The USPS has been going strong for over 200 years and with rapid changes that saw it delivering mail on horse, transitioning to delivering mail via strange looking, doorless vehicles and to today: delivering mail notifications via an e-mail notification or through the online dashboard.
We have covered the history of the USPS in other posts, but today we will discuss this digital part of the USPS, known as Informed Delivery.
What Is USPS Informed Delivery?
It is a feature that has been around since 2014, and has now expanded to most major zip codes across the country. When someone gets mail, they will essentially receive an e-mail notification that not only informs them of the new item that has arrived for them, but will also give them a preview image of that item. Basically, it is a photograph of the exterior of your package or envelope, that will help you determine whether this is a piece of mail for which you urgently need to drive to the post office for, or not.
Something important that needs to be made clear, is that Informed Delivery does not actually deliver to you the contents of your envelope digitally (you do not get your mail online,) but it rather gives you a preview of the outside of your mail.
How Does Informed Delivery Work
Prior to having mail delivered, the USPS will scan the front of the letter-sized mail that runs through automated mail sorting equipment. Those images, are then sent as an e-mail notifications to users to ensure that they have these previews in advance.
Once someone has signed up on the Informed Delivery dashboard, they will be required to add in the e-mail address to which they want to receive e-mail notifications. There is a max number of 10 mail items that will be previewed in your daily e-mail notification that comes from the USPS. To view the remainder mail items, you will need to access them from your Informed Delivery dashboard. The purpose of this, is to limit the size of the e-mails that are transferred to users, which can help with security concerns (more on that shortly.)
Certain mail items, such as catalogues and magazines will not be imaged by the automatic equipment that scans these items. Rather, if a scan is detected on mailpieces like that, users will see a message that says “A mailpiece for which we do not currently have an image is included in today’s mail.”
The Informed Delivery dashboard displays mail images for a seven day period while packages are displayed on the Informed Delivery dashboard for up to 15 days after a package has been delivered.
History Of Informed Delivery
As mentioned, Informed Delivery was first introduced in 2014. Was it a response to Jerry Seinfeld’s plea to digitize mail in February of that year? Could be…
One thing is certain; ever since Informed Delivery was released as a pilot program in 2014 in a handful of zip codes, it has very quickly expanded to the rest of the US with over 15 Million users using it as of 2020.
There is no doubt, that there is quite some ground for the USPS to cover, until it reaches mainstream America. But customers have been having a very high satisfaction rate with 89% of respondents claiming they were satisfied with its features and over 90% claiming that they would recommend informed delivery to a friend or family member.
How Much Does Informed Delivery Cost?
We have always known the USPS – a state entity that is independent from the government – to offer very competitive delivery pricing. The cost of a stamp, depending on the destination, is usually only within the range of a dollar or so.
The most appealing thing about Informed Delivery, is that it is absolutely free to use. Therefore, there is much incentive by homeowners and businesses to take advantage of a digital mail system that allows them to preview their mail, and save several hours of driving back and forth from the post office.
Security & Privacy Concerns
The amount of information that transfers via mail and the associated value of it, is so great, that when residents in New York were impacted by Covid-19, they were hiring limousine operators to deliver their mail to the suburbs. There is no question that the security concerns of private citizens are quite intense.
The USPS has taken important steps, to ensure the privacy and security of all mail that is scanned and delivered digitally. When it comes to the actual scanning of mail, only the exterior of the envelope is scanned, with all content within the envelope never being accessed. The only information publicly available to anyone that could have access to the scanned copy, are the address side of letter-size mailpieces.
Additionally, the U.S Postal Inspection Service (USPIS) ensures the protection of mail, since its entire mandate is to safeguard the USPS system as well as its employees who deliver the actual mail. Adherence to the Privacy Act, also ensures private citizens of that information shared through the mail, is to remain private with very strict conditions under which the information can be disclosed externally to third parties.
According to Krebs on Security, Informed Delivery uses knowledge-based authentication to very the people that are signing and their true identity. The verification is completed through a series of multiple choice questions that only the user would know how to answer correctly. Ultimately, the most secure way to verify the true identity of residents, is via mail-based verification letters. This was implemented as of January 2018.
How Accurate Is Informed Delivery
User’s experiences vary. Any Quora thread or online community will have very conflicting responses on its accuracy. Everything from “useless” to “very accurate.”
The reality is, Informed Delivery is typically 1-2 days delayed and not all items that are scanned have a preview image coming up for it. Overall however, its accuracy could be rated at well over 95%.
We recently did another article, breaking down the most common issues customers encounter with Informed Delivery. Typically, you may see the occasional delay in mail notifications (or have a day that goes by where you do not get the mail digest notification from Informed Delivery,) but overall, it should prove to be a very reliable alternative to driving daily to the Post Office to see whether you have mail.
Is Informed Delivery Available to PO Box Customers?
All customers of the USPS, whether they receive their mail at a particular zip code, or they receive their mail at the Post Office, are eligible to sign up for Informed Delivery. If you typically receive mail both at your residential address and at a PO Box, you will need to setup 2 separate personal accounts for each address on USPS.com.
How To Sign Up For Informed Delivery
There is a full USPS guide, that will walk you step by step on how to sign up for Informed Delivery. There are 3 main requirements from you:
- You must be a residential consumer or rent a PO Box for personal use
- Your Zip Code and address must be eligible for Informed Delivery
- You must complete an identity verification process.
To sign up, follow these 5 steps to get your Informed Delivery account setup.
- Head over to informeddelivery.usps.com and click on “Sign Up for Free”
- Enter your residential address or personal P.O Box address to verify that you are eligible for Informed Delivery.
- Create a USPS.com personal account and select a username and password for it. You will also be required to select your security questions and add your contact information. Once you have read the privacy information, click on “continue” to be redirected to the page where you will verify your identity.
- Verify your identity by completing the mobile phone verification process or by requesting the invitation code via mail. If you have selected to verify your identity online, you will be asked to add your mobile phone number. From there a one-time numeric passcode will be sent to you via text message. In the case, that you requested to verify your identity by invitation code, you will request to have an invitation code sent to your current address.
- Upon successful identity verification, you will be shown a confirmation page. Either select “Go to Dashboard” or simply wait to be redirected to your Informed Delivery dashboard.
An Alternative To Informed Delivery
As mentioned earlier in this article, Informed Delivery will make sure you receive mail notifications on mail & packages that are on their way to be delivered. Those notifications only contain an image of the exterior of the envelope and package, without giving you any information on the interior contents of your mail. There is no question, that for people who tend to travel a lot, or simply want to be able to preview their mail online, Informed Delivery can be a great tool.
But for the purpose of actually viewing your mail content online (the actual documents within the envelope,) Informed Delivery for many reasons, does not offer this feature as of the writing of this article.
Where government entities cannot cover the gap in the marketplace, innovative companies come in to fill the gap, with full federal compliance and approval.
Virtual Mailboxes will scan the exterior of your mail & packages, just like Informed Delivery would, but they go a step further: you can also request mail scanning of the actual documents that are within your envelope. Not only that, but if you need a package delivered to you, you can typically get up to 80% off retail shipping rates (including what the USPS would charge,) simply because of the mail volume companies like that handle.
Overall, with a Virtual Mailbox, you are able to preview all your mail items (envelopes and packages,) request a mail scan of the interior of your envelope, request that junk mail be removed from your mailbox and even have extended storage capacity.
US Global Mail has been the leader in virtual mailboxes as of 1999, and with over 80,000 customers served since its founding, it has been a great time & money saver for Americans domestically and abroad.