LIFESTYLE

New Postal Boxes Are Expected To Curb Mail Theft

By Kristen Arute, June 23, 2020
Pictures by Kristen Arute, Hingham Current Staff

Those big, blue mailboxes, known as Postal Collection Boxes, that are found outside of post offices and on street corners are being replaced for two good reasons. The first is to protect the safety of postal workers by preventing a mail piece that may contain inappropriate contents from making its way onto a plane. Last October, the United States Postal Service (USPS) announced that it would be increasing the safety and security of these Boxes by prohibiting packages that are more than a half inch thick and/or weigh more than 10 ounces from being placed in either a Collection Box or USPS mail slot. Mail pieces of this type must now be taken to a retail counter so that a postal worker can question the customer directly. If a restricted mail piece is found in a Collection Box, it is returned to the sender with a label attached explaining the restrictions and the reason for its return. 

 

This change in procedure just happened to coincide with a rise in the illegal practice of “fishing.” In other words, the second benefit to the new Collection Boxes is purely coincidental. Fishing started in the New York area and has quickly spread to less urban areas. Hingham experienced this form of mail theft last year where someone takes a water bottle, wraps a string around it, covers it with glue and drops it through the door of a mailbox. They are then able to pull whatever is stuck to the glue back up through the door. "This is not local kids doing this," said USPS Spokesperson Steve Doherty. "These are very organized groups." Steve went on to explain that these groups look for gift cards and checks. "They wash the checks chemically and rewrite them," he said, "and by the time you find out what's going on, they've emptied your account." They also look for any way to steal a person's identity.

The USPS expects that all Collection Boxes across the country will be replaced with the newer ones by the end of the year. Towns that have issues with fishing like Hingham has will get boxes replaced more quickly. The post office on Whiting Street has already been furnished with a new one. These boxes have no doors. Instead, a small slot allows only mail pieces that are under a certain size to be dropped in, and technology within the box prevents the mail from being retrieved. Since Collection Boxes are routinely replaced by the USPS due to regular wear and tear, Steve says that the cost of replacement is not a factor.

Kristen can be reached at kristen@hinghamcurrent.com.