Top Indicators of Dangerous Mail


If a dangerous package landed on your desk, how would you know?

If you don’t know the indicators for potentially threatening mail, you may be putting yourself and your organization at risk.

“There are no guarantees that even the best mail screening technologies and procedures will identify all potential threats before a letter or package arrives at the desk of the intended recipient.  Therefore, all employees, not just mail center personnel, should be trained to recognize suspicious mail and packages….”

— U.S. Department of Homeland Security

Visual inspection can be your first line of defense. Do you know what to look for?

First and foremost, follow your instincts. If you are concerned about a package, don’t open it.

Otherwise, below is a helpful list with some of the top signs that a piece of mail or a package is potentially threatening.

The Top 14 Indicators of Dangerous Mail Include:

  1. Excessive postage
  2. Postmarks that do not match return addresses
  3. Misspelled common words
  4. No return address or strange return address
  5. Unusual addressing, such as not being addressed to a specific person or
  6. The use of incorrect titles or titles with no name
  7. Restrictive markings, such as “personal,” “confidential,” or “do not x-ray”
  8. Badly typed or written
  9. Powdery substances felt through or appearing on the item
  10. Oily stains or discolorations on the exterior
  11. Strange odor
  12. Excessive packaging material, like tape or string
  13. Lopsided, bulky shape or unusually heavy envelopes or boxes
  14. Ticking sounds, protruding wires, exposed aluminum foil

Remember, always contact the proper authorities if you suspect a mail security threat.

Basic steps for Mailroom Safety include:

  • Put a plan in writing
  • Install the correct sensor equipment
  • Train employees
  • Run practice drills

If this is not possible, consider outsourcing mail screening to a third party or sending mail to a third party screening facility. Read more about SoBran’s offsite screening services.

As always, I appreciate your comments.