Suspicious Packages and Letters


Be wary of suspicious packages and letters. They can contain explosives, chemical or biological agents. Be particularly cautious at your place of employment.

Some typical characteristics postal inspectors have detected over the years, which should trigger suspicion, include parcels that:

  • Are unexpected or from someone unfamiliar to you.
  • Have no return address, or have one that can’t be verified as legitimate.
  • Have protruding wires or aluminum foil, strange odors, or stains.
  • Show a city or state in the postmark that doesn’t match the return address.
  • Are of unusual weight given their size, or are lopsided or oddly shaped.
  • Are marked with threatening language.
  • Have inappropriate or unusual labeling.
  • Have excessive postage or packaging material, such as masking tape and string.
  • Have misspellings of common words.
  • Are not addressed to a specific person.
  • Have hand-written or poorly typed addresses

With suspicious envelopes and packages other than those that might contain explosives, take these additional steps against possible biological and chemical agents.

  • Refrain from eating or drinking in a designated mail handling area.
  • Place suspicious envelopes or packages in a plastic bag or some other type of container to prevent leakage of contents. Never sniff or smell suspect mail.
  • If you do not have a container, then cover the envelope or package with anything available (e.g., clothing, paper, trash can, etc.) and do not remove the cover.
  • Leave the room and close the door, or section off the area to prevent others from entering.
  • Wash your hands with soap and water to prevent spreading any powder to your face.
  • If you are at work, report the incident to your building security official or an available supervisor, who should notify police and other authorities without delay.
  • List all people who were in the room or area when this suspicious letter or package was recognized. Give a copy of this list to both the local public health authorities and law enforcement officials for follow-up investigations and advice.