What Characteristics Should I Look for That Might Suggest a Suspicious Item in My Mail?

Under certain circumstances, you should exercise more caution if you are concerned about the receipt of suspicious items. Be alert to mail pieces which are unexpected or sent by someone unfamiliar to you. The following characteristics may also dictate caution when handling an unknown mail piece:

  • Items addressed to someone no longer with your organization or otherwise outdated.
  • Items that are handwritten and have no return address, or have one that can't be verified as legitimate.
  • Items containing restrictive endorsements, such as "Personal" or "Confidential".
  • Items of unusual weight relative to their size, or that are lopsided or oddly shaped.
  • Items which are sealed with excessive amounts of tape.
  • An item containing a postmark which does not match the return address or bears an excessive amount of postage.
  • Mailpiece is leaking an unknown powdery substance.

NOTE:  When you order Postal products through Stamp Fulfillment Services, a cornstarch in the form of a white powder is used in the processing function. The packing process includes adding food starch, a non-toxic white powder that inhibits moisture, cracking, and spotting. It protects the archival properties of our products.

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What Do I Do if I Have Determined That a Piece of Mail is Suspicious?

If you receive a suspicious mail piece, do not handle it, shake it, bump it, or sniff it. Follow these steps:

  1. Isolate the mail piece.
  2. Evacuate the immediate area.
  3. Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water. This also applies to everyone that has handled the mail piece.
  4. Notify local law enforcement immediately.

You should exercise CAUTION and COMMON SENSE when dealing with their mail. When in doubt, call local law enforcement authorities.

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How Does the USPSĀ® Train Individuals to Handle Suspicious Mail? Can Any of Those Techniques Be Used in Other Companies?

The Postal Inspection Service offers Publication 166, Mail Center Security Guide for information on how to handle suspicious mail, mail center security, and other security concerns of business and government mail centers.

Companies may also be interested in Poster 84: Suspicious Mail which was designed for display in mail centers and contains visual examples and descriptions of the characteristics of suspicious mail.

Both items are available from your local Post Office or by calling the Topeka Material Distribution Center toll-free at 1-800-332-0317.

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