Amid reports of checks stolen from a mailbox outside a West Menlo Park post office, the United States Postal Inspection Service is recommending people avoid leaving outgoing mail in curbside boxes.
In 2022, the United States Postal Inspection Service (USPIS), the law enforcement branch of the United States Postal Service, logged 1,124 mail theft cases reported nationwide. Locally, several Menlo Park residents have said that checks mailed from a West Menlo Park curbside box have gone missing or been stolen.
United States Postal Inspector Matthew Norfleet recommended that people send out their mail from inside a U.S. Post Office location, telling The Almanac that mail should not be left unattended in outside mailboxes any longer than necessary.
“There's no such thing as a mailbox that can't be broken into," Norfleet said. "It's not a bank vault, right? It's just like a temporary convenient place for your mail to be for a short time.”
Following The Almanac’s April 7 story on a mail theft incident in West Menlo Park, multiple residents reached out with stories of checks mailed on weekends being stolen.
One of the residents, Robert Grant, said that he had left eight checks in mailboxes located outside of the Avy Avenue branch post office over a weekend. After reading about the experience of another resident whose checks went astray, he followed up to see if they'd reached their destinations. Grant said he discovered none of them had been received.
At first, he said he only canceled and reissued the checks, but then one of them turned up on a black market site on the darknet. A check was being sold with Grant's bank information clearly listed, so he had to close his account and open a new one, causing a whole new host of issues with his reissued checks.
Since that happened, Grant said that he has only mailed checks from inside the post office.
“It's not clear to me that those blue boxes are safe anymore to use," he said.
While the blue USPS mailboxes are targeted by thieves, Norfleet emphasized that they aren't the only place where thieves can get their hands on residents' mail.
“Right now we have a huge, huge problem with letter carriers being robbed at gunpoint for their arrow keys, which is what we call the keys to use to access the mailboxes," Norfleet said.
To protect their mail, Norfleet encouraged residents to leave sensitive mail inside a post office branch and to report incidents to the USPIS so that inspectors know where to focus their efforts. Go to uspis.gov or call 877-876-2455.