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Postal feature may protect mail from 'porch pirates' Michel

It's September, not too long before holiday mail and packages start arriving.

For those concerned about "porch pirates" walking off with their packages, the U.S. Postal Service offers a free service to help customers keep track of their mail.

It's called Informed Delivery. When you register online, you get a daily email with scanned images of what will be delivered to your home that day. If it's a package, you'll see the tracking number. 

You can also use the online feature to leave a message for your carrier, perhaps to let them know to leave a package in a specific spot. 

"People who I have heard who really enjoy it are people who are traveling, because they can see what's coming," said Karen Mazurkiewicz, spokesperson for the USPS in western New York.

She said about 60,000 households in greater Rochester use the service, or roughly 13% of the 460,000 residential postal customers whose ZIP codes start with 144, 145, or 146.

Informed Delivery can be useful for security reasons. Maybe you're worried your elderly parents will fall victim to a scam. You can preview their daily mail delivery, with their consent.

It might be helpful for parents, too.

"Somebody told me a great story about their daughter getting a traffic ticket,"  Mazurkiewicz said. "It probably would have gone unnoticed except for it showed up in the Informed Delivery."

Identity thieves also could potentially use this service to try to intercept their target's mail by creating a fraudulent account, but Mazurkiewicz said postal customers will be notified by mail if anyone has registered under their address. While she said she did not have an exact figure, Mazurkiewicz said the fraud cases have been "low."

"If anybody is concerned about that," she explained, "at our website there are ways to either deactivate your account, meaning nobody can sign up for it; that's a proactive thing to do if that's a concern of yours. The second thing is to sign up for it yourself, and that would block anyone else from going in and getting your account."

The Informed Delivery service is currently only available for residential postal customers. Mazurkiewicz says small businesses may be added at some point.

Beth Adams joined WXXI as host of Morning Edition in 2012 after a more than two-decade radio career. She was the longtime host of the WHAM Morning News in Rochester. Her career also took her from radio stations in Elmira, New York, to Miami, Florida.