What Should I Do If My Roommate Is Stealing My Mail?

Your roommate stealing your mail is a crime. 
1. Report mail theft to the police and the US Postal Service.
2. Identity theft? Take steps to guard your credit rating.
3. Rerouting your mail; a separate, locked, home mailbox; and renting a post office box are effective solutions.

You’re expecting a package. Tracking information shows it was delivered…but you never got it. Perhaps you’re expecting an important letter. Your credit card has expired…and the new one never showed up.

Although many letters and bills are received/paid online, we still do get physical mail, especially if we like ordering things online.

If you are living with a roommate and you’re not receiving your posted items, it could be that your roommate is stealing your mail.

1. Make sure your roommate really is stealing your mail

detective

Almost each and every United States Postal Service (USPS) worker is honest and trustworthy.

Unfortunately, a few are not.

A recent case involved a postal worker and the man she lived with. On her mid-shift breaks or at the end of her work shifts, the USPS worker stole mail which she thought had gift cards in it. She took these items back to her home where she and her male roommate opened them.

A press release issued by the U.S. Dept. of Justice gave the following facts:

On a date in December 2017, investigators found the following items in the home of the two criminals —

  • roughly 108 items of stolen mail
  • exactly 1,505 stolen gift cards: 1,322 of these were worth $47,000 in total

(source)

So, before pointing the finger at your roommate for stealing your mail, make sure they are really the one responsible.

A mention or two of the items missing will start the ball rolling. 

Say something like: “I was expecting a package from Amazon yesterday. Have you seen it by any chance?”

Or maybe: “My mother always sends me a birthday card. Did it get mixed up with your things perhaps?”

2. Mail theft law

court judge
What is mail theft?

Tampering with mail in any way (stealing, withholding, opening, etc.) is a federal crime.

This applies to all types of mail including letters, packages, postcards, and even the entire mail bag/pouch.

This law covers mail in private mailboxes (postboxes), collective mail collection boxes, mail bags, and mail trucks.

In addition, this section of the law mentions other criminal charges, depending on the way the mail theft happened. For example, assault (if a mail carrier was roughed up in the process) or breaking and entering (if the mailbox was forced open).

Did your roommate steal any personal identifying information? If so, they could also be convicted of identity theft. Examples of personal identifying info are ID numbers (tax, drivers license, school, passport, social security, employee), financial details (bank account, credit card), and descriptive information (names, addresses, dates of birth/death, telephone numbers).

If found guilty, your roommate can be fined, put in prison or both.

Here is the exact wording of the main mail theft law:

18 U.S. Code § 1708. Theft or receipt of stolen mail matter gen­erally

Whoever steals, takes, or abstracts, or by fraud or deception obtains, or attempts so to obtain, from or out of any mail, post office, or station thereof, letter box, mail receptacle, or any mail route or other authorized depository for mail matter, or from a letter or mail carrier, any letter, postal card, package, bag, or mail, or abstracts or removes from any such letter, package, bag, or mail, any article or thing contained therein, or secretes, embezzles, or destroys any such letter, postal card, package, bag, or mail, or any article or thing contained therein; or

Whoever steals, takes, or abstracts, or by fraud or deception obtains any letter, postal card, package, bag, or mail, or any article or thing contained therein which has been left for collection upon or adjacent to a collection box or other authorized depository of mail matter; or

Whoever buys, receives, or conceals, or unlawfully has in his possession, any letter, postal card, package, bag, or mail, or any article or thing contained therein, which has been so stolen, taken, embezzled, or abstracted, as herein described, knowing the same to have been stolen, taken, embezzled, or abstracted—

Shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than five years, or both.

Yes, it is mail theft. So, what should I do?

File a report with your local police. 

The procedure may differ from place to place, so best to visit your local police station or law enforcement website.

File a report with the United States Postal Service (USPS).

Here is the direct link to USPS postal theft reporting form  — https://postalinspectors.uspis.gov/report/.

