HONOLULU (KHON2) — The United States Postal Inspector Service (USPIS) said, mail theft is on the rise across the country. It is unknown if the thefts are due to the pandemic and more people ordering items to their homes, or if thieves are just becoming more desperate.

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The USPIS said, many postal thefts go unreported and it is crucial to file a report if mail goes missing.

Across social media sites people have been reporting missing mail, mailboxes being opened in their neighborhood or finding garbage bags filled with opened mail in bushes.

“Basically, what we’re seeing is that these criminals are actually kind of taking the chance or hoping that there’s going to be something of value in there, whether it be a check that they can eventually forge later on, or a credit card or debit card,” explained Honolulu Crimestoppers Sgt. Chris Kim.

Some mail pieces have personal information on them — including bank account numbers — and social security numbers can be at risk too with tax season coming up.  

“Every year tax refund checks are reported stolen from the mail,” explained Matt Norfleet, United States Postal Inspector. “So, unfortunately, that’s true, but if that happens, please let us know. We’re there to investigate it.”

U.S. Postal Inspectors are federal agents who investigate mail theft and said, it should be reported immediately to local police and to the USPIS by filing a report online or calling their 24/7 number at (877)-876-2455.

“Local police departments coordinate with postal inspectors in their area on a daily basis,” Norfleet explained.

He said, having surveillance video helps too.  

“Once the reports are initiated, you’ll get forwarded to investigators and at that point they can see if it’s connected. And if there’s possibly a series going on, they’ll be canvassing the area and trying to locate any witnesses as well as video surveillance,” said Sgt. Kim.

There were 1,278 mail theft cases initiated in 2019 which resulted in 2,078 arrests and 2,067 convictions, according to the USPIS.

Federal agents said, it is crucial to file the initial report of missing mail because if a bank statement or credit card statement with unusual activity is discovered a few weeks later, the postal inspectors can investigate where the thieves used the stolen card or identity.

Anyone charged with mail theft faces up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000. Individuals who provide information leading to an arrest could be rewarded up to $10,000.

Buy a mailbox with a lock on it or sign up for a P.O. Box to keep mail safe.

Sign up for informed delivery on the United States Postal Service website to see what mail is arriving that day and have text messages sent to a mobile device when a package arrives.

“Arrange to have your mail delivered to a neighbor, if you can’t be home, or another secure location, sometimes a local business will receive your packages for you and you can pick them up from a place that’s monitored during the day,” Norfleet said.

USPIS recommends contacting the sender as soon as possible for overdue checks, credit cards or other valuable mail.

USPIS also recommends never leaving mail in a mailbox overnight or after the pick-up time.