Dangerous Mailings

What steps should be taken if mail leaks an unknown substance?

  1. Don't try to open the mail or handle it further to avoid spreading the suspicious substances.
  2. Isolate the mail piece.
  3. Call Postal Inspectors at 877-876-2455 (press 2).

Scheme Information

Dangerous Mailings

Threatening Letter Scam

Many items can not be sent through the U.S. Mail because they are hazardous and dangerous.


Threatening Letter Scam

Ricin is a powerful, naturally poisonous chemical for which there is no antidote. Symptoms include coughing, difficulty breathing, nausea, fever, weakness, seizures, and heart failure.


Threatening Letter Scam

Poison, explosives, flammable materials, mail bombs and anything that may injure or kill are just a few of what fall into the category of prohibited or dangerous mailings.


There have only been a handful of times in the history of our country when deadly bio-hazardous material has been sent through the mail. It is also important to put this threat into perspective: the odds of ever receiving anything dangerous in the mail are extremely remote. The Postal Service delivers billions of pieces of mail each year and very few dangerous items are mailed. The odds of you randomly receiving something dangerous are one in billions, or about the same chance as you being struck by lightning on the same day you win the lottery.

But the suspicious items still continue to end up in the mailstream. Postal Inspectors have responded to over 53,000 incidents since the anthrax mailings of 2001 – with more than 5,000 in the last two years alone. Experience has shown that most substances or items found in the mail are not hazardous, but rather unknown -- there are characteristics about the item that create uncertainty. If a package does cause suspicion, you can usually verify these mailings simply by contacting the sender of the package to verify the contents. Or call the Postal Inspectors if you still have a concern.