on Jan 12th, 2009 in OIG | 17 comments
 

Keeping the Mail Safe

Even though the holiday season is behind us, as the old saying goes, “crime takes no holiday.” In fact, as the economy dips, crime generally moves in the other direction. A recent crime data report by a retail trade group showed an 84 percent increase in shoplifting as the economy weakened, with retail security experts saying the problem grew worse over the holiday season. Shoplifters are taking everything from CDs to gift cards. The Postal Service is not immune from this trend. Many valuable items travel through the mail. People send their friends and family presents, gift cards, and checks. They order merchandise online. The vast majority of these items arrive safely at their destination, but some do not.

Because mail can contain any number of valuables — not just jewelry or other expensive items, but personal and financial information — thieves will try to steal it. Postal Inspectors investigate mail theft committed by those outside the Postal Service; Special Agents from the Office of Inspector General (OIG) focus investigative attention on postal employees who steal the mail. Successes by both of these law enforcement entities contribute to maintaining public confidence in the Postal Service and the mail.

How can you help?

First, if you suspect your mail has been stolen or have any information about a mail theft, contact the OIG’s hotline at 1-888-USPS-OIG (1-888-877-7644).

Second, if you have any suggestions about how the Postal Service, Postal Inspection Service, or the OIG can better ensure the security of the mail, please share them. We can all play a role in keeping the mail safe.

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Comments

This is an interesting topic. I do not have any practical suggestions as the posting solicited. But I do have a couple of observations:

1) Vigilance by USPS, OIG and IS ought to be continuous and omnipresent. This is like "food quality" in the restaurant industry; it ought to be a perennial concern. Adequate resources need to be diverted to solve this problem.

2) Could the Postal Service learn from Netfix and other innovative businesses who have worked this problem?

3) Could the Postal Service use technology like RFID or the GPS- technology that can track and log a mailpiece movement (e.g., letter-log). Of course cost/benefit analysis and seeding may be needed here. But I am thinking that it may be justified for mailpieces with valuable content and/or selected pieces (seeding) for deterrence purposes.

Netflix uses the Postal Service exclusively. I am not sure what the USPS can learn from Netflix.

It would be interesting to know the percentage of Postal Svc employees vs. the percentage of non-Postal Svc employees stealing items in the mail. Good to know who to contact if I suspect anything.

I doubt that the bulk of the theft is internal. It's not like retail stores that consists mainly of low wage jobs. Most postal employee's I know wouldn't risk their job and benefits over something like this. But a comparison would be interesting to see

-Norm

the economy sucks right now. sorry. that is the truth. crime will go up as a result. i am just happy to see the democrats back in office! have a great day!

Yes, the economy is in poor shape. Yes, crime has increased in and affects ALL markets including USPS. However, to USPS’s credit, it has a long and strong history of loyal and proud employees who are honest. How can USPS combat internal and external thefts? Internally, perhaps USPS may hold motivational stand up talks with their employees. Assure them that their work ethics and pride are valued and they can take ownership or responsibility for how their office or facility is viewed. Get employees involved. Stress to them the importance of maintaining the integrity of the mail; after all, it is their bread and butter. Speak up if they see something inappropriate by calling 1-888-USPS-OIG or email the hotline. Also, advise customers that their customer experience is valued; and that reporting tips of theft or loss are the best way to support Law Enforcement s (LE) efforts to combat crimes affecting USPS.

Externally speaking, one suggestion may be to urge customers to not raise mail box flags, they alert criminals. Perhaps LE agencies involved can develop and utilize trending analyses to assist in investigations or prevent crimes. Joint investigations will be imperative to success. Combating these crimes IS and WILL CONTINUE TO BE a community effort. “Get involved” is the phrase that pays.

This is a very frightening problem. Identity theft seems to be becoming more prevalent everywhere, and the criminals more brazen in their methods. I have been thinking about getting a security mailbox, and found a number of options online at MailboxWorks. I am not sure which one I will choose, but I am definitely sold on the idea of protecting my mail.

In Puerto Rico or in Miami is a box of my property.y have problem to get her back and they told me 'you have to wait for a month .Feb 12 of 2009 left Miami but in USPS of PR they said"it not in PR" .how i trust?

To deliver in rain and snow--I give credit to the hard working carriers god bless them. but as a postal customer at the price of a stamp---i feel we should get A+ survice--but we dont---external or internal I do not know--but mail--first class even does NOT dissappear into thin air as 20 pieces of our mail did as workers are trying to make it seem a neighbor did it I can leave a mail piece on my porch for 5 weeks and no one will touch it---IT IS INTERNAL THEY JUST HAVE NOT GOT CAUGHT YET----THIEVES DO NOT WIN!!!!!!!!

Theft is a lot more common than you think. It is easy in some places because the secuirty is so minimalistic. One employee where I work alked out with a tray of new credit cards and then tried to sell them at a local farmer's market. Catching up to him was not instantaeous, as it should be. Took about ten days. A lot of people look the other way.

I just had an item stolen from the mail. I know that it was internal as I can see an impression of the cardboard holder on the envelope created as the letter passed through sorting machines. The envelope was resealable, and appeared unopened when I received it, and my mailbox is locked... Item stolen internally...

I work for a defense law firm and I will agree with the article that shoplifting is on the rise.

Do not be tempted to shoplift! The district attorneys in the San Jose area are really coming down on this crime. Our clients are often shocked to hear that they can potentially receive a misdemeanor on their record for stealing a $10 item. If they get a criminal record for a stupid mistake, they will regret it for the rest of their life.

How do I report and have investigated the theft and illegal misrouting of my mail by Postal Employees? How can I get the mail illegally collected during an estate matter from a crooked attorney, who through false documents misrepresented himself as an administrator.?

Thank You

Lets renew this blog, we need fresh ideas to stop this 'THEFT' epidemic.

just saying...
*what about a sting operation with exploding paint letter?
*cameras on box units that are frequently hit?
*note to customer with theft alert
*more local and federal coordination
*neighborhood watch programs to shoot pictures and videos of thieves and suspicious persons

In our area mail theft is at an all time high and it literally seems like there is no controlling authority. The integrity of our service is at stake and we are loosing customer loyalty, resulting in a further shift to the internet.

OIG Help!
Let’s hang some of these thieves and pursue them with gusto publicly displaying their heads on national TV, and educating the public on identity theft via the mail.
Thanks, let’s show the USA we care.

I guess increased crime just one of the many symptoms of a financial down turn. Wouldn't it be a good idea to manufacture electronics goods with a universal ID to be able to check it on a global data base for theft?

Our mail box is at the end of a 1 mile dirt road and we had to remove it and use a PO Box at the post office. Too much mail theft! thanks for the article.

I would like to suggest the Post Office market their PO Boxes as part of security. Anyone moving should be strongly suggested to have their mail forwarded to a PO Box. This allows the postal service to charge rent in exchange for greater security in an uncertain time. Customers can be educated to use PO Boxes as secure mail while regular first class mail be used for business marketing and bills. This would save the USPS in delivery and sorting costs and enable a steady revenue stream to keep post offices open.

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