Postal Mailboxes - What Privacy Experts Recommend
Updated: Oct 1
An address is a pivotal piece of information all of us are asked for from day-to-day. We use addresses to receive important mail through the postal system, regardless of which country we are from. It is also used on important documents such as our drivers license, asked for from our banks, car insurance companies, and for many other transactional matters. Learn more on what service we recommend to our USA based clients for establishing a mail drop to aid with their privacy.
Table of Contents
History of The Postal System
I understand you aren't here for a history lesson, and if you care to skip to the next subtitle, you can do so by clicking here. If you are interested, here is a brief overview.
The history of the world's postal system is a fascinating journey that spans thousands of years and has played a crucial role in communication, trade, and the spread of information. Here is an overview of the key developments in the evolution of postal systems across different civilizations:
Ancient Postal Systems:
Egypt: One of the earliest recorded postal systems dates back to ancient Egypt, around 2000 BCE. Pharaohs established a network of couriers to relay messages and documents across the kingdom.
Persia: The Achaemenid Empire, under King Cyrus the Great, introduced a postal system known as the "Royal Road" around 500 BCE. This extensive network of roads and relay stations allowed for rapid communication and transportation.
Roman Postal System:
The Roman Empire is famous for its efficient postal system, known as the "Cursus Publicus," established during the reign of Emperor Augustus. It featured a network of roads, relay stations (mutationes), and messengers (tabellarii) to carry official documents and messages across the vast empire.
Medieval Postal Systems:
Byzantine Empire: The Byzantines maintained a postal system that inherited elements from the Roman system. Couriers and relay stations facilitated communication across their empire.
Islamic Caliphates: During the Islamic Golden Age, the caliphates developed a sophisticated postal system, employing messengers (barid) and camel caravans to ensure communication across their vast territories.
European Postal Systems:
The medieval European postal systems were often fragmented and localized, with various monarchs and city-states establishing their own courier services.
The 15th century saw the introduction of postal routes known as "post roads" in some European regions. Notable developments included the establishment of postal services in Spain (Correos), England (Royal Mail), and France (La Poste).
Modern Postal Systems:
The 19th century witnessed significant advancements in postal services worldwide. The introduction of postage stamps, standardized rates, and postal reforms in countries like Britain, the United States, and Germany helped shape modern postal systems.
The Universal Postal Union (UPU), established in 1874, played a pivotal role in harmonizing international postal services by establishing rules and guidelines for cross-border mail.
The invention of the telegraph and telephone in the 19th century revolutionized long-distance communication, but postal services continued to thrive by adapting to new technologies.
The 20th century brought further innovations, such as airmail, zip codes, and the introduction of electronic mail (email) in the latter half of the century.
In the 21st century, the postal system has continued to evolve with the advent of digital communication. Traditional mail services have faced challenges from electronic communication, but they have adapted by offering package delivery, e-commerce services, and enhanced tracking capabilities.
Also, the modern digital postal system, makes privacy more possible than ever, and we will share more on how to do that.
Postal Systems Differ Worldwide
First, let's establish that postal systems are not all equal. Specifically, the United States has had an incredible postal system. Don't agree? Go to many Asian countries, where it is all but non-existent. So yes, the USA postal system is good, and so are many other countries.
Since there are so many variations, it is not this authors intent to speak about them all, but to speak how someone may use a USA based mailing address to remain private. We do help clients in other countries obtain similar services, and in future material we may share some of those tips. However, you can still understand and apply this material to where you live.
What Is a Postal Mailbox
In the United States, a postal mailbox typically refers to a secure container or receptacle provided by the United States Postal Service (USPS) or a private mailbox provider where individuals and businesses can receive and collect their mail. These mailboxes serve as a designated location for receiving letters, packages, and other mail items.
There are several types of postal mailboxes in the USA:
These are mailboxes that individuals or families have at their residences or homes. They are usually mail slots or boxes located outside the house or by the front door. The USPS delivers mail directly to these personal mailboxes.
