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Posted: Only mail allowed in, on mail boxes

By Nancy Shuffleton

It is against federal law to leave a flier on, in or connected to a curbside mailbox.

If you have a curbside mailbox, you probably receive dozens of papers and brochures each year about political candidates; various causes; school district or town warrant articles; missing pets; or businesses such as house painting, driveway sealing, landscaping or water quality measuring. They come stuffed under your mailbox flag, jammed into the door clasp or sometimes actually placed inside the mailbox. Often they flutter around neighborhoods for days when the wind dislodges them. Sometimes even well-meaning neighbors leave a lost glove or a borrowed book in or on a mailbox.

The fact is, these common practices are against federal postal regulations.

According to statutes posted on the U.S. Postal Service Web site,, mail "receptacles" are to be "used only for matter bearing postage ... no part of a mail receptacle may be used to deliver any matter not bearing postage, including items or matter placed upon, supported by, attached to, hung from or inserted into a mail receptacle. Any material not bearing postage and found as described above is subject to the same postage as would be paid if it were carried by mail."

There are exceptions covering newspaper receptacles, but newspapers must follow specific rules regarding the placement and attachment of their delivery tubes.

According to Kathi Roy, communication specialist for the New Hampshire?ermont district of the Postal Service and a former postmaster, there have been "private express statues on the books for over 200 years that say the United States Postal Service is the only postal service allowed to deliver mail to mailboxes, an exclusive right."

Roy explained that there are both civil and criminal laws governing the use of mailboxes, and violators are subject to federal prosecution and significant fines, in addition to postage due.

It is a violation of federal postal statues to place anything on or in a curbside mailbox unless it has gone through the post office.

Roy said that residents should contact their local postmaster to report violations, although "carriers are instructed to take the pieces to the post office."

The postage - defined by the post office as payment for delivery service by stamp, permit imprint or meter impression - lost through this practice adds up. For one modestly sized subdivision of 100 homes, that represents $37 lost per flier, which, multiplied by a modest dozen fliers per year, adds up to more than $400. Add all the curbside mailboxes in the country and that's significant money that is not flowing through the more than 38,000 post offices across the country and, ultimately, is contributing to the increases in the cost of postage stamps.

Roy said it can also be "very costly to the (offending) customer," both because of the potential for fines and postage due, and because of the potential for having their fliers seized, meaning they don't get to the intended audience.

"They are taking the chance that the people they are trying to reach will not get them," she said.

Roy emphasized that the post office is "customer-service oriented" and, therefore, usually contacts the offender to explain the policy and issue a warning.

She also said that "we try to educate the public" through "publications and external communication," including talking to customers, public service announcements, and posters.

CBI unearths major postal scam

6/4/2005 - IANS - New Delhi: The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has unearthed a major scam in the Indian postal department involving the fraudulent franking of stamps.

CBI officials said the scam was unearthed in Mumbai, and involved tampering with the franking machines leading to a loss of revenue to the postal department. Preliminary investigations reveal a fraud worth Rs3bn ($68.5m). But the actual amount could be much higher, a CBI spokesman said yesterday.

Franking, which involves computerised registration of mail, is an alternative to using postal stamps. "Franking machines use electronic chips that can be replaced when they run out of money value. With each franking, the chips lose value equivalent to the stamp's value," a CBI spokesman said.

When tampered with, these machines stop registering the franking, but money is charged from customers. Therefore, any amount of money can be made without needing to change the chip.

According to the spokesman three bulk mail handlers – those who handle between 100,000 to 300,000 envelops a month – have been named in the case filed by the Mumbai branch of the CBI, in the economic offences wing. Though no arrests have been made so far, officials said they were probing the involvement of high officials and other influential people in the scam.

One postal department official - a public relations inspector from Andheri, Mumbai - has already been suspended in relation to the case. There are 144 authorised postal franking machines in Maharashtra. Mumbai alone has about 125 machines, which are provided to the mail handlers after being authorised by the postal department.

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