This story was originally published and last updated .
As anecdotal evidence of mail theft grows in the US in recent weeks, we're all probably being a little more careful about collecting our mail in a timely manner as we await for important things to arrive, like an envelope from the IRS (the agency sending out Economic Impact Payments). And while the IRS isn't making any sort of direct mail tracking of stimulus checks available, you can at least get a heads up on the day your check will arrive using this handy tool from USPS. It's not infallible, and it won't get every single letter, but it's about the only way you can get any sort of advanced knowledge your check will be hitting your mailbox soon.
USPS Informed Delivery isn't a new thing, and has been available in some parts of the US since 2014. But many remain unaware that the tool exists, and that regardless of whether or not you're using it, the post office takes a picture of every letter envelope mailed to you. This practice has been in effect for years, and is part of USPS's critical mail sorting system, Mail Sorting and Isolation. So, you may as well have the information the post office does about your mail.
Signing up for Informed Delivery
Signing up is simple, and you can do so through the USPS website or the official Informed Delivery app. To start, you'll need to provide your exact street address to confirm you're eligible for the service.
From there, you'll have to create a USPS online account (if you don't already have one), and verify your identity. Verification of your identity, if you've not previously signed up for Informed Delivery, will require you to answer questions about addresses you may have previously lived at. If you're just entering a new address, USPS may choose to verify you with an SMS to your phone. Also, not every area and address is eligible, unfortunately, and USPS doesn't provide any kind of map to help you figure out if you're eligible; you have to fill out the address verification check first.
If you're unable to complete the USPS identity verification, you may have to go to an authorized location in person with a valid form of ID. PO boxes, in particular, may be subject to in-person verification, according to the USPS. As an important note: If your credit reports at any of the major bureaus (Equifax, TransUnion, Experian) are frozen, USPS may refuse to verify you online. If you want to unfreeze your credit temporarily to sign up, check out this guide.
Checking your upcoming mail
Simply go to the the Informed Delivery dashboard on the USPS website to see your mail and packages. Images of incoming mail will be shown in the tracker, so you can keep an eye out for any mail from the IRS.
You can also use the Informed Delivery app, shown below.
You might ask about the potential privacy issues that the USPS sending photos of your mail brings up. But put quite bluntly: there is nothing you can do to stop the USPS taking pictures of your mail. It's a critical part of the mail sorting and security process, and the USPS does not allow anyone to opt out of mail scanning. In fact, many security and privacy advocates believe that the best way to protect the privacy of your mail is to sign up for Informed Delivery so that unscrupulous individuals don't do so for you using stolen identity information. Once every adult in your household has signed up for Informed Delivery, no one else can do so in their names in the future.
Additionally, the information Informed Delivery provides does give you crucial evidence in the event of mail theft resulting in a serious loss, like a stolen check, credit card, or sensitive document. While it may not get back what you lost, it ensures that you'll have proof the letter was sent in the first place, and was either misdelivered or stolen.
Bonus: Sign for USPS packages online
One bonus of opting into the Informed Delivery program is USPS' Electronic Signature Online system. This tool allows you to enter your signature online, which USPS can then use to allow you to release any packages which require a signature (or, more importantly, require you to answer the door). You do need to release each individual package as its tracking information comes into your account, though, so just remember that this service isn't fully automatic.