The US Postal Service will email you photos of your mail before it’s delivered

Check the mail before it arrives.
Check the mail before it arrives.
Image: Reuters/Lucy Nicholson
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Snail mail is rarely the stuff of breaking news. This week, however, suspicious packages were delivered to the CNN newsroom and to prominent Democratic politicians and party supporters, making this old-timey communication method suddenly relevant.

For those in the US now concerned about the contents of their mailboxes, rest assured. There is a way to check that whatever is delivered to you is safe and familiar. The United States Postal Service (USPS) has a free system that will email you images of your physical mail before it reaches you, called “Informed Delivery.”

The system is free and offers a number of conveniences, apart from the ability to screen incoming mail. “Digitally preview your mail and manage your packages scheduled to arrive soon! Informed Delivery allows you to view greyscale images of the exterior, address side of letter-sized mailpieces and track packages in one convenient location,” according to the USPS website. You can also leave instructions if you won’t be home for a delivery, reschedule deliveries, and set up notifications so that you’re aware of what mail is coming when.

The service does have limitations. For one, it seems that not every zip code qualifies, though there is a handy search tool that allows you to check if yours does before you sign up. And images of your mail will only be sent for letter-sized mail processed through USPS’ automated equipment, according to the postal service.

Signing up is pretty simple. It took me exactly three minutes to create an account, provide my address and email, create a password, and answer two security questions. You can also opt to verify your identity as part of the process.

As I was doing this, it so happens, a USPS special delivery person was knocking on my neighbor’s door with mail to deliver. So, I stepped outside to find out how a postal worker is feeling about mail right now. Her answer was heartening. “I’m not scared,” Leticia Johnson, of USPS in Sarasota, Florida said.