Q: We don’t have a locking mailbox like you suggest, but we do take advantage of a very useful service offered by the U.S. Postal Service called Informed Daily Delivery Digest. You need to create an account with the Postal Service (which is also very handy for all sorts of things such as creating and paying for shipping labels, requesting package pick-up, buying stamps, and such).
Once you establish an account, you can sign up for the optional Daily Digest service, which provides an email with pictures of the mail that is expected to be delivered to you each day, along with an accounting of any packages expected.
And, if you don’t get a particular mail piece, you let them know that through a single click on a box in the email: “I didn’t receive this piece.”
We have found this service to be very helpful and reassuring in helping you to know that you are receiving the mail pieces that have been sent to you.
It is free, painless, and very useful — how often can that be said for a service of any kind?
D.R., Bainbridge Township
A: This relatively new service from the Postal Service definitely can provide some reassurance to consumers whether they’re getting all of their mail or not.
After testing it for a while, the USPS rolled out Informed Delivery in April 2017. As you said, Informed Delivery provides notification by email every day there is mail delivery. It’s totally free for residential consumers and eligible personal P.O. Boxes, said David Van Allen, spokesman for the northern Ohio and Ohio Valley regions of the USPS. Informed Delivery is not available to business customers.
“It is part of the Postal Service’s digital strategy,” Van Allen said. “This digital integration is changing the relationship American consumers have with their mail. It allows them to connect with their physical mail anytime, anywhere.”
The email you get provides scanned images of the exterior of a letter or postcard. It shows the side with the address, so presumably it would show a return address or you could otherwise tell from the letter who sent it.
The images of your mail are scanned right before it’s transferred to your local post office, Van Allen said. In most cases, you should receive the mail in the next couple of days.
If you want to sign up for Informed Delivery online, you should be prepared to answer questions that are public record type data or would be on your credit file.
When I tried to sign up, it gave me multiple-choice questions about the names of past streets I’ve lived on, and past cities and counties I’ve lived in. Another multiple choice question asked for the last four digits of my Social Security number. Other multiple-choice questions asked about the sale price of my home, the year it was built, my maiden name and a past phone number on file.
I was not able to create my account, most likely because my credit files are frozen with Equifax, TransUnion and Experian. I know the third party service the USPS uses relies, in part, on information that may appear on your credit file. Van Allen said the third party controls the questions asked.
“In some cases, we’ve seen that online identity verification cannot be completed if credit files are frozen,” he said.
The good news, he said, is consumers can go to a participating branch for identity verification when identity cannot be confirmed online.
There has been some criticism of the USPS for using identity verification questions that aren’t terribly secretive. This is even more of an issue following last year’s data breach at Equifax, which resulted in the theft of personal information for half the U.S. adult population. What would keep someone else from creating an account for you and then using those daily email digests to steal important mail from you that could compromise your personal information or finances?
One thing the USPS does as a backstop is send a verification letter to everyone for whom an Informed Delivery account is created.
“This letter contains instructions for disabling any account that a recipient believes may have been created fraudulently,” Van Allen said.
If you have used Informed Delivery, I’d love to hear how it’s been working for you.
To reach Teresa Murray, email email@example.com or call or text 216-316-7064.