Mail carriers are increasingly being targeted by criminals seeking documents that could be used to steal your identity, federal officials say.
The U.S. Postal Inspection Service says mail carrier robberies are rising across the Bay Area. The service was unable to provide The Standard any 2022 or 2023 data to support such claims, but data from 2019 to 2021 shows an increase in robbery cases nationally. Robbery cases rose from 94 in 2019 to 253 in 2021.
“We’ve had mail theft throughout the Bay Area, and we’ve seen an uptick,” said Jeff Fitch, a postal inspector and public information officer. “We had a mail carrier robbed at gunpoint in Hayward, that was some months ago. They’re looking for banking information, credit card information. They're also looking for checks, personal identifiers that may or may not be useful for identity theft, or a number of different reasons.”
It’s not just mail carriers that are being targeted. Mailbox theft is also increasingly making headlines across the Bay Area.
In Hayward, residents of one apartment complex told KTVU they have been targeted nine times this year for their mail.
“Mail theft has affected many of us and has become an increasing concern—not just in Hayward, but in the entire Bay Area,” the Hayward Police Department posted to their Facebook page on March 23.
In the South Bay, Sunnyvale residents told NBC in February their mailboxes had been broken into multiple times, too.
And on Feb. 17, a mail carrier was robbed at gunpoint in San Francisco’s sleepy Outer Sunset, according to local law enforcement.
“USPIS is the lead agency in these matters,” an FBI San Francisco spokesperson said. “The FBI will support USPIS in mail carrier thefts and other federal crimes when our assistance is requested.”
The Postal Inspection Service offers a reward of up to $50,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of anyone committing assault or robbery of a U.S. Postal Service worker.
Watch for signs your carrier may be in danger while in your neighborhood, call 911 and then call Postal Inspectors at 1-877-876-2455 if you see something suspicious. This includes:
Unusual activity around carriers: Thieves sometimes follow carriers, waiting for an opportunity to take mail from their vehicles or from their person.
Unusual activity around mailboxes: Postal customers should be on the lookout for any strange or suspicious behavior around their mailboxes. This could include someone lingering around the area, tampering with the boxes, or any other activity out of the ordinary. It is important to be aware of your surroundings and report any suspicious activity to the police.
Damaged Mailboxes: Mailboxes are a key target for burglars looking to gain access to valuable items. Look out for any signs of damage to your mailbox, such as scratches, dents or broken locks. If you notice any signs of damage or suspicious activity, contact your local post office.
Missing Mail: Mail theft is one way criminals gain access to confidential information. Customers should watch out for missing mail items, especially if the items were expected to arrive around the same time as the burglary. If any mail is missing, customers should immediately contact the local post office and their local police station to report the incident.
Joe Burn can be reached at email@example.com