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Protect Yourself Against Mail Theft In California

5 min read

Mail theft in California is skyrocketing. U.S. Postal Inspectors report that incidents of mail theft more than doubled in the Golden State from 2020 to 2021. Checks are the primary focus of mail thieves, and banks saw check fraud nearly double in 2022 compared to 2021. Mail carriers across the country have been robbed of their mailbox keys at gunpoint. Let’s explore the problem and learn how to protect ourselves through effective mail theft prevention.

Types of Mail Theft in California

Of course, mail theft in California — or any state — is nothing new. However, thieves' methods change over time, and mail theft prevention strategies must keep pace. While thieves still snatch packages off your front porch or checks from traditional mailboxes, they have also developed creative new tricks.

What is Mail Fishing?

Mail fishing or mailbox fishing is a low-tech form of mail theft that’s on the rise. Perpetrators fashion a “fishing rod” from a super-sticky rodent trap tied to a string. The thief pushes the mailbox fishing device through the slot in the familiar, large, blue mailboxes at the post office. The sticky trap attaches to envelopes that are pulled out of the box. Mail thieves look for checks and personal information for use in identity theft.

If you notice a sticky residue on the post office mailbox, authorities urge you to report it promptly. Mail theft in California is rigorously investigated.

What is Check Washing?

Mail theft frequently involves check washing. Thieves treat the checks they steal with household chemicals to eliminate the pen strokes that specify the payee and dollar amount. Then, they write in a new payee and amount to steal your money.

What is Arrow Key Theft?

In another form of mail theft in California, USPS mail carriers are accosted at gunpoint for their arrow keys. A USPS arrow key is a master key that opens and locks the large, blue post office mailboxes or the large banks of mailboxes in apartment buildings or neighborhoods. Stealing the mail carrier’s arrow key gives a thief direct access to all the mail in these boxes without the time-consuming fishing described above.

How to Prevent Mail Theft

Mail theft in California is out of control. It’s critical to do all you can to protect your personal information and your bank account. Your options to prevent the theft of packages differ from those of letters and bills.

Mail Theft Prevention for Letters and Bills

Taking some of the following steps can prevent your mail from being stolen:

  • Pick up your mail promptly. Prompt retrieval of your mail each day is essential. Leaving your letters and bills to sit overnight gives mail thieves more time to strike.
  • Watch mail pickup times. If you’re using the blue USPS mailboxes, don’t deposit your mail after the last pickup of the day.
  • Walk your mail into the post office. Yes, it’s a pain, but with theft running rampant, handing your mail directly to the carrier or the clerks in the post office is your safest course.
  • Sign up for USPS Informed Delivery. This free service emails you images of the mail scheduled to be delivered daily. It also provides text alerts for package tracking, sets reminders for important mail pieces, and manages your electronic signature for packages.
  • Switch to electronic billing. Set your accounts to electronic billing. Not only is it far more secure, it’s also better for the environment.
  • Switch to electronic payments. As much as possible, move all your payments online to avoid sending checks through the mail.
  • Secure your mailed checks. When you must mail a check or critical correspondence, put it in the interior mailboxes inside the post office.
  • Look for upgraded mailboxes. The post office is working to upgrade the blue mailboxes to models that thwart mail fishing. Look for locations that have these upgrades and consider upgrading your mailbox.
  • Protect critical mail with mail insurance. Consider insuring your most important correspondence.
  • Rent a P.O. box. A P.O. box provides exceptional security against mail theft. It’s a safe option with great security, controlled access, and constant monitoring.

Mail Theft Prevention for Packages

Packages are also a prime target for mail theft in California, particularly around the holidays. Consider these mail theft prevention strategies to secure your package deliveries:

  • Pick up packages immediately. Package theft typically occurs when someone brazenly enters your property to snatch a package off your front porch. Don’t provide would-be thieves with extra time.
  • Use a package lockbox. Invest in a secure lock box at your home where delivery drivers can deposit your packages. Include the lock combination in the special delivery instructions or choose a smart lockbox you can lock remotely after a delivery is made.
  • Request signature on delivery. You can send your shipments with a signature required as mail theft prevention for your packages.
  • Leverage carrier pickup options. Most carriers let you pick up your package at their local office.
  • Install a security camera. Smart security devices like Ring allow you to monitor activity around your front porch even when you’re not home.
  • Get active in Neighborhood Watch. Ensure your neighbors are informed and alert. Together, you can protect your community from mail theft.
  • Rent a P.O. box. A post office box is more effective for package mail theft prevention than your bills and letters.

How to File a Police Report for a Stolen Package

If you fall victim to mail theft in California, you’ll want to report it immediately. Mail theft is a federal crime and is taken seriously. Filing a police report for a stolen package or mail is simple:

  • First, compile any evidence of the theft.
  • Next, contact your local police department online or by the non-emergency number to file the report.
  • Finally, request a copy of the report, which may be required for your insurance report.

Now that you know how to combat mail theft in California, did you know that your homeowner’s insurance covers stolen packages? Why not contact your friendly Wawanesa agent to review your policy and ensure you’re fully covered?

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The above content is for informational purposes only and is not a direct representation of coverages offered by Wawanesa or its policies. The information does not refer to any specific contract of insurance and does not modify any definitions, provisions, exclusions or limitations expressly stated in any contracts of insurance. All references within the above content are illustrative and may not apply to your situation. The terms and conditions of the actual insurance policy or policies involved in a claim are determinative as to whether an accident or other loss is covered. To understand the coverage under your current policy, please log into the account management platform to review your policy or contact an agent directly.

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