P.O. (Post Office) Boxes are mailboxes located at USPS post office locations. People rent these boxes to receive their mail. They are especially useful for those who want to keep their home addresses private, have a more secure location for mail receipt, or need a stable mailing address if they frequently move.
Many businesses in the USA rent business mailboxes at private mailbox providers or commercial mailbox centers. These offer a professional mailing address separate from the business's physical location, enhancing privacy and professionalism.
Mail and Package Lockers
Some apartment complexes, condominiums, and multi-unit housing developments have centralized mail and package locker systems. These lockers provide a secure and convenient way for residents to receive mail and packages.
Mail Forwarding Services
Private mailbox providers often offer mail forwarding services. Customers can have their mail sent to a private mailbox, and the provider will forward it to their specified address, whether it's a home, business, or another location.
Virtual mailbox services are a modern twist on traditional mailbox services. They allow users to view and manage their mail online. Users can request mail forwarding, scanning, or shredding of physical mail items.
In some residential developments and communities, you might find cluster mailboxes provided by the USPS. These are centralized mailbox units that serve multiple households in a neighborhood or apartment complex.
It's important to note that the USPS is the primary postal service provider in the United States, and they regulate the use of mailboxes. Mail deposited into or removed from mailboxes is considered federal property, and tampering with mailboxes or mail is a federal offense.
Whether it's a personal mailbox at home, a P.O. Box at the post office, or a business mailbox, these postal mailboxes in the USA are essential for receiving and managing mail and packages efficiently and securely.
What Is a Commercial Mail Receiving Agent (CMRA)
A Commercial Mail Receiving Agent (CMRA) is a private business or service provider authorized by the United States Postal Service (USPS) to receive and manage mail on behalf of individuals, businesses, and organizations. CMRAs offer mailbox services to customers, often in the form of mailboxes at a commercial address, where clients can receive and process their mail. These services are particularly beneficial for those who require a professional mailing address, privacy, and mail management assistance.
Key aspects of Commercial Mail Receiving Agents (CMRAs) include:
Professional Mailing Address
CMRAs provide customers with a commercial mailing address that typically includes a suite or unit number. This address can be used by businesses and individuals for receiving mail and packages.
CMRAs accept mail and packages on behalf of their clients. USPS and other carriers deliver mail and parcels to the CMRA's address, and the CMRA receives and signs for them.
Many CMRAs offer mail forwarding services. Customers can request that their received mail and packages be forwarded to another address, such as a home address or a temporary location. This is particularly useful for businesses with multiple locations or individuals who frequently move.
CMRAs can hold mail items for their clients, allowing customers to pick up their mail at their convenience. This service is valuable for individuals who may be away from their primary address for extended periods.
Some CMRAs offer mail scanning services, where they can scan the contents of received mail and email digital copies to the client. This is useful for clients who want to view their mail remotely.
Many CMRAs notify clients when they receive mail or packages. Notifications may be sent via email or other communication methods, alerting clients to the arrival of new mail.
CMRAs offer an added layer of privacy, as the customer's personal address is kept confidential. This can be important for individuals and businesses that wish to maintain their privacy or separate their business and personal mail.
Compliance with USPS Regulations
CMRAs must adhere to USPS regulations and guidelines to ensure the proper handling of mail. These regulations help safeguard the security and integrity of the postal system.
CMRAs are commonly used by various entities, including businesses, travelers, digital nomads, expatriates, and individuals who value the convenience and flexibility these services offer. It's essential to choose a reputable CMRA that complies with USPS regulations and provides the specific services needed by the customer.
What USA Based Mailbox Service Does Our Privacy Consultancy Recommend
If you can't wait, and yes, we'd like you to continue reading so that you understand the features and benefits of our recommendation, but if you are anxious to get started getting your own private postal mailbox, just click the link to be taken to our recommendation. In the interest of transparency, we do receive a referral commission for you using our link. We think the service is the best out there, however, you are free to go to Traveling Mailbox on your own. You don't pay extra because we refer you. In fact you can sign up and get two months free with a year commitment and just pay 10 months worth now.
