Objective

Our objective was to assess the Postal Inspection Service’s response to mail fraud and mail theft during the COVID-19 pandemic. After we began the audit, we received a congressional request from seven members of Congress asking us to identify what actions, if any, the Postal Inspection Service had taken to address the increase in mail theft during the COVID-19 pandemic.

On March 13, 2020, the President of the United States issued a national emergency declaration concerning the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). We assessed the actions that the Postal Inspection Service took to address mail fraud and mail theft that occurred from March 2020 through February 2021.

Postal inspectors are responsible for investigating complaints of mail fraud and mail theft committed by non-postal employees, even if the fraud originated over the phone or via the internet. In March 2020, the Postal Inspection Service created four mail fraud and mail theft program areas to help postal inspectors prioritize cases in response to the COVID19 pandemic. The program areas are (1) Economic Impact Payment Protection and Theft, (2) COVID-19 Consumer Fraud, (3) Hoarding and Price Gouging, and (4) Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act Fraud.

The Postal Inspection Service uses the Fraud Complaint System to record mail fraud complaints and the Financial Crimes Database to record mail theft complaints. From March 2020 through February 2021, the Postal Inspection Service received 40,727 mail fraud complaints and 299,020 mail theft complaints. When the Postal Inspection Service determines a mail fraud or mail theft complaint is within its jurisdiction and actionable, the complaint is assigned to an existing case, or a new case is opened to investigate. From March 2020 through February 2021, the Postal Inspection Service opened a total of 753 mail fraud cases — an increase of 170 cases (29 percent) over the prior 12 months — and opened 1,090 mail theft cases — a decrease of 49 cases (4 percent) over the prior 12 months. Of those opened cases, 216 (29 percent) mail fraud cases and 61 (6 percent) mail theft cases were related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Findings

Overall, we found that the Postal Inspection Service took appropriate action to respond to mail fraud and mail theft during the COVID-19 pandemic. For example, the Mail Fraud Program employees participated in federal task forces to investigate and disrupt COVID-19 related scams. Postal inspectors also coordinated with law enforcement agencies when Economic Impact Payment checks were mailed to help prevent mail theft.

In addition, Postal Inspection Service Headquarters provided guidance on the four mail fraud and mail theft program areas created in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, communicated Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance, and distributed personal protective equipment to the 17 Postal Inspection Service divisions to ensure postal inspectors’ safety. However, opportunities exist for the Postal Inspection Service to document best practices for use in future health crises and improve the accuracy of customer complaint data.

We found that the Postal Inspection Service’s actions in response to the COVID-19 pandemic were not guided by an existing plan for how to maintain and provide essential law enforcement services during a health crisis. While the Postal Inspection Service has Integrated Emergency Management Plans to mitigate, prepare for, respond to, and recover from natural disasters or man-made hazards, these plans do not address health crises.

Postal Inspection Service management stated that they will conduct an interim review to determine lessons learned to develop a response plan. By documenting the best practices they identify from their review of the COVID-19 pandemic response, the Postal Inspection Service will be better prepared to ensure continuity of law enforcement operations through consistent messaging and guidance to postal inspectors during future pandemics.

The Postal Inspection Service’s Financial Crimes Database contains mail theft complaints. We found that Financial Crimes Database data for 98 percent of open complaints transferred correctly when transmitted from the Postal Service’s Customer 360 (C360) platform to the database. However, data for 1,865 of 84,056 (2 percent) open complaints did not transfer correctly. For example, data from the “Address” field appears in the “Name” field. This issue occurred because the data transfer process for sending customer complaint data from C360 to the Postal Inspection Service was not correctly implemented when the Postal Service deployed the C360 platform.

Per Postal Service policy, information resources must be installed and maintained in a manner that ensures the integrity of the information and its data. If information issued or released has been modified in any way, recipients must be notified about the nature of the modification.

Postal Inspection Service management stated they are currently working with the Postal Service to correct the transfer of data between C360 and the database. In the interim, the Postal Inspection Service has to manually correct customer complaint data after it is transferred from C360. Postal Inspection Service management also did not communicate the database issues to postal inspectors. However, during our audit, management took corrective action to communicate to inspectors about these data modifications; therefore, we are not making a recommendation on this issue. Accurate and complete complaint data is important to ensure the quality of an investigation and to support decisions about where to direct resources.

We also found that the Fraud Complaint System displayed a minor inaccuracy related to the total mail fraud complaints recorded in the system. This issue occurred because of a coding error in the system that caused the total number of exported complaints to differ from the total amount displayed. During our audit, management took corrective action by fixing the system to ensure the total number of complaints displayed matched the total number of complaints exported; therefore, we are not making a recommendation on this issue.

