When you’re traveling or living abroad, the preparation can come with a lot of headaches. Do you have all of the essentials? What are you allowed to bring?  And once you actually arrive the list gets longer!

Figuring out how to get your mail should be the least of your problems, but the solution isn’t always so obvious.

How do I get my mail when not at home?

One option you have is asking family or friends to check your mail. While that may seem simple enough, it’s actually not. Do you really want your friends or family reading through your bank statements and IRS notices? If you don’t want them to open it, how will they know which one’s important and which one is junk mail? They may not have the time to run to the post office as often as you need them to and you can end up overextending your wallet to pay for mail you don’t need. That’s where mail scanning comes in.


Smart phone & computer user interface of a virtual mailbox

How does mail scanning work?

After signing up for a mail forwarding service, any mail that’s addressed to your home will be redirected to a new address at a facility. As soon as it arrives, the outside of the envelope is scanned and uploaded to a virtual mailbox. Then, you have a few choices: 

  • See who the sender is and decide if you want the mail to be opened and scanned for you to read it asap
  • Ship to where you are
  • Securely shred it if it is junk mail like an unwanted catalog


US Global Mail mail scanning process

Is Mail Scanning Quick and Reliable?

It depends; some services, like US Global Mail scan mail contents within 2-4 hours after your request but others can take up to 24 hours or more.

Services that have lots of addresses and usually have mail shipped from those locations to their central location before it is scanned can take several days for scans.


Woman holding a phone in her hand that shows virtual mail


Is Mail scanning secure?

Again, this depends on which company you choose. Some companies are vague about their security measures and do not list them clearly on their site.

To do your homework:

Here are 5 questions to ask to check if mail scanning is secure:

  1. What is the scan process?
  2. Is the scan encrypted during upload? Where is it stored- local machines or cloud?
  3. Are employees require to have background checks?
  4. Do they track every touch to your mail piece and record that info?
  5. Do they shred discarded mail?

If the service you’re looking at can answer yes to all those questions, your mail is actually a lot safer than it would be in actual mailbox!

Is Mail Scanning affordable?

Yes. Especially since you can read the contents of your mail ASAP and not have to ship it to yourself, wherever you are!

A sample envelope scanned into a virtual mailbox

Which services offer mail scanning?

We have complied a list of the popular mail forwarding services that include mail scanning here. Pick one that works best for you.

Of course, we would like to recommend ourselves- US Global Mail– as the very best one out there!


A smart phone that has the mailbox flag on it



Does USPS offer mail scanning?

Via Informed Delivery you can an email from the USPS with an image of the outside of your mail. You can digitally preview your mail and packages scheduled to arrive that day. Informed Delivery allows you to view greyscale images of the exterior, address side of letter-sized mailpieces. Images are only provided for letter-sized mailpieces that are processed through USPS’ automated equipment.

So while that is convenient, you cannot read the contents of your mail. That can only be done with a mail scanning service.


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