TAMPA, Fla. — Just after 1 a.m. on Thursday, July 21, a couple who lives in Tampa's Eagle Brook neighborhood caught an unexpected visitor on their home surveillance camera.
"It's a black pick-up truck and it comes up to our mailbox and somebody leans out of the truck and opens the mailbox, closes it and they drive on," homeowner Gary Ashbaugh said. "They went to the next house because his video shows them opening his mailbox."
On a nearby street, another home camera also captured the truck stopping at mailboxes.
"It's an invasion of your privacy," Ashbaugh said. "Mail isn't communication like it used to be, but there are things that come in the mail that you really don't need somebody looking at."
Moreover, it's a means for people to steal your personal information or valuable items.
Mail theft appears to be on the rise.
While annual data isn't tracked and reported, a USPS Inspector General audit showed mail theft complaints increased 161% between March 2020 and February 2021.
Tampa's USPS Postal Inspector Damien Kriebel suggests homeowners take precautions to avoid becoming a victim of mail theft.
"The key is to not leave your mail in your mailbox unattended," Kriebel said. "You wouldn't leave your car unlocked with important documents on the front seat and you shouldn't leave documents sitting in an unlocked mailbox either."
If you're out of town, USPS recommends holding mail service or arranging for someone to collect your mail.
Other ways to deter mail theft: deposit mail close to pick-up time, request signature confirmation and don't send hard cash.
"If you want to send funds through the mail, use a check or a money order," Kriebel suggested.
For more tips, click here.