Small Business Questions & Answers


Filed under Running Your Business

Ask About Suspicious Mail

by Mailroom Maven | May 24, 2012

Subject :Security and Risk Management

Dear Toolkit,

Do you have any down-home advice about how to deal with the escalating mail threats we keep hearing about?


Mailroom Maven

Dear Ms. Mailroom Maven,

I think the FBI web site has the best advice. You can use their list for your suspicious mail (and also for your next blind date.)

Here's what they suggest:

  • Handle with care; don't shake or bump
  • Isolate and look for indicators
  • Don't open, smell or taste
  • Treat it as Suspect! Call 911

But seriously, the FBI site offers very good information on its site and admonishes you to look for some of the following indicators:

  • misspelled words in the address
  • a foreign postmark
  • excessive postage
  • lack of a return address
  • title only or wrong title
  • restrictive markings such as "Personal" or "Confidential"
  • strange odor or stains
  • excessive tape or string
  • and one that really tantalizes me. . .protruding wires!

The U.S. Post Service also has similar tips on its site.

In addition to the items on the FBI's laundry list, the USPS suggests you beware of mail that:

  • has a postmark that doesn't match the return address
  • is handwritten or poorly typed
  • comes from someone you don't know or perhaps from someone no longer with your organization

The postal service site also has extensive instructions on how to handle mail from which suspicious substances have leaked out.

As you can see, handling mail in these troubled times calls for the same skill that got you this far in life, namely plain old common sense!