Even though it’s only been high profile people who have been targeted in the recent mail attacks, it still pays to be cautious. How can someone tell if a package is suspicious and what should you do if you receive one?
A staggering 150 billion pieces of mail move through the U.S. Postal System each year, including nearly 6 billion packages.
Postal inspectors say there are certain tell all signs of suspicious packages.
- Often lopsided with an irregular shape
- Sometimes with protruding wires, aluminum foil or stains
- Suspects often use excessive postage to avoid going inside the post office
- Their handwriting is often distorted
- Return address is often fake
While the postal service has systems to detect explosives or bio-chemical agents, it can be like a needle in a haystack.
The Secret Service screens the mail for anyone receiving protection, including former Presidents.
Capitol police screen mail for members of Congress. And since 9/11, many corporations, including media companies, have x-rayed their own mail.
But most American families and small businesses are on their own to watch for suspect packages.
“This is really going to come down to people being aware of their surroundings, what are they expecting and what they aren’t expecting,” said Charles Marino, a former Secret Service agent.
If it doesn’t look right, isolate the package, evacuate and call police.
Retired U.S. Secret Service Agent Gerald Cole says there are ways to track the sender.
“DNA can be on the envelope; saliva, maybe a nail, maybe a hair. As fingerprint people, we would examine the envelope and every component,” said Cole.
The important thing to remember is to not open the package, smell it or taste it. Clear the area, call 911, shut down all electronic equipment and wash your hands with soap and water.