Individuals found guilty of mail theft can be fined up to $2,000 or imprisoned for a period up to five years or both, according to the Cornell University Law School Legal Information Institute. Anyone who obtains or attempts to obtain mail from any source illegally is subject to the penalty, states USLegal.
The 18 U.S Code, statute 1708 defines a mail theft offender as anyone who uses fraud, deception or stealing to obtain any mail matter, such as a package, bag, postal card, letter or any article or thing contained therein from any authorized route, carrier or mail depository, notes Cornell. The description also covers anyone who buys, conceals, destroys or unlawfully possesses such mail knowing it was obtained illegally. Under U.S. federal law, any theft or receipt of stolen mail is a felony, irrespective of the monetary value of the item in question.
Mail theft is reported as the leading white-collar crime in the United States, explains USLegal. Reasons for mail theft include obtaining Social Security numbers, bank statements, checks, credit cards and personal information for criminal purposes. Mail theft can be prevented by not leaving mail in the mailbox for a long period and immediately notifying the post office and other correspondents of any mail address change.