Our referral is based on our clients and our own personal experience. It is just an excellent service out of 5 companies we tested this year. More on that to come.
We Refer Clients To Traveling Mailbox For Greater Privacy With Their Mail
We have freely referred clients to the postal mailbox for privacy. Why do so many prefer this service in particular? Because it is feature rich. We all need features and benefits to any service we pay for, and they deliver in spades.
We will share the benefits of a postal mailbox within this article.
How A Postal Mailbox Keeps You Private
Most people reading this understand that if you are not using your home address for any mail, then by virtue of omitting this address, and using a postal mail box, you will have greater privacy.
Traditionally, we all have had mail sent to our homes. Why is this? Because it is how we grew up. The postal carrier delivered good and bad, and it seems, as a child, that it was exciting to go to the mailbox and collect the mail. Getting mail at home is convenient and for Americans, receiving our mail at home is traditional.
We say that to say, that it is more inconvenient to deal with a breach in your personal privacy and security by using a home address than to use what some may consider to be an inconvenient tool such as a postal mailbox.
Postal mailboxes keep your home address private. Mostly, no stranger needs to know where you live, or connect your name to your home address. Also, leaving mail at the mailbox these days makes people a victim of theft and even fraud.
What Mail Should You Have Sent To Your Postal Mailbox
A good question sometimes asked of our agency when we help our clients establish new addresses is: "What mail should I send to my new postal mailbox?" The answer might not surprise you.
This does not mean some companies will not know your home address. Take for example auto insurance. They always ask where your car is kept. This helps them determine risks and write policies. We have advanced techniques in this arena, and if you would like to arrange a consultation, you can do so here.
When we say to use your postal mailbox for everything, we mean it. This means use it for your your electric bill (yes they will know your service address, but the bill will come to your mailing address), letters from Aunt Edna, your credit card bills, etc. You get the idea.
Do not use your home address for mail, except for when absolutely necessary, and even then it may not be necessary. We can help you with that.
The Features of Traveling Mailbox and Some Other Mailbox CMRA's
Right. So now let's get on to the features. Frankly, the features of Traveling Mailbox far outweigh over two decades of using other services. They have more features than you can shake a stick at (where did that idiom come from?).
Here are a few you will appreciate:
Open and Scan Request the contents of your mail to be scanned and view them in PDF Format. The outside of your envelope is automatically scanned, but the contents can be requested quickly and easily. If something is top secret, just have the intact envelope sent to you.
Mail Forwarding Keep your digital scans forever in your account and get the physical copies delivered to you anywhere in the world. Yes, it costs extra, but how many times a year will you really need to have your mail forwarded to you? Not much, I bet.
Integrations Although we don't recommend this from a privacy point of view, you can send your PDF’s to services like Evernote, Bill.com, Google Drive, and Dropbox with their Integrations. Other services have some similar integrations, but they seem to have more options.
Email & Push Notifications Email and/or Push Notifications are available each time you receive new mail and when a task is completed. We suggest that our clients have notifications sent to your secure email using an email alias. We can assist you with this.
Unlimited Cloud Storage Your scanned Envelope and PDF images and stored securely in your online mailbox for free until you delete them. Some services have limits on this. Traveling Mailbox does not.
Shipping Discounts Most companies will offer discounted rates over counter services on shipping your mail to you, or other packages. Traveling Mailbox seems to have very fair prices.
Mobile App Access your Traveling Mailbox via our Apps on Android and iOS or use their mobile site.
Parcel Forwarding Receive packages from companies like Amazon and have them forwarded to you anywhere. This one can get pricey, but it may be good for occasional use.
Virtual Office This is a great service. You don't have to have your mail postmarked from your locale. Have your mailbox service mail Letters and Send/Receive Faxes directly from your Traveling Mailbox.
Check Deposit Services Receive a check in the mail? They will mail your checks directly to your bank to be deposited! This takes a little extra time and cost a little more, but again, this directly aids your privacy in a big way, although most of us do not receive checks very often. But it is good to know you can have this service.
