As the nation struggled with containing the fast-paced coronavirus outbreak, instances of pandemic-related mail theft and mail fraud were also spreading. Indeed, over the course of a year, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service (USPIS) received 339,747 complaints of mail fraud and mail theft, leading the agency to open 753 mail fraud cases — an increase of 170 cases (29 percent) over the prior 12 months — and 1,090 mail theft cases — a decrease of 49 cases (4 percent) over the prior 12 months. Of these, 277 cases were specifically related to the pandemic.
Seven members of Congress asked us to identify what actions USPIS had taken in response. We found the Postal Inspection Service took appropriate action. In March 2020, it established four areas of concentration to combat pandemic-related mail theft/fraud:
- Economic Impact Payment Protection and Theft
- COVID-19 Consumer Fraud
- Hoarding and Price Gouging
- Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act Fraud
USPIS also coordinated with other law enforcement agencies to ensure a high level of protection against any of these scams and took steps to protect its workforce. Overall, it was a robust response, details of which are available in our report, U.S. Postal Inspection Service Pandemic Response to Mail Fraud and Mail Theft.
We also found opportunities for USPIS to document best practices for use in future health crises and also improve the accuracy of customer complaint data. We made two recommendations to address issues we identified, and management agreed with both.
The Postal Inspection Service investigates mail fraud or theft by non-USPS employees. The OIG investigates fraud or theft by USPS employees or contractors.