Financial fraudsters are targeting postal workers to steal their mailbox keys, so USPS is trying something new
USPS and the Postal Inspection Service announced it is cracking down on robberies and mail theft.
Incident rates of attacks against mail workers and theft from blue collection boxes are on the rise.
Efforts will involve installing high-security collection boxes and adding electronic locks, among others.
Thieves stealing packages from stoops and doorways has for years been a growing problem as more and more Americans order their stuff online.
But less talked about is another issue: Thieves targeting postal workers themselves. Robbers specializing in financial fraud schemes are increasingly stealing mail straight from the hands of mail workers, or stealing their keys to mailboxes.
So the United States Postal Service is implementing new policies and security efforts to curb the worsening problem.
USPS announced the Joint Project Safe Delivery initiative on Friday, a program designed to protect employees and improve mail security as incidents of letter carrier robberies rise across the country. The effort will include installing high-security collection boxes, replacing outdated locks with electronic models, preventing change-of-address fraud, and cracking down on counterfeit postage.
"As crime rises, so do the threats against our public servants," USPS Postmaster General and CEO Louis DeJoy said in a statement, issued jointly with the US Postal Inspection Service. "Every Postal employee deserves to work in safety and to be free from targeting by criminals seeking to access the public's mail."
According to USPS, rates of both robberies of postal workers and mail theft from blue collection receptacles have increased in 2023 compared to last year. According to the agency's records, 305 robberies have been reported so far this year, compared to a total of 412 during the entirety of 2022.
The agency also reported 25,000 incidents of theft from collection boxes so far in 2023, compared to 38,500 in 2022.
The program will place 12,000 high-security mailboxes in high-risk areas, "making access to their contents more difficult for criminals." It will also replace 49,000 antiquated arrow locks with electronic locks to make it more difficult to get inside boxes and commit crimes like check fraud.
As part of its larger efforts, it will also crack down on change-of-address fraud — when a "fraudster intercepts financially oriented mail, credit cards, or checks" — as well as increase security provisions to prevent counterfeit postage, the agency said.
"We are hardening targets — both physical and digital — to make them less desirable to thieves and working with our law enforcement partners to bring perpetrators to justice," US Postal Inspection Service Chief Gary Barksdale said in a statement.
Theft of any item delivered by the USPS is a felony, and lawmakers introduced a bill — called the "Porch Pirates Act" — to extend the policy across all delivery services last year. Package theft of any kind from any provider is currently a felony in eight states, as lawmakers start cracking down on the rise of thefts in the e-commerce age.
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