Quick Document Scanning
This is a terrific option. Once you receive a notification of new mail, they have something called QuickScan, you can receive the contents of your envelopes within minutes. But, bear in mind they have a time window and it is not 7 days a week.
Folders Don't loose track of your mail. Organize and sort your mail into various folders so you can keep your mail organized.
No Junk! You can mark items as junk in your online mailbox and have the service shred them on site for no charge.
Customer Service Outstanding customer service. Traveling Mailbox offers Live Customer Support available via Phone, Live Chat and Email 7 days a week. This is another strong area in which they surpass many other mailbox services.
Right, so now you can see why we recommend Traveling Mailbox. Some of the other services claim at least some of these, but in our testing we were not pleased with the continuity of the services, and feel that this company's execution is excellent.
The Cost Of A Postal Mailbox Cost
The cost will vary. We have found that the ones that have the $9.95 per month prices, but fail to provide consistent services and have all the features that Traveling Mailbox offers.
Traveling Mailbox has an interesting way of processing mail. For around $15 per month (they have excellent annual plans) you get their basic service and will receive an address in North Carolina. Even if you choose a premium location such as Los Angeles at around $20 per month all mail goes to the facility in NC for processing.
Don't be dismayed. This is great for security and privacy. Their North Carolina facility is in a nondescript building with robust security. The inside of their facility is under video surveillance to ensure there is no funny business with the mail.
Privacy and Security Considerations For Postal Mailboxes
Using a mailbox say in New Mexico, but having that mail sent to North Carolina helps with anonymity. When your mail arrives at the, say, New Mexico address, and then quickly forwarded to North Carolina, means your mail does not stay at that address it was sent to. It is taken out of a so-so secure mailing address, and sent to their ultra secure location for processing. The sender believes that your mail is going to New Mexico, and it has. They may believe that is where you reside. All the while you live in Texas, and no one is the wiser.
We can share a lot more about these advantages, but suffice it to say we professionally recommend this way of mail hopping to your privacy advantage.
Considerations When Using a Postal Mailbox
Let's talk for a brief moment on what you should consider when using a postal mailbox.
First, it won't nearly be as convenient as walking out your front door to the box. That is, until you get used to the postal mailbox and using the technology to your advantage.
Second, there is going to be a delay. If you live in Wisconsin, and your mail is set up in Wyoming, your mail that is local will go to Wyoming then to North Carolina. If there is a piece of mail you must have in your possession such as a bank card, not only is there the time to send it to NC (around 3 days) there is the time to scan it (same day) and then mail it out to you. You will be adding time.
You will be trading time for greater anonymity and security. It is just something you need to plan for and get accustomed to.
USPS Form 1583
United States Postal Service (USPS) Form 1583 allows the Commercial Mail Receiving Agent to do their job under the laws of the USPS. This is something you must complete honestly as it is a Federal form. Yes, if your old address is still on your drivers license (as you will need to show ID) then that is even better, and okay. There is no way that you can get around USPS Form 1583. At least, there is no way with this particular service. We do work with another company that does not require this, but that is an option we can discuss during a consultation.
However, you should not overly worry about completing USPS Form 1583. It is kept on file with Traveling Mailbox or any other service you use.
You should know, that you must appear on video in order to obtain the clearance of the Form. This is done with one of a couple people Traveling Mailbox uses in-house to do this. It is easy, convenient and takes just a few minutes. Did I mention it is also free? Yes, while other companies make you use an online notary service at the cost of $25, they have their own staff that can certify the Form for zero cost to you.
The only downside is additional time should you need to receive the actual piece of mail to your home address.
You gain loads of privacy and anonymity. You can add a spouse, another household member, a business partner, or a business name as well when you sign up for a postal mailbox with Traveling Mailbox.
Don't sign up if you aren't going to discipline yourself to start using a postal mailbox. It has many benefits, and really little downsides. Yes, it cost money, and yes it will take a little longer to receive physical pieces of mail, but you will sleep better at night knowing that where you lay your head is a bit more private and secure.
If we can assist you, get in touch by going to our contact page.