USPS Lost Package Claim

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November 13, 2023

Lost mail and packages are an unfortunate inevitability for carriers like DHL (Dalsey, Hillblom, and Lynn), FedEx (Federal Express), UPS (United Parcel Service), and even USPS (United States Postal Service), who handle an absurd amount of shipment volume daily.

USPS, in particular, processes and delivers approximately 23.8 million mail items each day, and roughly 3% never make it to their destination, translating to 146 billion missing shipments annually.

Fortunately, if your mailpiece has insurance, you can file a lost package claim with USPS and claim reimbursement. 

This article discusses lost USPS packages, from exploring the typical causes behind their disappearance to navigating the claims process.

Is your mail missing in transit? Don’t worry! If you need to locate a nearby post office for assistance with your lost package issue, visit FindPostOffice.org. Doing so lets you narrow the list of over 33,000 USPS facilities to your area’s most convenient locations.

USPS Missing Package – Rare, but It Does Happen!

With over 33,000 retail locations, USPS (U.S. Postal Service) serves 152.7 million residences and 12.7 million businesses across the country, including shipping to places like Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, American Samoa, and the N. Mariana Islands six days a week.

Considering the vast scale of USPS’ operations, the shipping process can be complex, and occasionally, a package may hit a snag along the way. Fortunately, most packages arrive without any problems. While the possibility still exists, the chances of a missing package are relatively low.

When Is a Package Officially Lost With USPS?

Before jumping to conclusions that your USPS package is missing or stolen, it’s essential to consider that standard delivery times vary depending on the mail class. Different classes have various suggested delivery times, so your mail might still be in transit, even if it seems delayed.

Here are the standard delivery timings and suggested waiting times for various USPS mail classes:

USPS Mail ClassStandard Delivery TimeSuggested Waiting Time
First Class Mail1 to 3 days5 or more days
Priority Mail Express1 to 2 daysGuaranteed Delivery
Priority Mail1 to 3 days5 or more days
Retail Ground2 to 8 days14 or more days
Media Mail2 to 8 days14 or more days
Bound Printed Matter2 to 8 days14 or more days
Marketing Mail3 to 10 days14 or more days

If your package doesn’t arrive after the suggested waiting period, you can raise your concern with USPS by visiting its official website at USPS.com or calling its customer service hotline at 1-800-ASK-USPS (1-800-275-8777).

Alternatively, you can inquire about your missing package case with a USPS representative by visiting your local post office, which you can find using FindPostOffice.org’s facility locator tool.

Typical Causes of Lost USPS Packages

While USPS handles an enormous volume of packages efficiently, packages may still get lost in transit. Understanding why these instances happen can help shed light on how you can minimize the chances of it happening to your shipments.

Here are some typical causes of missing packages:

  • Damaged or illegible shipping labels: One of the most common reasons for lost packages is when the address label becomes smudged, unreadable, or falls off during transit.

A parcel without a shipping label or one that isn’t legible makes it challenging for the postal service to identify the intended recipient and deliver the package to the right destination.

  • Incorrect mailing address: Providing an inaccurate or incomplete address can lead to misrouted packages or, in some cases, returned packages. Ensure your recipient’s mailing address is correct when filling out the shipping information.
  • Insufficient packaging: Using a box that’s either too big or too small, lacking sufficient cushioning, or reusing old containers with previous labels can increase the risk of lost or damaged packages.
  • Theft or misplacement: In 2021, roughly 210 million mail items were stolen. While package theft isn’t USPS’ fault, it can still result in lost shipments.
  • Operational errors: Mistakes during sorting and handling can contribute to lost or damaged items. These errors may include misrouting, scanning errors, or misplacing packages within USPS facilities, leading to delays or misdeliveries.

Who Is Responsible When USPS Loses a Package?

Under the UCC (Uniform Commercial Code) section 2-509, the seller, such as Amazon and eBay, or the sender is generally responsible for the risk of loss. The liability then transfers to the buyer or recipient once the goods are with the carrier, in this case, USPS.

However, the stipulations under this law can change depending on your agreement with USPS. For instance, some USPS mail services like Priority Mail Express offer money-back guarantees. If a package loss occurs, USPS shoulders the responsibility, including reimbursement.

Unfortunately, an uninsured missing item may not be eligible for a refund. However, you may still file a complaint with USPS to try to locate your lost package.

