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On Your Side Alert: Crooks targeting holiday packages

Published: Dec. 12, 2014 at 4:25 PM EST|Updated: Dec. 24, 2014 at 8:33 PM EST
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Crooks could be trolling in your neighborhood this holiday season. Postal Inspectors say they're after your holiday packages.

It's exciting to get a package in the mail, but this holiday season your house and your delivery could be the perfect target for thieves. Postal Inspector Michael Romano is reminding the public to protect their mail. "They are crimes of opportunity and in some situations, we are able to track down the criminal who is doing this," Romano said.

Millions of packages are shipped and criminals know someone will let their guard down. That's disappointing for you, but a holiday wish for the thieves. Romano says savvy consumers have caught on to the deception and some have taken steps to fight back. "We have heard cases where people have used tracking devices in their mail, we've heard of case where people put cameras out by the mailbox to catch the thieves," he said.

On its website, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service offers safety tips and ways to report mail theft. Inspectors advise creating a neighborhood watch program to let neighbors know when you're expecting a package. Another tip is to tell the Post Office when you'll be out of town so they can hold your mail until you return.

Romano says if you are the shipping the package, you can also help prevent theft. He says when you are sending the item, make sure it's properly sealed so crooks won't have easy access. "They might have guised themselves as delivering papers or fliers or something like that to your front doorstep. So, if the seams aren't sealed properly, it might give them enough time to reach in the box, get something out but yet leave the box," Romano explains.

Another great idea, get signature confirmation -- which means if no one is at home, carriers won't drop off the package. Inspector Romano says if the crooks are caught they face stiff penalty. "Your mail is protected under a federal statute and it's up to five years in prison for a count of mail theft," he says.

If you see a mail thief at work, or if you believe your mail was stolen, call police immediately, then call Postal Inspectors at 877-876-2455 (press 3). You can visit the United States Postal Inspection Service by clicking here.

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