HOUSTON - As the holidays approach, and cards and gifts arrive through the mail, the United States Postal Service (USPS) is warning customers to be careful where and when they send packages.
Just like so-called 'porch pirates', who can stroll up to your home and take packages left at the door, this is about identity theft and criminals targeting the mail by trying to exploit potential weaknesses.
To combat that, the Postal Service wants you to be careful 'when' you use the mailbox.
There are nearly 140,000 iconic 'blue collection boxes' in use across the country. Before the days of email and online bill-paying, it was 'the' way to send mail. But, while the number of people dropping an envelope into the mailbox may be down, the Postal Service has warned, heading into the holidays, that the blue collection box may not always be the safest option.
A published release from an unnamed local postal inspection office suggests there are coordinated efforts to target collection boxes. It says, in part, "The biggest variable enticing these criminals to steal are customers depositing mail into blue collection boxes after the last collection of the day or during Sundays and federal holidays."
The worry is that mail left overnight, or on weekends, it may be more vulnerable to thieves who are busy looking for weaknesses.
In a statement, the Houston postal inspector's office insists mailboxes are secure but admits thieves can strike after hours and when no one is watching. The advice to customers:
"If they use the USPS collection box, they should ensure they drop off their mail BEFORE the last collection time of the day, which is displayed on the box. The longer your mail sits in any mailbox, the more susceptible it is to theft."
With postal theft soaring in recent years, postal inspectors say the more secure option is to drop your mail directly into a mail chute inside the post office or hand it directly to a uniformed postal carrier.
More information can be found here.