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Jurisdiction and Laws

Postal Inspectors enforce more than 200 federal laws in investigations of crimes that may adversely affect or fraudulently use the U.S. Mail, the postal system or postal employees. The list below describes some of our most important areas of jurisdiction.

Assaults (18 USC 111 & 1114)
The protection of Postal Service employees is one of our most important responsibilities. Inspectors promptly investigate assaults and threats that occur while postal employees are performing official duties or as a result of their employment.

Bombs (18 USC 1716)
Although a rare crime, the mailing of bombs is given one of our highest investigative priorities due to the severe impact it can have on postal customers, employees and operations.

Burglary (18 USC 2115)
The Postal Service experiences about 300 burglaries each year. Inspectors have minimized losses through the use of security equipment and facility design.

Child Exploitation (18 USC 1470, 2251, 2252, 2253, 2254, 2422, 2425)
The Postal Inspection Service has long been recognized as the leading federal law enforcement agency in the effort to combat the production and distribution of child pornography and other crimes exploiting children through the mail and, when it involves the mail, over the Internet.

Controlled Substances (21 USC 841, 843 & 844)
Postal Inspectors initiate investigations related to transporting and distributing narcotics through the mail or at postal facilities.

Counterfeit Stamps, Money Orders and Related Crimes (18 USC 500, 501, 503 & 1720)
Postal Inspectors preserve public confidence in the mail by pursuing individuals who forge, alter or counterfeit postage stamps, postal money orders and other stamp products. The Inspection Service helps train postal employees to recognize bogus postal money orders.

Destruction, Obstruction and Delay of Mail (18 USC 1700, 1701, 1702 & 1703)
The Postal Inspection Service upholds federal statutes aimed at securing customers' mail, including those related to the desertion, obstruction, delay or destruction of mail. Postal Inspectors demonstrate their resolve by implementing mail security processes to ensure that customers receive their mail intact and free from outside interference.

Electronic Crimes (18 USC 1029, 1030, 1037, 1343, 2701)
Inspectors protect postal customers from fraud schemes and other crimes that may occur online and involve the misuse of the mail or of the Postal Service. This includes using or selling stolen or counterfeit access devices, such as credit card numbers; using protected computers without proper authority or exceeding authorized access; using computer communications in a scheme to defraud; using a false identity when sending commercial e-mails to mislead or deceive recipients, as with spam; and unauthorized access to communications that are stored electronically via a communications service.

Extortion (18 USC 873, 876 & 877)
Postal Inspectors investigate extortion and blackmail when demands for ransoms or rewards are sent through the U.S. Mail. Inspectors also strictly enforce laws prohibiting mail that contains threats of kidnapping, physical injury, or injury to the property or reputations of others.

Forfeiture (18 USC 981 & 982)
Postal Inspectors use criminal and civil forfeiture statutes, when appropriate, to seize assets associated with criminal acts.

Identity Fraud (18 USC 1028)
The Postal Inspection Service is a leading federal law enforcement agency in the investigation of identity takeovers.

Lotteries (18 USC 1301, 1302 & 1303; 39 USC 3005)
Postal Inspectors protect consumers by strictly enforcing all laws related to importing, transporting and mailing lottery tickets. Under the false representations and lottery statute (3005), Inspectors are authorized to instruct postmasters to withhold from delivery and return to sender any mail that violates the law.

Mail Fraud (18 USC 1341, 1342 & 1345; 39 USC 3005 & 3007)
The Postal Inspection Service is committed to protecting postal customers from misuse of the mail. Inspectors place special emphasis on mail fraud scams related to advance fees, boiler rooms, health care, insurance, investments, deceptive mailings and other consumer frauds, especially when they target the elderly or other susceptible groups.

Mail or Mailbox Destruction (18 USC 1705)
The Postal Inspection Service is committed to ensuring the safety of the nation's mail by securing letter boxes or other receptacles for U.S. Mail. To this end, Postal Inspectors aggressively pursue individuals who willfully or maliciously injure or destroy such receptacles.

Money Laundering (18 USC 1956 & 1957)
Postal Inspectors aggressively investigate criminals who attempt to conceal the proceeds of illegal acts through monetary transactions. Inspectors identify and seize criminals' assets, denying violators the proceeds of their crimes.

Obscenity and Sexually Oriented Advertising (18 USC 1461, 1463 & 1735; 39 USC 3010)
Postal Inspectors follow court-established guidelines to uphold obscenity standards, which prohibit "obscene, lascivious, indecent, filthy or vile" mailings. Customers who wish to halt mailings of sexually oriented advertisements or similar solicitations may complete and submit a Postal Service Form 1500, available at Post Offices.

Robbery (18 USC 2114)
Postal Inspectors respond promptly to robberies of postal employees and postal contractors. Inspectors focus on preventing robberies through the use of security equipment and improved postal procedures.

Theft of Mail (18 USC 1708 & 1709)
Postal Inspectors invest significant resources into the investigation of mail theft by criminals.