Choose the type of crime you are reporting: in this case, mail theft. Click on the link to begin the reporting process.

If you have questions, you can contact the USPS on 888-USPS-OIG.

Their general website is www.uspsoig.gov .

The basic steps involved are gathering evidence of the theft and then filing the complaint. Check out this more detailed guide.

3. Be careful of identity theft.

identity theft

As we mentioned in Point #2 (above), your roommate may not only be stealing your mail. She may be opening it (also illegal) and finding out your personal identifying information.

Your roommate might then use this information further.

I think it is identity theft. So, what should I do?
Visit each bank you use.

Alert them to the situation. Check with them about any suspicious activity they have seen and (hopefully) blocked.

If there has been any theft of your assets, discuss with your bank their procedure for recovering the stolen assets. Use your Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Identity Theft Report to help you.

Make your request official by sending them a certified letter. Each bank may have a different procedure so ask each for advice.

Contact each credit card company.

Make each one aware of the situation. Check with them about any suspicious activity they have seen and (hopefully) blocked.

If there have been any fraudulent charges, discuss the procedure for removing them. Use your Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Identity Theft Report to help you.

Make your request official by sending them a certified letter. As company procedures differ, ask each for advice.

Then, close your credit card and get a new one, including a new credit card number.

Check your credit rating.

In the U.S., there are three national credit bureaus: Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion.

As soon as you find any suspicious activity, you need to put a fraud alert on your credit report. Contacting one of the companies is enough because it is required to notify the remaining two bureaus.

Your fraud alert is valid for 90 days.

What does a fraud alert do?

During this period, any lenders or creditors are required to make sure it’s definitely you before agreeing to new loans or new credit cards. So, it is more difficult for scammers to pretend to be you.

If any fraudulent loans or accounts somehow get created, make sure to take prompt action to close them down. Also, request that they remove this information from your credit reports.

Make your request official by sending certified letters to each creditor or lender. Their procedures may differ so ask each for advice.

File an identity theft report.

Visit the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC’s) IdentityTheft.gov page. Click on the “Get Started” button for step-by-step guidance.

File a report with your local police. 

The procedure may differ from place to place, so best to visit your local police station or website.

Use your Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Identity Theft Report to help you.

File a report with the United States Postal Service (USPS).

Here is the direct link to USPS postal theft reporting form  — https://postalinspectors.uspis.gov/report/.

Choose the type of crime you are reporting: in this case, identity theft. Click on the link to begin the reporting process.

If you have questions, you can contact the USPS on 888-USPS-OIG.

Their general website is www.uspsoig.gov .

Use your Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Identity Theft Report to help you.

Officially dispute any fraudulent charges or accounts.

Send a letter to each credit bureau. List all the fraudulent charges and/or accounts. Include a copy of your Police and FTC Reports.

This can be started online: Equifax, Experian, TransUnion.

If you prefer, you can send your documents by certified letter mail:

Equifax Information Services, LLC

P.O. Box 740256

Atlanta, GA  30374-0256

Experian

P.O. Box 4500

Allen, TX 75013

TransUnion Consumer Solutions

P.O. Box 2000

Chester, PA 19016

You can also handle the dispute procedure by phone:

Equifax

Phone: (866) 349-5191

8 a.m. to midnight ET, 7 days a week

Experian

Use the number on your Experian credit report.

TransUnion

Phone: (800) 916-8800

In general, the dispute procedure takes about 30 days.

Freeze your credit.

You will be protected against any more fraudulent activity, but you will not be able to apply for new credit or loans.

When you wish to do so, you will need to unfreeze your credit.

Start the freezing here: Experian, Equifax and TransUnion.

At the moment, this is free of charge.

Think about any other places which your roommate may have ‘hit’.

Consider:

  • social security activity
  • online supermarket(s) and other shopping
  • gym membership
  • any other accounts/programs which could give your roommate some type of gain (money, benefits, food, gym entry, etc.)

