I Accidentally Opened Someone Else’s Mail. Was That Illegal?4 min read


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It is not that common, but it happens that we get someone else’s mail at our mailbox, and open it without even noticing the name on it. Now you may wonder if it was a crime to open someone else’s mail?

Is it illegal to open someone else’s mail?

Keep in mind that in many countries, it is illegal to open mail or packages if you are not the recipient written on the shipment. However, certain scenarios will classify if what you did was a crime or not:

  • If you have opened someone else’s mail, read it, and then threw it in the garbage, you might find yourself in trouble. Or you may have panicked and decided to burn the letter you have opened. Do not do that as this is considered a crime, and the courier may see it as if had intentionally stopped the delivery process.
  • If you have accidentally opened someone else’s envelopes or packages, and then plan to return it to the sender, then you have not committed a crime. You can either seal the mail/package again and write “Return to Sender”, or if it is some of your neighbours, you can hand it in yourself, and explain the mistake. By doing so, you are not doing anything illegal.

Are you wondering how you can have the envelope or the package delivered to the sender in the shortest time? With our express delivery service, the shipment will arrive in 24h within the European Union and 48-72h globally!

However, if someone is caught stealing from a courier, whether than be for letters or packages, may end up serving a prison sentence.

What to do when you accidentally opened someone else’s mail?

If you accidentally received or opened someone else’s mail, the first thing you should do is to contact the courier service provider. If you had booked the shipping service through a parcel broker like Eurosender, then you should contact the broker directly. They are your point of contact should any issues occur.

You must inform either Eurosender or the courier provider within 48 hours after you received the package. In case the courier company makes a mistake, most probably the courier will come back to collect the mail from your address.

What is the most common cause of misdelivered mail?

  • Maybe the mail was from someone who previously lived at the address.
  • Perhaps the delivery man delivered the neighbours‘ mail at your address and you did not realise it was not yours until you opened it.
  • Maybe the sender accidentally had handed the wrong package to the driver because he/she had more than one parcel to be shipped.

Couriers service providers are always on the lookout to provide the best service. But with the increasing amount of orders coming in, mistakes are more likely to occur. Packages can travel in many different vans, trucks and depots on their way to you. Although not usual, the label can get damaged or get detached during transit, causing the package to be misdelivered to another address.

How to avoid accidentally opening someone else’s mail?

If you notice the mail is not for you at the time the courier is delivering, you should always deny it. Check the shipping label for details about the consignee’s name and actual address.

Tips to avoid a misdelivery

– Be careful when handing over the parcel. The best way is to hand it over yourself so that you can be sure the courier has the correct package. If you cannot be there, you can ask someone else to hand it over for you. If you leave the box at a location you previously agreed upon, make sure it is clear that this is the package the courier should collect.

– Fill out the correct and complete address. This includes the street name and number, zip code, town/ city and any additional information like the name or number on the doorbell. It can also help to fill out a local phone number for the address of pick-up and delivery. This way, the courier has the option to contact you.

Regularly check the tracking of your package. The fastest way to find out if something went wrong with your parcel is through the online tracking. We always advise you to keep an eye on the tracking information. If you notice any irregularities, you can contact us at any time for help.

To sum it up, inform Eurosender or the courier immediately when you notice you received mail that does not belong to you. You should do that within 48 hours after receiving the letter/package. From there, the courier or we will help you further.

This article was written in collaboration with Annelieke Muelders.

Last modified: March 16, 2020

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