The financially troubled Post Office, facing a bill of $50 billion in unfunded retiree health benefits, announced earlier this year that it intends to stop delivering mail on Saturdays. The plan could go into effect as soon as this summer. As of this writing, the U.S. Senate is pondering a measure that would block the Post Office’s planned service cutbacks.
In any event, it’s worth considering alternative options for sending and receiving some types of mail – both for practical and privacy reasons.
Remote Mailboxes and Mail Forwarding
When you’re on vacation, request that the Post Office hold your mail or have a highly trustworthy neighbor retrieve it for you daily. If you’re going to be away for an extended period, consider a mail-opening service that scans your mail and enables you to read it wherever you have an Internet connection. Two companies that offer this service:
- Mailbox Forwarding (www.mailboxforwarding.com)
- Traveling Mailbox (855-749-1737; travelingmailbox.com)
Although security measures are taken by these mailbox services, you do assume some privacy risks with them. You also eliminate other privacy risks, such as family members, neighbors, or area mail thieves getting into your mail. A secondary address where you direct sensitive mail to be sent and access it over the Internet can give you a privacy buffer. You can also accomplish this by establishing a conventional physical mailbox at a mail/packaging store or Post Office.
For added security, have the mail forwarded to you at a non-residential and non-business address. You can rent a mailbox from places like Mailboxes, Etc. If possible, don’t rent from a business that demands your actual home address. The U.S. Post Office now requires that each P.O. Box be tied to a physical home or business address and is even trying to force private mailbox outlets to obtain such information from their customers. You may have to shop around to find a place that will fully respect and protect your privacy.
Think Your Mail Isn’t Being Read? Think Again
When you send your mail through the Postal Service, keep in mind that chemical sprays and x-ray-type machinery make it possible for the government and sophisticated crooks to read the contents of mail without ever opening the envelope. Mail snoops can simply take a spray can of Freon gas they bought at a spy shop and spray the outside of an envelope, causing it to temporarily turn transparent.
To prevent any sensitive outgoing mail from being surreptitiously read while inside the envelope, wrap the contents in a piece of dark paper. Construction paper that kids use for art projects is good because it is nice and thick.
Leaving incoming or outgoing mail in an unlocked mailbox isn’t safe in this information age. Nobody in their right mind would leave unconcealed cash or jewelry in their mailbox; yet pieces of mail that contain personal checks, credit card bills, or bank/brokerage/insurance statements can be as good as gold to an ID thief.
Fortunately, there are ways to send and receive mail more securely. Protect incoming mail by purchasing a solid mailbox that allows mail to enter a secure compartment but can only be opened with a key. You can purchase a super heavy-duty galvanized steel mail box for about $200 at your local hardware store. Put outgoing mail directly in a blue Postal mail receptacle – or better yet, take it to an actual Post Office during business hours so that it has no chance to get lost or stolen before being postmarked.