Lost Mail: What To Do if Your Certified Mail is Lost

Sending information and parcels via post is perceived as risk-free, but sometimes that Christmas present or official business letter gets lost.

In fact, the US Postal Service's Mail Recovery Center received 88 million lost items in 2014.

Lost mail can be stressful, but where certified mail is concerned, the sender may feel quite despondent. After all, certified mail is as close to secure as a loyal mailer can get, isn't it?

It's true certified mail can come with all the bells and whistles, but it's not foolproof. However, it's setup makes it a lot easier to find.

So when that important document goes missing, don't lose your head (after all, you've already lost your mail). There are steps you can take to get it to the right place. We'll show you how.

What Is Certified Mail?

Regular mail you send in the mailbox or without additional fees is sorted at the post office and sent along its journey. Certified mail, however, provides a receipt to the sender.

The receipt acts as proof that the mail was sent and provides letter tracking and delivery confirmation. Every receipt has a unique tracking code called a PIC, which allows senders to see where their document most recently appeared in the postal service's network.

Consequently, holding onto your receipt is vital. If your mail gets lost, it will come in handy.

When the mail is delivered to the receiver, a confirmation receipt is provided to the sender, notifying him or her of the successful delivery.

This process typically takes longer than Express Mail for security purposes, but because the chances of lost mail are so much slimmer, it is a common choice for businessmen and women.


Certified mail is a much more secure way of sending sensitive information. If it gets lost, individuals can provide the tracking number to the postal service or look up the last place the document was processed. Because certified mail is scanned and recorded throughout its journey, it makes tracking any lost articles down much easier.

Additionally, certified mail requires a signature to complete delivery. This lessens the chance of the mail being stolen, which may occur with packages left unattended on porches.

Even better, senders can request only a specific person sign for the item. If they aren't there, the delivery will be attempted again.

What About Lost Mail?

Even with all the added precautions, certified mail can sometimes disappear into a mail carrier's invisible black hole. If this occurs, there are some steps you can take.

1. Be Patient

Sometimes, no one may be at the office or household to sign for the mail. If this is the case, the letter won't be successfully delivered.

Before you worry the document is lost to the sea of envelopes swarming about the nation, take a look at your receipt. What was the send date and what delivery service was requested?

If you chose to mail using First Class, for instance, it can take up to 10 business days for the letter to reach its destination. If you purchased Priority, it should only take around three days.

Wait a few days over the maximum time frame. If you haven't heard anything or received a delivery confirmation, it's time to take the next steps.

2. Find the Tracking Number

Remember that handy receipt we were discussing earlier? It's time to take it out.

Find the tracking number on your receipt as well as the date the document was sent. Keep this information at hand; you'll be using it.

3. Try Tracking

Attempt to look up the last area where the mail was tracked. This may give you a better idea of where, exactly, the document went off the radar. It can also be helpful to the postal agency you'll contact in a moment, although they should double check this information for accuracy in their records, as well.

4. Contact the Postal Agency

Contact the postal carrier responsible for the item or the office where you sent it. Explain the situation and the document's relevance, then provide the tracking number and last location.

Representatives will use the information to see if your account wasn't updated or you weren't notified.

Hopefully, you're missing letter debacle ends here, with a representative happily telling you it was successfully delivered. If not, however, there are still a few steps you can take.

5. Call the Last Location

If the letter isn't in the system and the agency isn't sure where it's at, ask for any steps you should take and when you should expect to hear from them (you may not hear from them at all).

Now it's time to contact the mail's last location. Call the office and describe the package or envelope in detail, providing the same information as you did before.

If even this fails to turn up the pesky document, there's one more trick up your sleeve.

6. File a USPS Mail Recovery Center Search Request

If your package is worth at least $25 and you used USPS, you may be able to file a Mail Recovery Center Search Request.

Practically all the mail misfits in the USPS are shipped off to two recovery centers. There, individuals shred anything below a $25 value and store the rest.

Mail investigators (yes, they actually exist) then scan and open packages to investigate final destinations or sender information. After a period of time without any luck, however, these packages will either be sold at auctions, given to charity or destroyed.

A search request will give these headquarters notice of any document they should be on the lookout for.

This process takes time, as employees have a lot to sift through.

7. Request a Refund

If, after 30 days, you have no luck in finding the lost mail, request a refund. The postal agency did not provide the intended service. It's only fair they give you your money back.

Send From Home

Lost mail happens to the best of us, but there are steps you can take to increase the chances of safe delivery. Sending certified mail is one of them.

But why go to the Post Office at all if you can send certified mail from home?

Certified Mail Envelopes offers labels you can print and attach to your documents from the comfort of your home. It's almost always cheaper than going to the Post Office! Check out how easy and convenient it is with our infographic.

So start up that printer and prepare your documents. It's time to start mailing in the comfort of your pajamas.
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