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Ten ways to protect mail, packages this holiday season

With more than 174 million Americans shopping in stores and online over the Thanksgiving weekend, postal services will soon begin dropping off cardboard boxes and envelopes at residents’ homes as the result of Cyber Monday and other holiday purchases.

According to the National Retail Federation, sales – excluding auto, gas and restaurant sales – in the months of November and December are expected to increase by 3.6 to 4 percent, for a total of $678.75 billion to $682 billion, up from $655.8 billion last year.

While many residents are focused on spreading holiday cheer at this time of year, some spend their days looking for unattended packages, while other thieves see a quick opportunity to grab lone boxes.

In an effort to keep the holiday season joyous, United States postal inspection service officials and the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office are offering tips to protect your mail this holiday season. 

Mailing items

• Avoid sending cash by mail. Checks and money orders are safer than cash and may be canceled or reissued in the event of theft.

• Change the package’s address while it’s in transit. Customers who know they won’t be home when their package is delivered can try USPS Package Intercept. Prior to delivery, most domestic package shipments can be redirected back to the sender, to a new address or to the Post Office to be held for pickup.

• Plan ahead and ship using “Hold for Pickup.” When shipping packages, customers can choose the Hold for Pickup option and the recipients can collect the packages at their local post office.

Package delivery services

• UPS has a free service (which can be upgraded to premium for $40 per year) to track and direct package delivery.

• The UPS My Choice free membership includes options to reschedule or reroute a delivery to a UPS store or access point location, request a confirmed two-hour delivery window, provide specific delivery instructions for the UPS driver and set delivery alerts via text message or email.

• The premium service gives customers even more control over their packages, according to the UPS website.

• FedEx gives recipients similar options.

• Online services, such as the website, can help deter thieves.

• If no one is home to pick up a package, consider an alternate shipping address. Customers can arrange to have packages delivered to neighbors who are home during the day or get packages delivered at work, if permitted. Packages left unattended by the front door are inviting to criminals.

• Secure the shipment using USPS Signature Services. Signature Services help ensure the package ends up in the right hands by requiring a signature at the time of delivery.

• Choose the most secure form of delivery. For the most valuable packages, customers can opt for Registered Mail service. Registered Mail receives special handling from the time it’s mailed until it’s delivered, documenting the chain of custody.

• Customers concerned about the security of their mail can consider renting a Post Office Box at their local post office. The mail remains secure within the Post Office, accessible only when using the right key or combination. Many post office lobbies are open 24/7, allowing customers to retrieve mail on their schedule.

At home

• Don’t leave delivered mail and packages unattended. Just as wallets and purses shouldn’t be left on the front seat of an unlocked car overnight, mail and packages shouldn’t be left uncollected in mailboxes or on front porches for any length of time.

• Customize the delivery. If the package doesn’t fit in the mailbox and the customer won’t be home to receive it, the customer can provide delivery instructions online and authorize the carrier to leave it in a specified location. Visit, enter the tracking number and select Delivery Instructions.

• If going out of town, hold mail at the local post office. Instead of risking leaving a package unattended for an extended period of time, customers planning on being away from home for a few days are encouraged to take advantage of the Request Hold Mail service. Letters and packages will be held securely at the local post office until the customers return.

At the mall

• Plan to finish all shopping prior to loading the trunk with packages. Loading your trunk and then returning to the store for additional purchases can be an invitation for criminals to steal your packages

• Keep your vehicle locked at all times, and store any electronics or items of value such as purses, backpacks, gym bags, GPS units, MP3 players, etc. in the trunk or out of plain view

• Take advantage of in-store pickup. While some stores offer free home-delivery for out-of-stock items, around the holidays, it can be more prudent to take advantage of in-store pickup, to avoid the hassle of worrying about package delivery

• Inquire with local stores about pick-up options.