Sending important, confidential documents or money via post can seem pretty daunting for most. This is why certified mail came into being — so you can send the most private matters, securely and with little risk.
But the problem comes when the few risks that are present happen. In these situations, you might be thinking “well, what happens if certified mail is not signed for” and much more. Don’t worry, we get it, so today, we’re going to bust some myths and answer your burning questions relating to certified mail.
Let’s not waste time and get right to it!
What Is Certified Mail?
Certified mail is a postal service created by USPS and other mailing corporations around the world. The sender receives a receipt notifying them when their item has been sent and delivered. Plus, it will tell you when a delivery attempt has been made, even if it wasn’t successful. Pretty neat, huh?
Of course, for this to work, the recipient is required to sign the mailman’s paperwork so the receipt can be sent to you. Otherwise, the whole thing falls apart.
The majority of people tend to get certified mail confused with registered mail. It’s an easy and forgivable mistake but let’s clear things up for you.
Registered and certified mail hands you a receipt upon delivery but the key difference is the in-depth tracking feature. Only registered mail allows you to track your letter, package, or parcel throughout its entire journey. It gives you an extra, thicker security blanket (but yes, this does come with a heftier price tag).
Does everything make sense so far? Great! Let’s move on.
How Does Certified Mail Work?
Making use of the United States Postal Service’s certified mail feature is incredibly useful. However, it’s pretty pointless if you don’t know the process, right? Don’t stress, it’s pretty simple since the hard bit is done by the employees!
Step One: Sign Up
There are a few websites that can provide you with USPS certified mail delivery. If they ask you to pay membership fees, avoid them! You shouldn’t have to.
Always make sure to check a few things before you decide to go with a company (don’t just go with the first one you find). Check the following:
- The price (make sure it’s worth your money)
- Next-day tracking (check whether this is included as it’s important)
- Proof of mailing and delivery (with certified mail, this should be guaranteed but you never know so it’s better to be on the safe side)
Step Two: Prep Your Document
Type out your letter in Microsoft Word or alternative processing program. Then, you can print it out and sign it if this is necessary for your document.
Step Three: Scan Your Document
Once you are finished, scan the document (yes, with a scanner) and save it somewhere easy to find on your hard drive.
Top tip: Check to see that it’s legible before you send it off!
Step Four: Upload Your Document
Of course, you then need to upload it to the company you’re using to mail your letter through the certified system. They then do everything else (address, print, mail) on the same day!
Bear in mind, we have just shown you how certified mail works online. If you are more old school, you can go to a post office and do this! For those wanting this info, check this out.
What Happens to Certified Mail That Is Not Delivered?
There are many reasons why USPS certified mail is not delivered. In some cases, it is the senders’ fault. For example, they may write the address incorrectly (even just one digit in the zip code) which resulted in a lost letter. Other times, it might be the weather (like the ink smears and the address smudges). And sometimes, it is due to errors made by USPS staff members (letters, packages, and parcels sent to the wrong office, for example).
While all of this is unfortunate, there are steps you can take to alleviate the stress and figure out where it all went wrong.
Step One: Track
On the USPS website, you will notice there is a “Track and Confirm” section. You should start by visiting this page if it has been a hot minute and you haven’t received a delivery proof receipt.
When you arrive on the page, you will be asked to input the label’s ID number which will bring up the latest tracking information.
Step Two: Phone Call Time
Unfortunately, the online world isn’t always enough. In such cases, you should call the United States Postal Service’s customer care call centre. The number is on the official website so it’s super-easy to find.
Before you press dial, ensure you have the ID number of the label to hand since this will be one of the first questions they ask you. The staff member you speak to will pass all the information on to the relevant post office so they can contact you within 24 hours.
Step Three: Submit a Mail Search Request
If you want to go into the post office to do this then be our guest. But, we’ve always found it much more efficient to go to the “Missing Mail Search” page on the USPS website.
After you submit the request, USPS will notify you once they have started searching. They begin their investigation in Atlanta, regardless of which state you live in since this is where the Mail Recovery Center is located.
To use this service, your certified mail must’ve been missing for more than 7 working days.
Step Four: Ask Your Neighbours
This step is only appropriate if you have been giving a delivery receipt but you can’t find it anywhere around your property. It might be that the mailman delivered it to the house next door. You will never know unless you ask!
Step Five: Talk to The Police
Ever heard of porch pirates? Well, they’re a thing.
