Your private information can be very vulnerable to thieves. A post office insider tells us how easy and common it is to steal your mail and what you can do to protect yourself.
Michael Kataja says he is a victim of mail theft. He lives in Bristol and says the mail isn't the only thing that was stolen.
"I'm the victim of multiple identity theft occurrences," Kataja said.
He says its happened 3 times. Each time, Kataja says a valuable piece of mail was never inside his locked mailbox.
"A new card was delivered. I never got it and it was used locally to buy some equipment or whatever they bought," said Kataja.
Recently, $4800.00 was racked up in Kataja's name. The money was charged to a Sears credit card he never received in the mail.
"Somebody is grabbing my credit information or credit cards through the mail and using them at local stores or lines of credit in my name," said Kataja.
He tells NBC Connecticut there are only 2 keys to his mailbox. He has one and the postman the other. He worries someone in the postal system is to blame.
"If my mail is being stolen before I get it from a locked mailbox, the post office could be the source," Kataja said.
The problem of stolen mail is bigger than you might realize. Numbers from the US Postal Service's "Office of the Inspector General" show cases of internal mail theft appear to be on the rise again. In 2010, 1,433 cases were reported. In 2011, that number dropped to 1,288 cases. But as of August 1st of this year, USPS says 1,251 cases have already been reported. USPS says all numbers are based on a fiscal year that ends September 30th.
Bernie Berube is a retired postal worker who tells NBC Connecticut mail theft certainly happens and it's easy to get away with.
"It's easy to spot credit cards and valuables. You've seem so many of them coming through the mail and you don't have to see where it's going. You just look at the return address," said Berube.
He says holiday cards are the easiest to target.
"The cards are easy to spot because they are different colors. Just run your thumbnail down the edge of the envelope and it splits open. Within a matter of seconds it's all done," Berube said.
According to numbers though, postal worker arrests are rare. The agency reported only 383 arrests out of more than 580,000 employees in 2011. In a statement emailed to the NBC Connecticut Troubleshooters, the USPS says "the vast majority of postal personnel are dedicated, hard-working, public servants whose daily efforts instill trust in America's postal system."
But Kataja says he's not convinced and filed a police report. He tells NBC Connecticut that officers are not checking store surveillance video from the day charges were racked up on his stolen credit card.
Meanwhile, the Better Business Bureau has several ways to safeguard your valuables and credit information in the mail. One of the first is to opt-out of prescreened credit card offers. To do that, just go to optoutprescreen.com or call 888-567-8688. The BBB recommends getting a proof of receipt for valuables or insurance. You can consider delivery confirmation for packages. Try and stay away from brightly colored envelopes during the holidays. Finally, if you think you're a victim, you should contact the postal inspector immediately.