Did someone ever say they sent you something, perhaps a birthday card, that you never received in the mail? Well it's happened to me twice in the past couple of months.

When I moved to my most recent address and changed it online with the US Postal Service, I was given the option of receiving emails each day with photos showing what was to be delivered into my mailbox that day.

I thought this was pretty cool...to know which mail is arriving is kind of nifty, complete with a photo that has been taken of it so that I even know what the envelope looks like.

So...I thought for sure that would mean that the items I was told I would receive, and shown I would receive, would indeed be received.

But no.

The first time it happened I thought: Well maybe the letter (in a personalized envelope -- a birthday card for my son) somehow must have just gotten caught up inside the flyers and newspaper coupon mailers and accidentally thrown out.

Except that it just happened for a second time. I received an email showing the mail I was to receive last Friday and it included a birthday card-sized envelope, again personally addressed in handwriting, from a friend whose return address was on the envelope.

So I was excited to open this when it arrived to see what was inside. After all, when your family and friends surprise you with a special card, perhaps also a few bucks for your kids' birthdays or a gift card inside, it's great fun to unexpectedly get this in the mail.

Until it doesn't arrive. Then it's not so exciting. In fact, it's downright frustrating and unfair. It's wrong. It's meant to be yours. But it has been stolen before it has gotten to you.

I recently had a conversation with someone who is investigating these types of crimes who told me some things that I found shocking.

First of all, even among local towns, if you mail a letter from, say, Fair Haven and it's going just down the street to, say, Red Bank, all of that 'local' mail still gets shipped to a facility up north to be sorted and then sent back (so it doesn't stay local.) That's also where it's photographed in case you're one of those signed up for postal emails informing you of what mail you will be receiving that day.

Problem is, there are some bad people out there. And although most of our wonderful postal employees are trustworthy, there are, literally, gang members and other not-so-nice people out there who are using bribery to steal hundreds (if not thousands) of envelopes which look like they could contain cash, gift cards, or credit cards before they can be delivered to your mailbox.

Turns out this is a giant, illegal type of operation. And there's not much that can be done about it unless the bad guys are caught.

Many times, especially if it involves something like a birthday card, you won't even have known that someone had sent you a card and gift, especially if you don't have the email notification service showing you a photo of it and telling you it should be arriving in your mailbox. So these thefts can go unnoticed.

P.S. Nothing in my casual conversation with the investigator who told me about this is official, so I can't quote sources, but I just thought I'd pass along this very frustrating conversation in case this has also happened to you.

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