Can I File a Claim With USPS for Lost Package?

If you find yourself dealing with an insured lost, damaged, or missing package, the good news is that both the sender and the recipient can file a claim with USPS. However, you must meet specific requirements to ensure a successful claim process.

These requirements include:

  • Eligibility: To file a claim for an insured package, you must be either the sender or the recipient. You must also have the original mailing receipt as proof of the insurance purchase.
  • Time Limit: You must submit a claim for your lost mailpiece within the specified timeframe from the mailing date. USPS may reject your refund request if you cannot file a claim within this period.
  • Documentation: When filing a claim, you must provide supporting documentation to substantiate your request, including proof of insurance purchase, sales receipts indicating the item’s value, and documentation of the damages, such as photographs.

What to Do About a Missing USPS Package

Now that we’ve determined what causes items to get lost in transit, how soon you can declare one as missing, who’s responsible for the problem, and whether you’re eligible to file a claim, it’s time to do something about your misplaced package.

Here are some steps to help you navigate the USPS claim process:

Double-Check Your Tracking Info

You can double-check your mailpiece’s status using the USPS tracking tool to determine if it’s missing and not delayed. This USPS feature lets you monitor your shipment’s progress in real-time.

That said, it’s essential that you correctly input your package’s tracking number. Often, lost mail cases result from mistaken identity caused by entering the wrong tracking information.

Contact the Post Office for More Details

Once you’ve ensured you have the correct tracking information and confirmed that your parcel is missing, you must contact USPS. Contact the postal service through their customer service hotline at 1-800-ASK-USPS (1-800-275-8777).

Alternatively, you can inquire about your missing package at your local post office. USPS has over 33,000 facilities in the U.S., but no worries! Finding your area’s most convenient locations is easy with FindPostOffice.org.

Wait Another Day (or Two)

While it can be frustrating to see the delivery date pass by and not have your valuable package on hand, sometimes, your package might only be delayed in its journey.

As mentioned, USPS handles a high volume of mail items daily, and snags can occur due to unforeseen circumstances. Your package may arrive in another day or two. If it doesn’t arrive within the suggested waiting period, it’s time to file a search request.

File a Missing Mail Search Request With USPS

Once the recommended waiting period for your package has elapsed, and you believe it’s genuinely missing, you can submit a Help Request form followed by a Missing Mail Search Request on the USPS website. 

You must provide detailed information about your package and any relevant tracking details to help expedite the process.

How a Missing Mail Search Request Works

Once you initiate a Missing Mail Search Request with USPS, you’ll receive a confirmation email indicating that USPS acknowledges your request. USPS will keep you informed throughout the search process with periodic updates on its progress.

If USPS locates your missing package or mail, it will forward the item to your provided address. However, it’s essential to understand that USPS may not find all lost mailpieces. Conversely, USPS may not recover specific parcels due to safety concerns.

Request a Refund

If USPS confirms the loss of your package after its search, you may be eligible for a refund. However, not every mail service or package shipment option includes a money-back guarantee or reimbursement from USPS.

Priority Mail Express, Collect on Delivery (COD), Registered mail, and other insured mail items are eligible for domestic claims. You can only request a refund on insured international shipments.

Talk to a postal service representative for more information on USPS services and mail items eligible for refund claims. You can find your nearest USPS facility by visiting FindPostOffice.org.

How to File a Claim

To initiate the missing package claims process, visit the official USPS website, sign in to your USPS account, and navigate to the claims section. You can also fill out a claim form and mail it to USPS.

However, there are other essential things you must consider before filing a claim for a lost or damaged mailpiece, including the following:

Step 1: Check Filing Periods

While USPS recommends waiting before requesting a refund, the sooner you submit a claim, the better your chances of resolving your issue. That said, different filing periods apply to various types of claims.

Damaged or Missing Contents

You can file a claim immediately when your package arrives damaged or missing components. However, you only have 60 days after the mailing date to submit your request.

Lost Mail or Package

If your mail items don’t arrive, you must submit a refund request within the designated window for the USPS service it got lost in. Filing periods vary depending on the mail service.