Recommendations

We recommend management:

  • Document best practices from the Postal Inspection Service’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic in an after-action report for use in future health crises.
  • Ensure customer complaint data sent from Customer 360 to the Financial Crimes Database is accurate by correcting the data transfer issues.

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Comments (25)

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  • anon

    I have not received some of my mail I don't know if it's fraud or somebody stealing it but I had Cass county human services zone and Excel energy tell me that they sent me letters but I did not receive them and actually one of them was very time-sensitive and I was denied because of it

    Jul 03, 2021
  • anon

    I have not been receiving my mail in 3 months someone got my mail in the lady at post office with that wig on her head she send my mail back in she don't no how to talk to nobody she so disrespectful and low down in dirty the mail lady and mail man pass right by my house laughing in my face in I think my neighbors got my mail to in they opening my mail at post office they don't suppose to open nobody mails I have not received none of my mail at all please do some about theses people stealing people mail in open people mail.please do some about theses thefts.

    Jun 25, 2021
  • anon

    A check from the US treasury department was supposed to be sent to me on April 2 it was mailed out I already checked with Irs they said the same thing but I have yet to receive it I’ve told the mail lady I sent a email about maybe a month ago about this and when you look at my informed delivery you can’t see my mail for this week only for last week it’s like it’s frozen I have proof that the letter was already sent and I mean I have a letter stating that the check was already sent out on April 2 and I also have a screenshot from the IRS that it was sent out on April 2 I have also contacted the mayor and the governor and the congressman for my counsel in my community so hopefully I will see my mail soon I know that for almost a month I didn’t receive any mail and then for almost 2 weeks I didn’t receive any mail and then again for almost another two weeks I didn’t receive me out one time I only got one piece of mail during the whole week and the same thing this week one piece of mail so I don’t know who’s playing with my mail or who’s got my check but I need my money I have children this is not a joke

    Jun 24, 2021
  • anon

    A package said it was "delivered" to my address on Monday 6.21.21 at 12:15pm and signed for by me Justin Arbis. I did not sign for this adult signature required package nor was anybody at my house to sign for this package. I was at work at 12:00pm 6.21.21. The driver signed my package for me and I never received my package.

    Jun 23, 2021
  • anon

    I had credit card theft and mail fraud where my mailed check didn't go to the agency on the envelope and winded up in a bank not of the agency. In May another charge to my card where they used a bogus USPS label with tracking number unknown to the system. I filed a complaint with the Inspector General

    Jun 23, 2021
  • anon

    I have audio cause I record all conversations with the agent I can prove I’m not being help

    Jun 20, 2021
  • anon

    I haven’t received mail in 30 days and post office give same employee who keeps disrespecting me to call and she never solves issue so she doesn’t get in trouble for making change of address with out my consent change my informed mail with my knowledge and no one calls to resolve issue have had my worker Comp check in the air they never arrive and have been reissued three times show the arrive at my local post office then they disappear

    Jun 20, 2021
  • anon

    Same thing has been happening to me and I live in a 21205 area

    Jun 24, 2021
  • anon

    My check was supposed to be sent out April 2 no it was sent out April 2 I have a screenshot of it to prove it never received a check which was from the US treasury department the mayor already has a letter about it and I sent him the proof that the money was supposed to be sent out seven days after 2 April which I still have not received it and it’s now like June almost 20 so should I go to the news about this because another piece of mail was supposed to be sent today which I looked on my day for informed delivery on Thursday and it said I was supposed to get another letter from the US treasury department now and saying that I’m not gonna receive that today luckily I took a screenshot of it just in case they try to lie now should I show this to the mayor as well or is somebody going to give me my money because I would really hate to go to the news with us as well I have a letter from the US treasury department stating how much I was supposed to get when they sent it out they told me if I didn’t receive it seven days after that so the time no I waited a couple extra weeks just in case you know because I knew there was a problem with the mail in my area but here it is six weeks later And I still have yet to receive it

    Jun 18, 2021
  • anon

    My sister has been stealing all of my mail what do i need to do

    Jun 17, 2021
  • anon

    Hello Savannah. Thank you for your message. If you believe mail theft was committed by a non-postal employee, please file a complaint with the Postal Inspection Service at (877) 876-2455 or https://www.uspis.gov/report/

