City residential mailboxes are often vandalized and mail is occasionally stolen from mailboxes (including from those which lock) whether they are individual mail boxes at homes or group mailboxes in apartment or condominium complexes.
Mailboxes are considered federal property and federal law makes it a crime to vandalize them or steal mail from inside. Violators can be fined up to $250,000, or imprisoned for up to three years for each act of vandalism.
Here’s what you can do to protect your mail from thieves:
- Never send cash or coins in the mail. Use checks or money orders.
- Ask your bank for “secure” checks that can’t be altered.
- Promptly remove mail from your mailbox after delivery, especially if you’re expecting checks, credit cards, or other negotiable items. If you won’t be home when the items are expected, ask a trusted friend or neighbor to pick up your mail.
- Have your local post office hold your mail while you’re on vacation, or absent from your home for a long period of time.
- If you don’t receive a check or other valuable mail you’re expecting, contact the issuing agency immediately.
- If you change your address, immediately notify your post office and anyone with whom you do business via the mail.
- Always deposit your mail in a mail slot at your local post office, or hand it to your letter carrier.
- Obtain Label 33 from the Postal Inspection Service and affix it to your mailbox. The sticker warns that willful damage to mailboxes and theft of mail are crimes.
- Keep your mailbox in good repair, and make sure it’s properly installed. This may help prevent theft of the mailbox itself.
- By exchanging work and vacation schedules with trusted friends and neighbors, you can watch each other’s mailboxes (as well as homes).
- If you observe a mail thief at work, call Mountain View Police Department immediately (9-1-1 or 650-903-6395), and then call the U.S. Postal Inspection Service at 1-877-876-2455.
If you believe your mail was stolen, you can report the theft to your local postmaster or nearest Postal Inspector. Report mail theft online with the Postal Inspector and file a formal complaint using PS Form 2016, Mail Theft and Vandalism Complaint.