.
According to some customers, the Postal Service deserves some of the blame for this spike in thefts. Resident in Plano, Texas, say that overstuffed mail collection boxes in the area are making mail theft much easier, CBS DFW reported.
Resident Larry Strauss told the news outlet that he recently dropped off two checks—one to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and one to his son—in a collection box outside the USPS branch on Coit Road in Plano.
According to Strauss, the collection boxes outside the Plano post office have been overflowing with mail for months now, making it easy for anyone to reach in and grab whatever they wanted. Despite this, he still took a chance.
"I thought I wedged it down enough there would be no problem," Strauss told CBS DFW. Soon after, however, he started getting alerts from his bank about possible fraud and discovered that both checks had been stolen.
They say the agency is not properly collecting mail.
The USPIS has provided guidance over time to help customers protect themselves from mail theft. One of their most important tips is that customers deposit their outgoing mail in blue collection boxes close to pickup time.
"Collection, or pickup, times for the collection box are posted on the label," the Postal Service explains on its website. "Please note that pickup times may vary depending on the day of the week."
But many Plano residents have complained about their packed collection boxes, claiming that the USPS doesn't always collect what is inside when it says it will. "Unfortunately, when I mailed the letters, whoever was supposed to empty that mailbox was one of those people who didn't care," Strauss told CBS DFW.
Another customer even placed a sticker on one of the boxes that says, "We actually do not pick up at 5, hence the overflowing box."
Plano resident Sharon Stark told CBS DFW that she went to another one of agency's branches in the area to mail a check just to find letters sticking out of the collection box.
"I thought, well I'll come back the next day. So I went back on Tuesday, it was the same they had not emptied them. They were still stuffed," Stark said. "It was obvious that people could just easily grab the mail and take it so I didn't mail what I had to mail there."
The USPS maintains that it's working to ensure mail security.
The USPS is fighting back against these claims. In a Jan. 2o23 statement to the Postal Times, the agency said that it "safely, securely, and efficiently delivers mail to more than 163 million addresses, including millions of checks, money orders, credit cards and parcels" every day.
"Unfortunately, such items are also attractive to thieves. And like other businesses and/or companies, the Postal Service is not immune to crime," the agency said.
In terms of the specific Plano complaints, USPS told CBS 11 News that local postal management in the area is "aware of recent customer concerns regarding collection boxes and has taken immediate steps to ensure outgoing mail is handled properly and that all collection boxes are clear."
The agency added, "Any customer who has a concern about mail security is reminded that they may also deposit outgoing items inside our Post Office in the lobby drop box. We apologize for any inconvenience that may have been experienced."