Suspicious Mail

Characteristics of Suspicious Mail:

Mail and package delivery to each department should be screened for suspicious letters and/or packages. Some common features of threat letters/packages include the following, but the presence of one or more of these elements does not always mean that the package is suspicious. In the final analysis, this evaluation depends upon the judgment of the individual screening the mail. Potential elements of suspicious mail are:

  • Fictitious, unfamiliar, or no return address
  • Hand written or poorly typed address
  • Address to a title only or an incorrect title
  • Mailed from a foreign country
  • Excessive postage
  • Excessive string or tape on package
  • Misspelling of common words
  • Restrictive markings such as “Confidential,” “Personal,” etc.
  • Excessive weight and/or feel of a powdery or foreign substance
  • Discoloration or stains
  • Shows a city or state in the post mark that does not match the return address

Handling Suspicious Mail:

  1. Do Not Open or Handle: Suspicious letters and packages should not be opened and should not be handled any more than is absolutely necessary. If the letter or package is deemed suspicious leave it alone and call Public Safety: Charles River Campus: 617-353-2121 or Medical Campus: 617-414-4444.
  2. Keep others away from the area: Do not send suspicious letters or packages to Public Safety or back to the mailroom.
  3. Letter or Package Claiming Contamination: If you open a letter/package with information that claims to be contaminated, but there is no substance seen or felt in the envelope or on the letter, the chances are that you have not been contaminated. Call Public Safety and tell them exactly what has happened. They will dispatch the appropriate personnel to your location to follow-up on your possible exposure and to document what has taken place. Secure the area until Public Safety arrives. Do not handle the suspicious item any more and do not let anyone else handle the item.
  4. Letter or Package with a Foreign Substance: If you open a letter/package that claims to be contaminated or there is some sort of foreign substance in the envelope or package, place the letter back into the envelope/package and re-close it. The person that opened the envelope/package and anyone who came in contact with the envelope/package or its contents after it was opened should immediately leave the room and wash their hands with soap and water. Remove any clothing that has the substance on it and place the contaminated clothing in a plastic trash bag. Then wash your hands with soap and water. Call Public Safety to report the letter and tell the dispatcher you have opened the envelope/package, that there is a substance inside, and what you have done up to that point.
  5. The Risk will be Evaluated and Further Measures Taken (If Necessary): Public Safety and the Boston Fire Department will evaluate the risk to those in the room at the time of potential exposure as well as any impact on the remainder of the building. Based upon that risk assessment, further emergency measures may be implemented as necessary. Public Safety will secure the area and keep a record of actions taken including those who were in the area. If the risk is found to be minimal, other areas of the facility will not be disrupted and any necessary actions to return the area involved to normal activity will begin as soon as possible.
  6. If you need immediate medical assistance, please contact Public Safety: For questions regarding these procedures, please contact Public Safety or Environmental Health and Safety: Charles River Campus: 617-353-4094 or Medical Campus: 617-638-8830 .
  7. If you would like to learn more about this subject, visit the CDC website or the Boston Public Health Commission website at