How to Dispose of Misdelivered Mail

If you receive misdelivered mail by mistake, does that mean you should: throw it in the trash? Save it? Return it?

Before tossing out any misdelivered mail, consider learning how it should be handled.

As a rule of thumb, do not throw misdelivered mail in the trash either including unopened junk mails.

How to Dispose of Misdelivered Mail

It’s not yours, so what may be done in the short term should be done in the long-term.

To begin with, don’t open the letter.

If you look carefully, you’ll see an address on the envelope. Use that information to get return address information in case the sender is trying to reach you.

Finally, once you’ve returned the letter, make sure to seal it up and drop it in the box.

Instead, it would be wiser to return the letter to the postal service and request that it be destroyed.

However, there are innumerous reasons not to do this. First of all, if the address on the envelope is incorrect, the post office can redeliver it to the wrong person.

Secondly, if the letter contains any information you need, the postal service may still decide to return it to you. That’s why you should keep a photocopy of the letter.

Return it to your mailbox

While it may seem counterintuitive, returning misdelivered mail is a good way to protect your privacy.

If the post office knows that a letter is misdelivered, they may contact the sender and request personal information from him or her.

You should also put a note on the envelope indicating that mail was misdelivered, so the delivery service thinks you’re trying to rip them off.

Not at this address or “Return to sender” is an acceptable way to return mail, as long as you don’t leave it in the mailbox and haven’t thrown it out.

When the postal service comes around again, they will attempt to pick up the misdelivered letter and deliver it to the correct addressee.

Contact the Postal Service of the United States of America

The postal service may also be able to contact the person to whom the mail was intended.

They’ll sometimes do this by letters, phone calls, and emails. If they are unable to track you down, they will forward the mail to the appropriate destination.

This lets them know that you’ve been the recipient’s faithful customer for a long time, and it motivates them to go out of their way to make you happy.

What if I Open Misdelivered Mail by Accident?

While it’s understandable to be excited when a letter arrives, you need to be careful to keep this letter to yourself.

Suppose you opened an unintended letter and noticed that it contained some sensitive information.

In this case, you should re-seal the letter immediately and drop us a line at [email protected] to notify us about the problem. We will then take appropriate action to remove the letter from our system.

The good news is that you don’t need to worry about being fined as long as you send the letter back immediately.

The legislation states that obstructing communication is a crime, which means you will likely only receive a small fine. However, to avoid this, it is best that you avoid the mistake altogether in the future.

The letter should be re-sealed and returned to the mailbox, not left out in the open. Entrance into mail may be punishable by law.

Also Read: How to Dispose of Old Driver’s License Safely


It is against the policy to throw away any mail that a customer does not pick up. Mail that is returned usually takes less than four days to be returned to the sender.

As an alternative, you might also consider putting the letter in your mailbox, but be sure to fully seal the envelope.

Even while this may be a little inconvenience on your side, you should still consider returning the letter to the USPS directly.

Doing so will keep it out of the hands of people who may intentionally or unintentionally throw it away.