Tuesday, January 28, 2014

I was really annoyed last week


Last Tuesday, our neighbor stopped by our house, on her early morning dog walk. She had a bundle of papers in her arms. When the doorbell rings early in the morning, your mind races to the worst possible place. I had no idea what my neighbor wanted.

I opened the door, and realized the papers were pieces of mail. She handed me several, then told me where she found them -- in the woods behind her house.

We'd been hit by mail thieves, again! This has been a problem in our neighborhood for a few years. It's usually closer to when tax refunds are sent out, or, just before Christmas, when gift cards and checks are often sent. But lately, it's been any time of the year. And we'd been the victims.

So angry, so worried, so annoyed, that someone would take advantage of another person's hard work. We are just ordinary people, taking care of our business, day in and day out. Trying to make ends meet. Trying to save for retirement. Trying to pay our bills. What right did these thieves think they had, that they could steal our mail, our financial information, our checks, our sense of security?!

And now, my husband and I had to go to the cost and trouble, to replace our mailbox with a locking one. And we had to file a police report. Now, we'll need to closely scrutinize future bank account information, credit card statements, and credit reports. So annoyed!

I did my homework, though. I went online and read reviews of several different makes and models of locking mailboxes. These things aren't cheap. Not if you want to get one that really keeps the thieves out of your mail.

Some makes/models use the exact same key for all the boxes they sell! Others can be pried open with a screwdriver in under a minute. And others have a slot that doesn't get the mail out of a fishing thief's fingers.

I eventually found a box on Amazon, that looks like it will deter most thieves. Next, I searched online for a better price on the model that I had settled on. I found the same make/model on Lowes.com, with free shipping, and for about $40 less than Amazon.com. And finally, I shopped through Swagbucks, earning swag dollars for my purchase.

At least if we have to pay to replace our mailbox, I feel I did get a good price on it.

But I'm still annoyed.


Some helpful advice that I'll pass on to you.
  • Never allow incoming mail to sit in an unlocked box more than a couple of hours. 
  • Never place outgoing mail in your box. But if you do, don't put your flag up. The mailman told me that he didn't need the flag, that he would see our outgoing mail in the box, when he went to place new mail inside. 
  • If you are the victim of mail theft, report it. Mail theft isn't just a nuisance, it's a federal crime. A friend of ours told me that they had trouble with mail theft a few years back, and they were actually able to catch the thief, and have him prosecuted.
  • Secure your mailbox area. Remove or prune shrubs, trees and bushes surrounding the mailbox. If there's a street light in the area, make sure that its light is not obstructed by tree branches. 
  • Tidy up your mailbox stand and area. An untidy mail delivery area looks like it could be unattended.
  • If you can afford to upgrade to a locking mailbox, do your homework and find a model that truly is secure.
  • Alert all of your neighbors about the mail theft. Post signs, if legal, above neighbor's mailboxes. The fewer non-locking mailboxes in a development/area, the less likely mail thieves will target this area.
  • Consider alerting your bank and credit card companies, and placing a fraud alert on your credit report.
  • Even if you have a locking mailbox, have your mail held while you're on vacation. In even some of the better locking mailboxes, mail can pile up inside, and be more easily fished out.
I hope that you already have a locking mailbox, and that this could never happen to you. It's been an invasion in our family's sense of security. And, yes, I'm still really annoyed over this.

12 comments:

  1. Lili, I'm so sorry that this happened to you. However, you have given all of us a wake up call to be more careful with something we often take for granted--that our mail is safe.

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    1. Hi live and learn,
      yes, this has become a real problem in some parts of the country. You and I are reasonable people. We'd never go into another home's mail box. We respect that someone else's box belongs to them, even if there isn't a lock on their box. But unfortunately, thieves don't live by the same code of behavior. Sad, but true.
      I hope this never happens to you!

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  2. I'd be annoyed AND scared at what information they have. What a hassle. Interesting about the locking mailboxes--I wonder if there are different requirements in different communities for mailboxes? Our mailbox is in the middle of a group of four (plus boxes for newspapers) on a main road so I don't worry quite so much about mail theft. Many of us are home at staggered times of the day keeping an eye on the neighborhood. We have a bigger problem with teens knocking the boxes off the posts with baseball bats.

    A couple of years ago there was a break-in in our neighborhood and the victims did something I thought was smart--they made, printed off, and distributed fliers throughout the neighborhood describing what had happened, when and where the thieves gained entrance, and a descriptor of the thieves. It was probably teens and the people were incredibly gracious (I would have had a hard time being kind) about it, saying that people needed to have awareness of where their kids were and what they were doing because a case of bad judgment could follow them into their adult lives. I hope I never need to use this technique but it's good to have knowledge of it.

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    1. Hi Kris,
      Our mailbox is on a stand with 3 other boxes, on the main road in our development, and under a streetlight. What the county sheriff's office said was that the mail thieves that have been caught, were caught in the middle of the night, between 1 and 3 AM, when most people are tucked into their beds, fast asleep. Not meaning to alarm you. Your area may be a lot more secure than ours. Just pointing out that thieves strike mailboxes often after dark.

