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Thieves target big blue mail boxes as holiday shipping ramps up

According to an audit by the USPS Inspector General, mail theft complaints increased 161% from March 2020 to February 2021

SAN DIEGO — A warning from the United States Postal Service about those big blue mail drop-off boxes. The USPS says there are certain days and times that thieves target them.  

There are no cameras monitoring the boxes even though they sit out 24/7 with people’s personal information inside. 

According to an audit by the USPS Inspector General, mail theft complaints increased by 161 percent from March 2020 to February 2021. Even more alarming, the inspector general determined the exact number of master keys to the collection boxes, known as “arrow keys”, the number in circulation is unknown but the USPS estimates there could be millions. 

And thieves are using tricks to try to get mail people to drop in, even without a key. 

Here’s a post from Michele C about a problem she encountered with a collection box in Rancho Santa Fe. 

"Please be extremely cautious when dropping off your mail at the blue USPS mailbox located at the corner of the LA GRANADA and PASEO DELICIAS intersection (across Nick & G’s restaurant). Yesterday, I mailed 7 envelopes 5-minutes before the 5 pm pickup time. I noticed all of the outgoing company mail was stuck inside the lip area of that blue box," read the NextDoor post.

Added the post, "I reached inside to push the envelopes all the way down, but they wouldn’t budge. It took a stronger push until all the envelopes completely dropped inside. As I pulled my hand out, I had a sticky film on my hands. I’m not sure what the glue-like substance is. But, it looks like crooks are trying to intercept outgoing mail from the [Rancho Santa Fe] community. I reported this discovery in person to a US Postal Service employee at the nearby post office. Told him it needs to be cleaned because of the sticky adhesive all over the interior lip. I have informed the manager and those in the Post Office are well aware of it. They mentioned the Post Office employee who picks up mail in that corner box, scrapes all over inside to pick up all the mail to make sure none remains stuck. However, my main concern is for any passerby who drops off their mail after the 5 pm pickup time. Those who make use of that blue box after hours are extremely susceptible to getting their mail fished out in the evening if it remains stuck to the glue. Please be careful, and drop your mail direct inside the local Post Office."

Another post on the NextDoor app reported the same sticky residue on mailboxes at the Spring Valley Post Office, so CBS 8 went to check it out. 

You can still feel it inside and we saw several people putting their hands inside and pushing to make sure their envelopes went down the slot. 

Julie in Bonita told us she dropped off a Target gift card at her blue collection box and it was cashed by someone that same night. 

Here are some tips from the USPS: 

  • Deposit outgoing mail into blue collection boxes before the final pick-up of the same day of deposit.  
  • Check the pick-up schedule posted on the box to ensure your mail will not sit in the box overnight or over the weekend. 
  • Use the letter slots inside your Post Office for your mail, or hand it to a letter carrier.

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