Beware of outgoing mail

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Beware of outgoing mail

When most of us think of criminals using the postal system, we generally think of incoming mail being a concern. Organizations have been spending a great deal of time, effort, and money to identify incoming packages that might contain explosives or biological weapons. This has opened up the possibility of a risk that has been overlooked by some mail departments: Outgoing mail. Well, returned outgoing mail, that is to say.

If you drop a package into a public mailbox, and it weighs more than 16 ounces, there is an increasingly great probability that the package will not be delivered. Rather, it will be slapped with a sticker saying it needs to be handed to a live postal worker at a post office, and then returned to whatever entity is listed on the return address as the sender.

A package weighing over 16 ounces is not suspiciously large. It can be a relatively full Priority Mail cardboard envelope. And, in truth, mail gets returned fairly frequently for a variety of innocent reasons (such as being misaddressed or lacking sufficient postage). So what happens when a small returned package hits your mailroom? If it has your company’s return label, is your mail department suspicious? If it has a valid company label but no person’s name on it, is it opened to see who sent it? If it does have a name typed on the corporate label, will it be returned to that person’s office?

From the criminal perspective, co-opting the Postal Service in this way – making the USPS the unwitting participant in a crime – is qualitatively different from merely using them as the carrier of the package, and doubles the chances of success. Either the package is delivered, in which case the receiver needs to analyze the relative danger or innocence of the package, or it will now be returned, in which case the putative sender has to analyze its relative danger or innocence – something that most don’t think about. In either case, it is another factor that needs to be considered, and policy on this issue needs to be put in place within your organization.

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