      Break-ins are more scary to me. The thought of someone in my house is creepy. I do think putting up flyers is a neighborly thing to do, letting people know that they could be at risk, too. And especially the one targeted towards teen's parents.

      We've had problems in summer with teens putting cherry bombs into mailboxes (we've had ours hit twice with cherry bombs). I think when summer hits this year, I will post a flyer alerting parents. Because in this case, when it's teens, the parents are partially responsible. I hope you never have need to deal with theft, mail or home break-in.

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    2. We almost always get our mail within 2 hours of its delivery--the problem being that our mailman seems to keep a varied schedule so we sometimes get mail very late in the day. I have to admit I don't think we got our mail yesterday--I went to check and it hadn't arrived yet--we have been having really horrible weather (single digit temps and blowing snow, 20+ mph winds) so we forgot to go out again--I'm hoping the mail thieves didn't want to venture out yesterday! I had forgotten to mention, my husband always mails checks from a public mail box, not ours--I only send out innocuous things like birthday cards--it would be annoying to have that stolen but certainly not a crisis.

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    3. That's good. Most days, I do try to get mail on the day, but as it comes so late in the day, I'm frequently very busy with dinner, getting my daughters, etc, plus its dark outside this time of year. About a year ago, I stopped outgoing mail from our box, except things like Thank You notes, and cards that don't have gift cards or checks in them. A year ago Christmas, I sent gift cards to nephews, inside of a couple of holiday cards. And they never reached their intended recipients. So, I take outgoing mail to the post office once a week. It's a hassle, but worth it.

      Two other things I should mention. Try to be aware of the dates that you usually receive specific bills. Although there might not be much mail thieves can do with your utility bill, if you were a victim of mail theft and a utility bill went missing, you'd want to be able to phone in and make arrangements to pay your bill. I've actually had to do that a couple of times.

      And second, with the recent trouble with breaches of security with credit information. It's a good idea to either go online or call in and check your recent transaction history on your credit cards, mid-month, between billing statements.

      I'm guessing your fine on the mail front with your weather this week! I can hardly think that mail thieves would subject themselves to such cold temps! Stay warm!!

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  3. We have group mailboxes on our street for our street and the next one. They are owned by the post office and all have locks. They were broken into twice last year--by someone who used the key the mailman uses to open all the boxes. They opened all of these mailboxes in our neighborhood and left them wide open. It happened twice within a few weeks.

    I hadn't really thought about the time of year, but that is a good point. We also thought about the beginning of the month for social security checks.

    I've talked with some neighbors about it, and some didn't even know! Some let their mail sit for days. Each box is locked, but the mailman's key opens all the boxes at once to distribute mail. I wonder how many other neighborhoods were hit.

    We made it a habit to get the mail right away after that.

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    1. Hi Brandy,
      Very good point, about the large post office owned grouped boxes being vulnerable, also. All it takes is a person getting a hold of one postal key, and they can get into many, many boxes.

      I think one of the best things you can do is get your mail immediately after delivery, even with a locking mailbox.

      The problem in our neighborhood is that we're at the tail end of the delivery day. Our mail comes just before 5 PM, after dark from November through February, and when people are busy getting dinner ready, etc. The thought to go get the mail so late in the day is easy to miss.

      Also, our mailbox was hit over the 3-day weekend. Thieves suspect that many people go out of town over 3-day weekends, and leave their mail unattended, thinking it will be okay for a couple of days.

      Good that you get your mail right away, always.

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  4. Lili, that is frustrating and scary! You're doing the right things--making sure no one is able to get into your accounts or steal your identity, getting a locked mailbox, etc. I have a PO Box partially because of this reason (though it can be frustrating getting certain places to remember this--my BANK of all places keeps sending things to my new physical address.)

    Good luck!

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    1. Hi Pamela,
      You'd think a bank of all places would get it right!
      We're doing everything we can to protect our identity and finances. Fortunately, credit card companies have just recently had to deal with compromised credit information, from transactions at a couple of major retailers. So, when I called and placed an alert on our credit card, they got it, immediately. It did mean that on one particular online purchase, my transaction was denied, until I called in and okay'd it. But I prefer that to allowing activity on our account that may not be ours.
      Anyway, good luck getting your bank to start sending to the right address!

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  5. Lili, I'm so sorry this happened to you. I have a locking mail box, but it's in a group of mailboxes which would be very easy to accidentally drop another person's mail in mine or vice versa. To prevent this and to cut down on my mail I have everything online and nothing sensitive coming to my house.

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    1. Hi Lois,
      Thank you. Good that you have everything online. I know, even with securing our mailbox, there's still the issue that mail does get lost, or delivered to the wrong address.

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I'm so glad that you stopped by today. Please comment, and let me know what you're thinking.