Beware of Snail Mail: 10 Signs of a Suspicious Package

Posted on by Jerzell Black, Operation Coordinator, CDC Office of Safety, Security, and Asset Management

Cardboard boxes on a conveyor belt in a warehouse.

If you are anything like me, you love getting mail. There is something about opening the mailbox to find a postcard from a loved one or a care-package with homemade cookies that can make your day.

But not all packages are filled with love. Sometimes people send items and materials through the mail that are dangerous. These suspicious packages could contain a bomb, biological, chemical, or radiological threats. You could come into contact with a suspicious package at home, at work, or when you are out in public.

It is important for you to prepare and know how to identify a suspicious package and what you can do to stay safe.Suspicious Package Thumbnail

  1. Look at the handwriting. Suspicious packages are often addressed by hand in all capital letters, or with cut-and-paste lettering.
  2. Pay attention to the return address. Suspicious packages often do not have a return address, or they may be postmarked from a city that does not match the return address.
  3. Note the postage. A package with excessive postage (more than was necessary for a package to reach its destination) should be treated as suspicious. Sometimes suspicious packages are delivered with no postage.
  4. Wrapping matters. If a package is unprofessionally wrapped with excessive packing material such as tape and/or string it should be treated as suspicious. It may also be labeled with restrictive endorsements – Fragile: Handle with Care, Rush: Do Note Delay, Personal, Confidential, or Do Not X-Ray.
  5. Use your senses. Be aware if the package has an unknown liquid or powder seeping through the wrapping or a strange odor. Do NOT sniff, taste, or touch the package or ask others to do the same.
  6. Hands off. Do not open the item or shake or empty the contents.
  7. Keep your distance. If you think you are dealing with a suspicious package, leave the room and close the door behind you. It is important to section off or isolate the package so other people do not enter the area.
  8. Don’t run away.  Leaving the area could potentially spread dangerous or deadly materials to other locations, including your home.  The authorities will determine if you need to undergo decontamination, medical treatment, or simply monitoring for any side-effects.
  9. Call 9-1-1. Use a land line to call 9-1-1. Do not use a cell phone or device that sends a signal because it could trigger an explosive device.
  10. Stay calm. Listen to your intuition and do not worry about embarrassment if you are wrong about a package being suspicious. It is always better to be safe than sorry.


Posted on by Jerzell Black, Operation Coordinator, CDC Office of Safety, Security, and Asset ManagementTags , , , ,

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Page last reviewed: December 20, 2017
Page last updated: December 20, 2017