Although you should be protected by security measures in each of these areas, there have been enough examples which show that criminals are able to  get around any security and achieve their goals.

So, keep yourself aware and up-to-date for your own protection!

4. Get visual proof

spy camera pen

Wikipedia, Spy Camera Pen, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.

It would be great if you could hide near the mailbox and spy on your roommate to see what is really happening.

OK…it’s not nice to spy in a sneaky way, I agree.

However, using a camera in the apartment is legal in any common area in all 50 U.S. states—except bathrooms and bedrooms.

Make sure not to record the audio, though, because that is not always legal.

Installing a camera which focuses on the mailbox  just might be enough to convince your roommate to stop stealing your mail. If not, at least you have more proof for the police and the United States Postal Service (USPS).

5. Try some unconventional detection methods.

I read about a roommate who was so tired of her mail going missing that she came up with two unusual ways to check if it was her roommate or not.

Key ring finder

You know those gadgets which attach to your keys, and then, when your keys go missing, you can activate them to whistle or beep? This roommate bought several of them. She put each one into an envelope.

Theft detection powder

Before closing the envelopes, she dusted the inside of each one with a special powder like these. This type of power stains the fingers and is used for theft detection.

Several days later, the roommate noticed the staining on her thieving roommate’s hands…and when she activated the key ring finders, all the sounds were coming from her roommate’s bedroom.

6. Re-route your mail.

Yes, it is not your fault. I agree, you shouldn’t have to do this. True, it may cost you money. Yes, it’s going to take a lot of time to tell everyone about your new address.

But until you come up with a better solution, sending your mail to another address is a good idea.

Maybe there is a family member or friend who lives nearby and is willing to have your mail sent to them.

There are also post office boxes which you can rent (P.O. Box at the post office).

7. Have your own separate, locked mailbox.

Depending upon the physical layout of where you are living, you might even be able to organize a separate mailbox at your home instead of the shared one you have now.

If you opt for a separate, locked, home mailbox, make sure there is something in your address and on the mailbox to make it crystal clear which letters go where—not just a different name.

Many mail carriers put all the mail for one address into the same mailbox regardless of the name. This makes sense due to situations such as roommates from different families, husbands and wives who don’t have the same last name, people who are sharing an address because their roommate steals their mail  🙂 , etc.

Make the change obvious

If your name and address is John Smith, 123 Green Street, for example, you could change it to:

John Smith, 123 A Green Street

John Smith, ℅ The Blue Mailbox, 123 Green Street

Usually, postal workers have the same routes and get to know the people on them. So, chances are your mail carrier will learn which box to put your mail into.

8. Get help from the USPS.

usps

Did you know that the United States Postal Service (USPS) takes a picture of every letter-sized piece of mail it processes?

Did you know that you could join a program which shares those photos with you?

The USPS began this service so people could keep track of their mail while traveling, get a heads up about important mail on the way, make sure all expected items are en route, and confirm suspicions of mail theft.

The service is named, Informed Delivery and you can join here.

Unfortunately, as with many things, professional scam artists and thieves are using this USPS service for their own nasty ends. These people sign up at a USPS branch, pretending to be someone else…or a few ‘someone elses’.

Yet, this illegal use is not connected to whether or not you join up. So, it’s worth giving this idea a try.

9. Re-locate your roommate.

Are you renting your home? Are you the main renter?

If your name is the main one on the rental agreement (or main lessee on the lease), you can ask your roommate to move.

They can fight this if they are also named in the rental agreement or lease, but if your landlord supports you, it will be difficult for them to win…especially if you have proof of them stealing your mail.

10. Re-locate yourself.

Breaking a rental agreement or lease is always possible. There might be some consequences such as losing your security deposit.

Speak with your landlord, showing him all your evidence that your roommate is stealing your mail. Many landlords will be sympathetic.

Once your landlord is on board, give your roommate the amount of notice required (usually 30-60 days), and start checking the ‘room for rent’ ads.

