The United States Postal Service (USPS) and the United States Postal Inspection Service have expanded actions to protect postal employees and the security of the USA’s mail and packages as threats and attacks on letter carriers and mail fraud incidents have escalated concurrently with a national rise in crime.
According to the USPS, incidents of letter carrier robberies are on the rise across the nation. In 2022, 412 USPS letter carriers were robbed on the job. With 305 incidents reported in the first half of 2023, these incidents are increasingly more prevalent. The agency also reported an increase in high volume mail theft incidents from mail receptacles including blue collection boxes – 38,500 in 2022 and more than 25,000 in the first half of 2023.
As part of the joint ‘Project Safe Delivery’ initiative, USPS and USPIS are taking action to harden physical targets against criminal activity and reduce criminal acts against postal employees, including the installation of 12,000 high-security blue collection boxes nationwide, and 49,000 electronic locks to replace the antiquated arrow locks.
The postal service is hardening blue collection boxes, making access to their contents more difficult for criminals. These boxes are now being deployed in high-security risk areas through the next year. The postal service will continue to evaluate replacing additional existing blue collection boxes with these enhanced boxes.
USPS reports an increase in letter carrier robberies nationwide where criminals are targeting letter carriers for their arrow and modified arrow lock (MAL) Keys. Criminals use arrow and MAL keys to steal mail from secure mail receptacles to commit financial crimes, including altering checks to commit check fraud. To make arrow keys less valuable for criminals, the postal service will replace 49,000 antiquated arrow locks with electronic locks. New locks have been installed in select cities with installation to occur in additional major metropolitan areas soon. The postal service and the Postal Inspection Service are also increasing arrow key accountability reviews in select high postal crime areas.
The post is also taking action to prevent change of address fraud. The postal service processed more than 33 million change of address (COA) transactions in 2022. The majority of COA frauds are driven by an identity theft motive separate from the postal service; the postal service is not the intended target but implicated as the fraudster intercepts financially oriented mail, credit cards or checks. The postal service is embarking on strengthening authentication processes for all methods of COA – electronic and hard copy format, by mail and in-person. In April, the postal service implemented dual authentication identity verification services for online change of address transactions to provide enhanced security controls to reduce fraud. And, effective May 31, USPS will offer enhanced in-person change of address transactions at post offices and retail outlets. COA customers can verify their identity by presenting an approved form of identification to a retail clerk. Furthermore, postal service customers seeking a COA will now receive a validation letter at their old address and receive an activation letter at their new address. As an additional safeguard, USPS will no longer accept third-party change of address submissions.
In 2022, USPS and the Postal Inspection Service seized more than 340,000 packages with counterfeit postage and more than 7.7 million counterfeit stamps with an estimated US$7.8m loss avoidance for the postal service. To crack down on fraudulent postage, the organizations will carry out interdictions of packages with counterfeit labels affixed. USPS will fully exercise new authority to take possession and dispose of packages identified with counterfeit postage. It will also review shipments on postal service docks and during warehouse outreach visits. Alongside this, the organization plans to shut down websites and close e-commerce accounts selling counterfeit postage while engaging and partnering with e-commerce companies and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to disrupt activity. It will also promote the Inspection Service’s rewards program which provides rewards for information leading to the arrest and conviction of a person that unlawfully uses, reuses or forges postage stamps, postage meter stamps, permit imprints, or other postage; or uses, sells or possesses with the intent to sell any used, forged or counterfeit postage stamp or other postage.
Louis DeJoy, postmaster general and CEO of USPS, said, “As crime rises, so do the threats against our public servants. The men and women of the postal service are walking our nation’s streets every day to fulfill our mission of delivering mail and packages to the American people. Every postal employee deserves to work in safety and to be free from targeting by criminals seeking to access the public’s mail.”
Gary Barksdale, Postal Inspection Service chief, added, “We’re doubling down on our efforts to protect our postal employees and the security of the mail. 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.”
Find out more about the industry’s parcel theft issue in the March 2023 issue of Parcel and Postal Technology International magazine.