If your delivery was expected to arrive during the Christmas period, there is sadly a big possibility that your package, parcel, or letter was stolen.
Once the USPS has confirmed that your mail was delivered to the right house and your neighbours have nothing to give you, theft may have got you. At this stage, there is nothing left to do than phone the police and warn your local post office.
Who Can Pick Up Certified Mail At Post Office?
Picking up certified mail from your local post office is an easy task. Many people find it better than having their important mail delivery directly to their door since they’re usually at work.
The best part about this is that someone else can pick up your letter for you (unless the letter has been marked as restricted delivery, only you can pick it up then). As long as you have given them the slip, they are good to go.
Should someone else (daughter, friend, significant other, etc) be picking up your certified mail, they need to sign and print their name. There is a well-told myth going around that they will need to write your name but this isn’t true at all.
The post office clerk will ask for ID though so make sure you have this with you when you go to collect your items.
How Long Will Post Office Hold Certified Mail?
The post office will hold unclaimed certified mail for 15 days.
You receive a total of 2 notices before they terminate their efforts. When you obtain the first one, you have 15 calendar days from the date you received the notice to pick up your certified package, parcel, or letter. The final notice (i.e. the second one) will be given to you calendar days after you received the first one.
Our advice is to go as soon as possible after you have acquired the first notice. That way, you are not taking any chances. To make it even easier for those with insanely busy schedules, you could ask your partner or friend to pick it up for you (as long as you remember to give them the slip and your letter isn’t part of the restricted delivery scheme).
Can I Pick Up Certified Mail Without The Slip?
In short, no, you cannot. Without the slip (whether you have lost it, the dog ate it, or whatever your excuse may be) the United States Postal Service can’t be sure they’re releasing the package to the right person. So, keeping hold of your slip is extremely important.
For those who have lost it, you will need to arrange a redelivery online. Unsurprisingly, you will be required to enter specific information about your parcel, package, or letter to do this, including:
- The name on the item
- The address on the envelope or box’s certified mail label
- The date you received the slip
- The item number (if you’ve lost the slip you may not have this)
What Happens If You Don’t Pick Up Certified Mail?
Failing to pick up certified mail after the first and second warning is not a crime. However, your item will be sent back to the sender so, if you want it, you should pick it up as soon as humanly possible.
If the company or person who sent you the item needs you to take it, they will have to wait for the package or letter to come back to them and redeliver it themselves. Yes, they will be charged another certified mail fee so don’t be that person!
What Happens If A Certified Letter Is Refused?
After attempts to deliver the item has been made, the recipient will have to go to the post office to pick up the letter. So, if you plan on refusing certified mail, this is your chance to do it.
Nothing extraordinarily bad happens. It’s not illegal to refuse this type of package, letter, or parcel. Once you’ve explicitly said you don’t want it, the item is no longer your problem and it’s returned to the sender.
Just please bear in mind that there are consequences to refusing things like tax notices, summonses, and evictions. Generally, it’s better not to refuse certified mail because it could get ugly in some scenarios.
Anyway, let’s carry on.
What To Do If A Certified Letter Is Refused
If the letter you sent has been refused by the recipient, there is something you can do to eradicate the problem.
Send A Non-Certified Letter
For those who have sent out eviction notices, summonses, and similar documents that have been refused, you should send a non-certified copy too. Uncertified mail cannot be refused so, like it or not, they will receive the paperwork.
This works like a charm.
How To Refuse Mail
If, after all this, you still want to refuse certified mail, here is how you do it.
By not answering the door, you are ultimately refusing the mail. However, it will be sent to the post office where you will need to go and explicitly say “I don’t want this”, otherwise it will just be marked undelivered. Remember that you do have the right to know the sender’s name and their address before you refuse it.
Honestly, if you want our advice, just accept the letter! It saves a lot of hassle.
Do You Have to Sign For Certified Mail?
By now, the question “does certified mail require a signature” has been answered. But we’ll say it again for the people at the back — yes, yes it does!
What Happens If You Are Not Home To Sign For a USPS Package?
Just like any undelivered certified mail, your USPS package will be taken to your local post office after a slip has been posted through your door. Then, as we said earlier, you’ll have 15 days to pick it up.
An Alternative Solution
Phew, that was a lot to take in, wasn’t it?
There is no doubt about it that keeping up with the ins and outs of certified mail is tricky. Thus, a virtual mailbox is going to be your best friend.
Why not let a digital application track, manage, and consolidate all your mail? Talk about a stress-free, no-headache lifestyle!