RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Mail theft can result in more than just losing a valuable check or package.
Criminals often take mail to steal your identity.
The Federal Trade Commission estimates 400,000 people had their identities stolen last year because of mail theft.
But, there are simple ways you can protect yourself.
Postal inspectors say most mail theft in this part of the state is committed by organized rings that use runners to grab the mail out of your box whether it’s at home or a business.
The Post Office handles over 207 billion of pieces of mail each year and while the majority of it arrives just fine, there are hundreds of cases of mail theft each year.
“We tend to find the suspects are looking for checks, things that they can alter or ‘wash’ to convert to their own gain,” says postal inspector Mike Carroll.
A mail box that’s filled with letters that haven’t been collected in days is the biggest attraction to thieves.
“You can reduce your risk of mail theft drastically just by getting the mail out of your box on a daily basis,” says Carroll.
Because stolen mail can lead to identity theft, it’s something that has folks thinking about mail box security.
“These days with the scams going on, I think it would be something to look into and be more aware of,” said Louis Makoczy of Apex.
Around the Piedmont, postal inspectors see more business mail thefts than anything else.
“We found suspects would come around weekend nights into Sunday morning to do these thefts,” said Carroll.
The best way to prevent mail theft is for you to notify the post office if you’re not going to be around, thus making it harder for thieves.
“Make arrangements for your post office not to deliver mail on a day when you aren’t going to be there to collect it,’’ says Carroll.
You can also sign up for something called “informed delivery.”
With that service, the post office will email you photos of the letters it will soon deliver to you, so you know what’s coming. If you don’t get it, you can report it stolen.
Informed Delivery is not yet available everywhere, so you need to check this link to find out if you can get it in your zip code and at your home.
Many people on RFD routes are used to putting mail in their box and raising the flag on the box to alert their carrier there is mail to be picked up. But that flag can also alert criminals.
If you’re mailing a bill that has a check in it for example, a thief can grab it from your mailbox before the postman gets it.
Instead of putting in your street-side mailbox – take it directly to the post office to mail.
Email CBS North Carolina’s Steve Sbraccia if you have a consumer issue.