Where's my mail? The I-TEAM investigates problems at the post office

Posted at 9:58 PM, Sep 02, 2016

Millions of Americans receive bank statements and bills in the mail, but what would you do if all of a sudden that mail stopped coming and the post office won't tell you where it's going?

A Kenosha woman reached out to Call 4 Action and that's when the TODAY'S TMJ4 I-TEAM got involved.

For years, Delta Hawkins received her mail at the same address, but shortly after she and her husband split, all of her mail vanished.

As it turns out, her mail was being re-routed without her permission, and we uncovered it can happen to anyone, anywhere, anytime.

When Hawkins noticed her mail box was empty day after day in July 2015, she called the Kenosha post office for help.

"They [a post office worker] said that it's probably just a slow mail week," Hawkins said.

Hawkins says she didn't believe that excuse, because she tends to get a lot of mail.

According to Hawkins, a postal worker then told her they believed someone was stealing her mail out of her box, and encouraged her to spend $60 for a post office box and route her mail there.

"I got the post office box and that worked for a while," Hawkins said. "Then last month, all of a sudden my mail is not coming back again."

After not receiving her mail for several weeks, Hawkins went to the post office to complain.

"I know how much mail I'm getting and I'm not getting any," she said.

The "slow mail week" excuse and post office box recommendation didn't solve the mail problems, so Hawkins said a postal worker told her to write her name on her mail box to see if that "solution" would work. As you might imagine, it didn't!

"It's frustrating because they're not even looking for it [my mail]," Hawkins said. "They just keep making it my problem."

Hawkins eventually discovered a "change of address" had been filed without her permission. All of her mail was being routed to a post office box inside a UPS store in Kenosha.

Hawkins said her ex-husband had a box inside that store, and believes she knows exactly where the mail was going.

Postal Inspector Francis Pilon says he has heard of people changing their ex-husband's or ex-wife's mailing address either by accident or on purpose.

"We do realize sometimes it can be a family member that can be vindictive in nature," he said. "It is a federal crime to change somebody's address without them knowing about it. It would be considered mail theft because you're stealing their mail and directing it to a different location."

Pilon says there were more than 700 mail fraud complaints investigated last year across the nation.

Hawkins believes there would be fewer complaints if the postal service made it harder for people to change someone's address without their knowledge.

"For a dollar they change the address online," Hawkins said. "They don't ask for any identification. They don't ask for anything so anybody can go online and use someone else's name and send their mail to Timbuktu."

Pilon adds that while hundreds of complaints may seem like a lot,  millions of "change of address" requests filed last year without any problems.

Shortly after we interviewed Hawkins, a spokesperson for the United States Postal Service sent us an email alerting us that all mail addressed to Hawkins is now being delivered properly to her home.

"The Kenosha Post Office will continue to monitor mail delivery to Ms. Hawkins' address," spokesman Sean Hargadon said. "The Postal Service apologize for any inconvenience Ms. Hawkins may have experienced regarding this issue."

A few days after TODAY'S TMJ4 heard from Hargadon, we learned the local post office in Kenosha has agreed to refund Hawkins the $60 she paid for a post office box she did not need.

We later learned the post office contacted Hawkins and apologized for its "inability to resolve the problem in a timely and professional manner."

After the Officer In Charge at the Kenosha Post Office reviewed Hawkins' case, it was discovered that her issue could have been resolved "the same day" she reported the problem to personnel at the post office.

All the post office needed to do was change Hawkins' address back to where she wanted her mail delivered, and then monitor to see if anyone tries to submit a "change of address" form for her mail again.

Several internal controls were put in place this week to ensure none of Hawkins' mail will get forwarded incorrectly and that all mail addressed to her is delivered to her address on a daily basis.

The Postal Inspector is also investigating this case.

How to solve problems at the post office:

According a spokesperson for the post office, address your concern with a worker at the local post office first. Of course, if that doesn't get resolved in a "timely" manner, contact the Postmaster.

If you suspect mail fraud or mail theft, you should also contact the Postal Inspector.

For more information on how to file a complaint with the Postal Inspector, click here.

If you witness a mail crime being committed, you should contact your local law enforcement agency and file a case report.

Not happy with your experience with a post office worker or their operations?

You can file a complaint online here.

The TODAY'S TMJ4 I-TEAM and CALL 4 ACTION team are committed to helping you! If you have a problem or issue you'd like us to investigate, call us anytime at 967-5556.

To report local scams, please call our CALL 4 ACTION team at 967-5495.