Here are the filing windows for the different mail services:

Mail ServiceFile AfterFile Before
Priority Mail Express7 days60 days
Priority Mail Express COD15 days60 days
Priority Mail15 days60 days
Insured Mail15 days60 days
COD15 days60 days
Registered Mail and Registered COD Mail15 days60 days
APO (Armed Post Office)/FPO (Fleet Post Office) Priority Mail Express Military Service21 days180 days
APO/FPO/DPO (Diplomatic Post Office) Insured Mail, Registered Mail (Priority Mail, First-Class Mail, USPS Ground Advantage, SAM, or PAL services)45 days1 year
APO/FPO/DPO Insured Mail (Surface only)75 days 1 year

If you need up-to-date information on the filing window for your specific mail service, call the USPS customer service hotline at 1-800-ASK-USPS (1-800-275-8777).

Otherwise, you can talk to a USPS representative in person by visiting your local post office, which you can find using FindPostOffice.org’s USPS facility locator tool.

Step 2: Gather Your Documents

Once you’ve confirmed that you’re within the filing window, you must prepare all the necessary documents to support your case, including the appropriate evidence to expedite the approval process.

Tracking or Label Number

Your package’s tracking or label number is one of (if not) the most important documents you’ll need in your case. You can find this number on your sales receipt, self-service kiosk eReceipt, mailing receipt, online label record, or under the barcode of the shipping label.

Depending on the mail service you use to ship the mailpiece, your tracking number may look like one of the following:

Mail ServiceTracking Number Format
Priority Mail9205 5000 0000 0000 0000 00
Certified Mail9407 3000 0000 0000 0000 00
COD9303 3000 0000 0000 0000 00
Global Express Guaranteed82 000 000 00
Priority Mail Express9270 1000 0000 0000 0000 00EA 000 000 000 US
Priority Mail Express InternationalEC 000 000 000 US
Priority Mail InternationalCP 000 000 000 US
Registered Mail9208 8000 0000 0000 0000 00
Signature Confirmation9202 1000 0000 0000 0000 00

Evidence of Insurance Purchased

As mentioned, you may not be eligible for an insurance claim if your damaged, or lost package isn’t insured or the mail service you chose doesn’t offer a money-back guarantee. But if you purchased insurance, you must provide evidence when filing your claim.

You can use the package’s original mail receipt, its outer packaging indicating that you or the sender sent the item with insurance, and printed electronic label records to show proof of insurance.

Proof of Value

Establishing the value of the lost or damaged mail item when you mailed it is critical to recoup your loss. You can use the mailpiece’s sales receipt, bill of sale, repair cost estimate, credit card statement, and online transaction records as proof of value.

Proof of Damage

In case your package arrives damaged, you’ll need clear photos depicting the extent of the damage and repair cost estimates from a reputable dealer when filing a claim.

Remember to save the original packaging and the contents, including the damaged items, until USPS gives its claim decision, as they may be required for the investigation process.

Step 3: File Your Claim

You can file a USPS claim for a lost or damaged package in one of two ways: online or by mail.

File Your Claim Online

The online claim process is straightforward and begins when you log in to your free USPS account or create one if you don’t have it yet. Once logged in, fill out the claim form in the claims section.

If you’re still gathering evidence to substantiate your claim, you can save your request and finish it later. The advantage of submitting an online claim is that you can easily track your claim’s progress through your account’s claim history.

File a USPS Lost Package Claim via Mail

If you can’t file a claim online, request a claim form by contacting the USPS National Materials Customer Service at 1-800-332-0317.

Once you receive the necessary forms from UPS, complete and submit them to your local post office with proof of value and insurance. To find your area’s nearest USPS facilities, visit FindPostOffice.org.

After You File – Next Steps

Once you’ve filed your USPS missing package claim, the USPS Accounting Services will carefully assess your claim to determine whether you qualify for full reimbursement or a partial refund or your request is rejected.

Claims Decisions

Generally, it takes USPS around 5 to 10 days for it to levy a decision regarding your claim. Note that the claims process duration can vary depending on whether you requested a refund for a damaged or lost parcel, with damaged package claims being faster.

You can monitor your claim’s progress by visiting the USPS website, logging into your account, and accessing your Claim History. You may also inquire about your refund status by calling USPS customer service or talking to a representative at your local post office.

Approved Claims

If USPS approves your damaged or lost package claim, you’ll receive the total or partial amount of your insured mailpiece and nothing more. But once approved, you can expect reimbursement within 7 to 10 business days.