11. Don’t renew your rental agreement or lease.

Kind of a no-brainer, right?

If you are nearing the end of an agreement/lease, don’t opt in again…unless your roommate is leaving. Then, you might want to try again with someone else.

This time though, learn from experience. Set things up so that your new roommate will not be able to take ANY of your mail.

12. Make your mail more boring.

Some roommates steal all of the mail. Some only steal the ones which look interesting.

If you are like me and order many things online, consider sending these items to another address.

13. End the games.

I read about two roommates who were not getting along. Roommate A wanted Roommate B to move out. Unfortunately for A, B was on the rental agreement/lease.

So, A decided to take it to the next level. A blocked B from the internet (it was in A’s name).

B was the only one with the mail key (A had lost his). When B brought in the mail, he did not give it to A.

A then told B that he would change the mailbox lock if he didn’t get his mail. Since B did not give A his mail, A went ahead and changed the lock.

Now, the shoe is on the other foot. B needs to pay his share of the lock change ($30) if he wants his mail.

Someone needs to be the bigger person

There is always something more nasty to be done…as long as we are willing to do it. These two roommates are a case in point.

In difficult situations such as these, one of the people involved has to decide to stop increasing the fight; to be the hero.

This usually involves talking with your roommate(s) in a constructive way to find solutions.

Sometimes it takes more than one conversation. Sometimes the solutions don’t work and new solutions need to be tried.

Working things out in a calm, logical manner while wanting the best for everyone involved is a mature way of behaving.

On the other hand, sometimes, nothing works, and it is better to move out as soon as you possibly can.

Writer: Lisa Aharon

lisa ahron writer

Sources

https://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20100703205514AAwhGv9&guccounter=1&guce_referrer=aHR0cHM6Ly93d3cuZ29vZ2xlLmNvbS8&guce_referrer_sig=AQAAAI8FGDiySFHhqmpKqsvRglAN1AtCBS_zdEgnN88trXHc955eDqHp0vmj06eKotWQerbE06TEKbap87RfIu45tUaMpGhrv7mrY2zJaQ-MbuZlL9LwBa4l52-X3kdaLXsZcOe34jLznUUuUHsV2DrxFbE7zUvjbp-QcmvvAC65ioq2

https://clark.com/story/usps-stolen-missing-mail/

https://forums.nasioc.com/forums/showthread.php?t=1220384

https://informeddelivery.usps.com/box/pages/intro/start.action

https://krebsonsecurity.com/2018/11/u-s-secret-service-warns-id-thieves-are-abusing-uspss-mail-scanning-service/

https://legalbeagle.com/6293417-federal-mail-not-addressed-you.html

https://ohmyapt.apartmentratings.com/stolen-mail-what-to-do.html

https://reolink.com/8-top-secret-tips-to-prevent-mail-theft/

https://wnep.com/2018/12/20/postal-worker-roommate-indicted-for-stealing-mail-47k-worth-of-gift-cards/

https://www.amazon.com/s?k=theft+powder&ref=nb_sb_noss_2

https://www.avvo.com/legal-answers/roommate-stealing-my-mail—what-can-i-do–577312.html

https://www.chicagotribune.com/lifestyles/sc-social-graces-roommate-stealing-family-0228-20170224-story.html

https://www.expertlaw.com/forums/showthread.php?t=232306

https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/18/1708

https://www.quora.com/My-roommate-is-stealing-my-mails-and-my-things-What-should-I-do

https://www.reddit.com/r/legaladvice/comments/b7msxm/roommate_withholding_my_mail/

https://www.reddit.com/r/TwoXChromosomes/comments/1htpjb/my_hostile_roommate_shes_stealing_my_mail_edition/

https://www.wikihow.com/Report-Mail-Theft

https://www.wklaw.com/mail-theft-a-federal-offense/

https://www.lifelock.com/learn-credit-finance-how-to-rebuild-your-credit-after-identity-theft.html

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