Has any of your mail gone missing this year?
An unfortunate nationwide trend could be to blame, impacting your holiday season gifts and checks.
Reports across the country this year tell of thieves stealing mailbox keys, then grabbing checks out of blue mailboxes.
It happened recently to Dorothy Glass, who had a check go missing over the summer.
"We put some in the blue box one time, and it got taken," she said.
David Maimon, a criminal justice professor at Georgia State University, says the problem is getting worse, not better.
"Unfortunately, everything that is deposited in the blue box could end up in the criminals' hands," he said.
His team monitors the number of checks being sold by criminals online, who "wash" the ink off them, then offer the blank checks to the highest bidder.
It started with about 115 checks per week in October 2020.
A year later, he said, he found 300 checks per week offered for sale.
But now it's a crisis, with many more stolen checks up for sale to thieves.
"Nowadays, we're talking about almost 3,000 checks every week," Maimon said.
In most cases, he said, they were stolen from USPS mailboxes by thieves with a key.
Ways to protect your mail
Of course, there are many reasons for delayed or missing mail.
The U.S. Postal Service has warned about staffing shortages at the post office leading to delivery delays that are expected to worsen during the busy holiday season.
So it's more important than ever to stay on top of what you send and receive.
You can do that with the free USPS service "Informed Delivery."
Mark Lancaster no longer worries about what should be arriving or what might have gone missing.
He recently signed up for the program.
"You will start getting daily emails showing what is on the way that day," Lancaster said.
He showed us a bill from Capitol One that corresponded to an image he had received in an email that morning.
In addition, the Postal Service suggests you:
- Never leave mail in a mailbox overnight.
- Deposit mail in blue boxes right before the last pickup time posted.
- Drop checks inside the post office, not in a blue street mailbox.
David Maimon also recommends paying your bills online rather than with paper checks.
Between skipping the blue mailbox and signing up for Informed Delivery, Lancaster sleeps better this holiday season.
"You don't really have any surprises anymore," he said.
That way, you don't waste your money.
Don't Waste Your Money" is a registered trademark of Scripps Media, Inc. ("Scripps").
Like" John Matarese Money on Facebook
Follow John on Instagram @johnmataresemoney
Follow John on Twitter (@JohnMatarese)
For more consumer news and money-saving advice, go to www.dontwasteyourmoney.com.