    Jun 17, 2021
  • anon

    can you send me the form for Title 18 U.S.C. section 1708 taking mail or concerning mail that not intended for the individual in possession of the mail is considered theft and is punishable by law in fact any theft of mail regardless of the monetary value of the property is a third degree felony punishable by fine, up to five years imprisonment or both were can i get the form or application to begin the theft of my mail

    Jun 16, 2021
  • anon

    I live at a cul-de-sac with about 8 homes with a shared mail box housing 8 mail boxes. Somehow, the key (skeleton key?) for the door that gives access to the back door that gives access to all 8 boxes ended up in the hands of a non USPS person who is clean out all the mail into a black suit case. We have this person clothed in black, doing this deed on video. So far, this person has stolen several checks and identity pieces of mail. It has been reported to the police and the local USPS and has been given no action/follow-up as several of us has checked up to follow up. We find this disappointing as these thefts were began several months ago. We know that this takes time to resolve but nothing to report back from several months ago?

    Jun 12, 2021
  • anon

    Hello Gregory. Thank you for your message. If you believe mail theft was committed by a non-postal employee, please file a complaint with the Postal Inspection Service at (877) 876-2455 or https://www.uspis.gov/report/

    Jun 17, 2021
  • anon

    Package stolen w/money order/cash enclosed. Money order cashed 6/8/21.

    Jun 09, 2021
  • anon

    Hello Marsha. Thank you for your message. Thank you for your message. Regarding your concern, please contact Postal Service Consumer Affairs Office at https://postalpro.usps.com/ppro-tools/consumer-affairs

    Jun 10, 2021
  • anon

    Thank you for the update. I began to wonder if I was swept under the rug as I have become accustomed to since I plead guilty. Last week I reported to the OIG, SSA & Solano county mayor a discrepancy with SSA employee’s and or a “lifeline answering service” option that is utilized to screen the calls of recipients. If staff is not trained all the way around fraud may never come to an end. I suggest if anyone has option to forward calls, make sure your have not been forwarded to an impersonator!

    Jun 08, 2021
  • anon

    My mail is getting stolen from this address I do not understand why and I do not know who is doing this.

    Jun 03, 2021
  • anon

    I recently sent a parcel by Priority mail of baby clothes and inexpensive jewelry to my daughter in law's home in Irvine California. She never got it because, we are told by the local postman, there is a thief in their neighborhood who goes through all the mail regularly, as he has a master key to the boxes.... Apparently the HOA has him on video tape, so they know this person, but no one seems to be doing anything about it. At least changing the locks would be good. Arresting the thief, even better! Yours, Sheila M Kaelon

    Jun 03, 2021
  • anon

    Ummmm yea noooooo.....your workers are theives......they stole my 900 custom wallet that I had made for a friend's birthday. The item was mailed by my sister and was always in the postal services custody. So yea no you guys hire theives. That's always been he case.

    May 29, 2021
  • anon

    Hello Kashaka. Thank you for your message. Thank you for your message. Regarding your concern, please contact Postal Service Consumer Affairs Office at https://postalpro.usps.com/ppro-tools/consumer-affairs

    Jun 10, 2021
  • anon

    My soon to be ex wife has been opening and throwing away all mail that goes to her house she also has opened a federal letter and photo copied it and handed it in to family court proving she has been opening my mail

    May 28, 2021
  • anon

    Appreciate the USPS and Civil Servamts doing the best they can while they weed out those who do the worst. What I would really like to know is if the USPS and the law enforcement entities they work with could give the good folks over at the other Cabinet Secretary Departments in our great nation a friendly call and tell them all to check their respective oversights as well as you have. Covid has kicked us all in the pants and countless thousands of really good people have suffered more from bureaucracy than any virus. (Looking at the Departments of Labor, State, and Homeland. NOT knocking them down, just trying to get some good deeds done for those who have lost all because Capitol Hill can't take 1 week of being human. Imagine a Covid bill of 1 simple page. 'All persons living under our borders since March 1st 2020 shall be taken under care. No fines assessed. All debts set aside without interest until we reopen fully. Let us love and forgive for this time. And when we reopen and become competitive in our capitalism, let us remember that one time our great nation took a time out to be truly United.'

    May 26, 2021
  • anon

    I am glad someone is looking into this the whole system is broke. I had such high regards for postal service until I had a theft problem employee stole my property and I was told they can not tell who just that it happened so I am out a $4000 ring. Security should be 1st and foremost then customer service which usps is in lack of.

    May 24, 2021
  • anon

    Shoes and other mail stolen out of mailbox

    May 22, 2021