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USPS Certified Mail Tracking No Longer Provides Proof Of Accurate Delivery

By: Peter Wade
Tel: (305) 420-5907
Email Mr. Wade

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Formerly, USPS Tracking for Certified Mail provided a) the time and date of delivery, b) the exact delivery address, c) the name of the recipient, d) the signature of the person who accepted delivery of the item.

USPS Tracking information no longer provides Tracking beyond the date of delivery and the ZIP Code area to which the Certified Mail item was delivered.

Now, the USPS only provides the sender or recipient of the Certified the street address of delivery and the signature of the person accepting delivery. For all other inquiring parties, the USPS currently takes the position that both the name of the party who receives the Certified Mail item and the signature of the person who accepted delivery are protected by the Privacy Act and are not subject to disclosure.

Online USPS Tracking information for a delivered Certified Mail item I had sent to a particular County agency in Conway, SC. The tracking query advised that the item only provides the mailing date for the Certified Mail article was mailed on June 11, and the date and 5-digit Zip Code of delivery.

Although USPS Certified Mail Tracking records are widely used as proof that legal notice has been served, even the USPS will not provide the named addressee with specific information concerning the exact address (street number, suite number, etc.)  or the name and signature of the person who signed for the article.

The USPS claims that, under Exemption 6 of the Privacy Act, the name and signature of the recipient cannot be disclosed. However, if you are the sender of Certified Mail, you may purchase the additional service of a Return Receipt (PS Form 3811) at the time of mailing, that receipt provides the sender with the exact delivery address and the signature of the person who signed for the article. That form does not contain a Privacy Act caveat that the recipient’s name and address will be disclosed to the sender. So, it seems that the purchase of a Return Receipt ($2.85) overrides the General Counsel’s Privacy Act Ruling.

Over the course of the past 3 years, I have been engaged by a number of clients who have found themselves in court facing due process issues concerning proof offered by claimants that Certified Mail notice had been sent to them and ignored.

In many instances, the USPS Tracking record presented as proof of mailing has been incomplete, often showing only: “LABEL CREATED, NOT YET IN SYSTEM”.

This vague USPS record does not provide the supposed addressee with documentation to question claims of due process by alleged senders. For example, the Empire State Building’s address 20 W. 34th Street, New York NY 10001. While there are literally hundreds of businesses which receive mail there, USPS Tracking records merely state “DELIVERED, FRONT DESK/RECEPTION/MAIL ROOM NEW YORK NY 10001.”  A Certified Mail item addressed to any company in the Chelsea Neighborhood will provide the same record.

Courts are accepting such incomplete and ambiguous USPS Tracking records as proof of legal notice. While the USPS requires a scanning record of the exact address and signature of the recipient, they will not make that information available.

If you are the sender, the true addressee, or alleged addressee, it is the position of the USPS General Counsel that you are not entitled to delivery specifics for your article.


Peter Wade, was employed by the USPS for 32 years. He served in supervisory and administrative positions with the U S Postal Inspection Service in New York, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, San Francisco, and San Juan. He was also the Postmaster of San Juan PR and Field Division General Manager for the USPS Caribbean District responsible for providing postal services to 4 million customers and supervising 3000 USPS employees.

Mr. Wade has been a consultant and expert witness in postal related matters for 19 years. He has advised on numerous postal matters, including the merging of two independent postal services in Argentina. He has offered efficiency improvement and security advice to many business clients of the USPS. He has provided testimony in both civil and criminal proceedings in postal related litigation.

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