Denied Claims

In some cases, USPS may partially or outright reject your refund request. When it does, you’ll receive a decision letter outlining the reasons for the denial, such as insufficient evidence or inaccurate mailing information on the package.

Making an Appeal

Fortunately, if USPS denies your claim, regardless if the rejection was partial or complete, you can challenge the decision and file an appeal. The filing window for a claim appeal is within 30 days of USPS’ decision.

First Appeal

You can file a claim appeal at least once. To initiate the first, you must follow the same steps for submitting a refund request. In other words, you must file a claim online or submit a claim form to USPS via mail.

Addressing the reasons for your claim’s rejection, instead of focusing on the lost or damaged parcel, is crucial in an appeal. That said, providing your previous evidence and new documentation may help strengthen your case.

Final Appeal

If USPS rejects your first appeal, you can file a second and final appeal within 30 days of the denial. The process for the final review will be the same as that of the first appeal.

In your last request, explaining why USPS should review your case, providing more evidence, and clarifying prior misunderstandings are critical for a favorable outcome.

Follow Up!

During the claims process, it’s essential to maintain constant communication with USPS to monitor the progress of your refund request and determine whether you need to take additional steps.

USPS offers various channels for you to follow up. You can track your claim through your USPS account’s claims history, call USPS customer service, or visit your local post office.

USPS Mail Recovery Center

Have you ever wondered what happens to mail that cannot be delivered or returned? They go to the USPS Mail Recovery Center (MRC), USPS’ “lost and found” department.

The MRC is responsible for holding mailpieces worth over $25. If the package has a barcode, the MRC will keep it for 60 days. For items without a barcode, 30 days. During this time, the facility will attempt to locate the owner or an address to forward the mail.

Meanwhile, the MRC disposes of undeliverable or nonreturnable packages by selling them at USPS auctions, donating to non-profit organizations, or shredding and recycling the items.

Guide to a Missing UPS Package

USPS isn’t the only carrier that may lose or damage a package during transit. UPS handled a staggering mail volume, 24.3 million packages daily in 2022.

Like the U.S. Postal Service, UPS offers senders and recipients ways to locate, recover, and potentially refund missing packages. However, the steps you must follow depend on whether you’re the former or the latter.

You’re the Shipper of a Missing UPS Package

Contact UPS Customer Service at 1-888-742-5877 and provide them with the tracking number and details of your missing package. They will initiate an investigation and attempt to locate the package.

Alternatively, you can file a lost package claim within 60 days of the promised mailing date at UPS’ official website. You can track your claim’s status using the UPS claims dashboard.

You’re the Recipient of a Missing UPS Package

While anyone with a financial or legal interest in the shipment can file a claim for a missing UPS package, only one can submit a refund request. If you’re the intended receiver, you must coordinate with the sender to determine who’ll initiate the claims process.

If both parties decide the recipient is responsible for settling the missing UPS package case, they must contact UPS by phone or online through the claims dashboard.

Whether you’re missing a package with UPS, USPS, or other carriers, a local post office can assist you with the procedures and requirements for reporting and resolving your issue. Visit FindPostOffice.org to find post office locations in your area.

References

  1. POSTAL FACTS
    https://facts.usps.com/one-day/
  2. Does USPS Lose Packages? (You’ll Be Surprised)
    https://querysprout.com/does-usps-lose-packages/
  3. TOP FACTS YOU SHOULD KNOW ABOUT THE U.S. POSTAL SERVICE
    https://facts.usps.com/top-facts/
  4. What to Do When Your USPS Package is Missed/Lost/Stolen?
    https://uspspoint.com/package-missing/
  5. USPS Contact Us
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  7. 210 million packages were stolen from Americans this year: survey
    https://nypost.com/2021/11/29/210-million-packages-were-stolen
  8. § 2-509. Risk of Loss in the Absence of Breach.
    https://www.law.cornell.edu/ucc/2/2-509
  9. Is Priority Mail Express® Service Eligible for a Refund?
    https://faq.usps.com/s/article/Is-Priority-Mail-Express-Service
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    https://www.usps.com/help/claims.htm
  11. Find Missing Mail
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  12. File a USPS Claim: International
    https://www.usps.com/help/international-claims.htm
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    https://faq.usps.com/s/article/How-to-find-your-tracking-number
  14. USPS Tracking
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  16. UPS Company Profile
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