Have you ever put outgoing mail in your box for pick-up only to find later that it was stolen? Or learned that delivered mail was swiped?

While such offenses may seem minor, tampering with mail is a federal crime and carries serious charges. In addition, the theft of mail can leave you open to identity theft.

If you find yourself in this situation, first call 911 and make a report. When talking with police, ask if they will notify post office inspectors of the incident. If not, go to this link for information on how to file your own report.

The next step is to protect your identity. If you know that credit card or banking information was stolen, immediately contact those institutions and cancel or freeze your accounts. You will also want to notify the three credit reporting firms to freeze your accounts. The credit card company or bank may offer to do this for you. If not check out Clark Howard's Identity Theft Guide for information and guidance on how to proceed.

Here are some additional tips for the United States Postal Inspection Service.

Postal Inspectors across the country work hard to protect your mail. But with deliveries to more than 100 million addresses, the Postal Inspection Service can't do the job alone. Here's what you can do to protect your mail from thieves:

  • Use the letter slots inside your Post Office for your mail, or hand it to a letter carrier.
  • Pick up your mail promptly after delivery. Don’t leave it in your mailbox overnight. If you're expecting checks, credit cards, or other negotiable items, ask a trusted friend or neighbor to pick up your mail.
  • If you don't receive a check or other valuable mail you're expecting, contact the issuing agency immediately.
  • If you change your address, immediately notify your Post Office and anyone with whom you do business via the mail.
  • Don’t send cash in the mail.
  • Tell your Post Office when you’ll be out of town, so they can hold your mail until you return.
  • Report all suspected mail theft to a Postal Inspector.
  • Consider starting a neighborhood watch program. By exchanging work and vacation schedules with trusted friends and neighbors, you can watch each other's mailboxes (as well as homes).
  • Consult with your local Postmaster for the most up-to-date regulations on mailboxes, including the availability of locked centralized or curbside mailboxes.

If you see a mail thief at work, or if you believe your mail was stolen, call police immediately, then call Postal Inspectors at 877-876-2455 (press 3).