A reader: I’ve been hearing about mailbox thefts in my neighborhood. I have not been a victim, but fear it could happen to me. What can I do to protect my mail?
Action Line: Mail thefts are on the rise and it can happen in your neighborhood whether it’s commercial or residential. Mail theft often comes with other issues like missing checks, stolen money and ID theft.
According to the 2010 census, there are more than 120 million mailboxes in our nation. With mailbox crimes on the rise, BBB is cautioning consumers to take precautions to protect your mail. Before you install a bank vault in place of your mailbox make sure you follow these guidelines from the U.S. Postal Service (USPS):
• Position your mailbox 41” to 45” above ground level.
• Place your mailbox 6” to 8” back from the curb. If you do not have a raised curb, contact your local postmaster for guidance.
• Put your house or apartment number on the mailbox.
• If your mailbox is on a different street from your house or apartment, put your full street address on the box.
• If you are attaching the box to your house, make sure the postal carrier can reach it easily from your sidewalk, steps, or porch.
• Place your mailbox on a 4” x 4” wooden support or a 2”-diameter standard steel or aluminum pipe.
• Avoid unyielding and potentially dangerous supports, like heavy metal pipes, concrete posts, and farm equipment (e.g., milk cans filled with concrete).
• Bury your post no more than 24” deep.
One of the preventive measures you may take would be to install a locking mailbox. Make sure you get something with high quality so that you know it will hold up in all types of weather. It might cost a little more but it will be worth it.
There also are mailbox inserts in the market that you may want to consider. And yes, you can install a mail vault that has an electronic locking mailbox and post. Who knew?
Please know that even though a box locks, that is no guarantee that your mail is safe. Make sure there are no openings that even small hands could get through. That’s how it works. Mail is removed from mailboxes. Personal information is stolen and used by the thief or sold to another scammer.
There is also the option of renting a mailbox from the Postal Service or other mailbox companies for a fee.
BBB recommends that you do not leave outgoing mail in your mailbox with the little red flag up. Chances are that outgoing mail includes bills you need to pay. The red flag tells thieves that you are their next victim.
Generally, a locking mailbox will deter thieves. It’s much easier and faster to open an unlocked box, reach in and take the mail than it is to break into a locked box.
Your mail could be gone in a matter of seconds. So protect your mail and your identity. If you are a victim, contact your local BBB for assistance.
Action Line is written by Blair Looney, president and CEO for the Better Business Bureau serving Central California. Send your consumer concerns, questions and problems to Action Line at the Better Business Bureau, 4201 W. Shaw Ave., Suite 107, Fresno, CA 93722 or firstname.lastname@example.org.