USPS has a service called Informed Delivery, which sends you pictures of incoming mail every day. The service is 100% free. This is useful when you are expecting mail or when you are traveling. When you sign up for the service, you will get a grayscale image of your mail a few days before it shows up in your mailbox.
Works for residential addresses and PO Boxes
Informed Delivery works for both residential addresses and PO boxes. If you have a PO box, signing up for the service will save you unnecessary trips to the post office or the mailbox location. Informed Delivery service was first introduced in 2014 and is now used by more than 15 million Americans.
Verifying your identity
When you sign up for the residential Informed Delivery service, USPS will verify your identity online before enrolling you in the service. For PO boxes, USPS will send a letter to the PO box with a random code to complete the signup process. You can include both a residential address and PO box in the same account.
How USPS gets pictures of your mail
USPS routinely runs mail through its automated sorting equipment, which is able to capture digital images of the mail. The Informed Delivery service sends you those images via email. USPS only sends you pictures of the first 10 pieces of mail through email, the rest can be viewed on your USPS dashboard.
Some mail such as catalogs and magazines are not processed through automated sorting equipment. Pictures of such mail are not included in the service. For some packages, you can add delivery instructions (eg. where to leave the package).
Understand the risks
While the Informed Delivery service is convenient, there are a few things you need to be aware of. When signing up for the service, USPS asks several questions as part of its knowledge-based authentication (eg. where did you live previously or the name of the school you attended). These are generic questions for which hackers can find answers to using your social media profiles. Hackers can then sign up for an account and see images of all your incoming mail. To address this problem, USPS offers an option to opt out so that no one else can sign up for an account using your address.