Warning: Hanging Advertising on Mailboxes is Illegal!

Warning: Hanging Advertising on Mailboxes is Illegal!

Many people use the flag of the mailbox to hang advertising. I’m sure you’ve gotten marketing materials, especially pizza flyers, hanging on the flag of your mailbox. Did you know that’s illegal? If you plan to advertise this way, beware!

According to the USPS, “No part of a mail receptacle may be used to deliver any matter not bearing postage, including items or matter placed upon, supported by, attached to, hung from, or inserted into a mail receptacle.”

The article goes on to say that, “anyone knowingly and willfully depositing any mailable matter (in this way) is subject to a fine of no more than $300 for each offense.”

Postal regulation 3.1.3 Use for Mail

“Except under 3.2.11, Newspaper Receptacle, the receptacles described in 3.1.1 may be used only for matter bearing postage. Any mailable matter not bearing postage and found as described above is subject to the same postage as would be paid if it were carried by mail.”

You can read the entire regulation in the Domestic Mail Manual 508 3.1.3 Use for Mail.

It’s not only illegal, it’s federal illegal. It’s considered tampering with a mailbox. If someone catches you anywhere near their mailbox for whatever reason you may find yourself in a federal investigation. Tampering with mail can be a three year sentence and a $50,000.00 fine!

What do you consider a better alternative?

This post has 43 Comments | Would you like to leave a comment?


  1. Great comment and info, E. Thanks for writing.

    And you’re correct, all that paper left on a person’s mailbox can certainly indicate they’ve not been home for a while! Vacant house?

    I’m so sorry you’re having a problem with this. Most people, as you’ve found, won’t care and I doubt the government has the manpower to regulate the violators.

    Thanks for adding to the comment chain.

  2. Seems like people would have better sense but haha not these days.

    I call these people who tape cards and bright orange flyers designed to look like

    some kind of “official” municipality conveyance. They couldnt care less if they’re breaking any law .

    My concern is I often don’t get out to check my mail every day. I have no need to. And if that bright orange flyer or business card stays on my private US Mailbox a few days running. . “someone” might get the mistaken impression that I am not at home and have other ideas on that assumption. Like breaking into my habitation. The worse neighborhood you live in the more likely bad guys are liable to get that idea.

    I have begun to keep these “cards and flyers” to keep a record of them and am going to go to the post office in person and see if I can get them to call these people who are breaking federal law to stop.

    I doubt it will stop.

    I call the numbers on these things but 1. they don’t care and .2 they think it’s legal.

  3. Hi Dawn. You might also ask your postal delivery person what else you can do. Let us know what you find!

  4. Hi Karen! I’m so glad I stumbled across the older post and I’m hoping you can help me! I found the 508 statute and have read it all. What I can not find in the statute is the PENALTY. Google found plenty of links but none were from the USPS. I’m sick of my standalone mailbox being opened by lawn/tree men inserting their business card into my mailbox! It feels like an invasion of privacy. I’m making a sticker/sign to warn future stuffers to not stuff my box and really want to refer to an official penalty quote and I’m hoping you’ll share your penalty resource. Thank you!

  5. The mailbox is private property. I’m sure you don’t want others opening your mailbox just to look inside. It’s a bit like opening their front door to see if your package was sitting there.

    You should really have waited and asked your neighbor if he got your package.

    Thanks for writing!

  6. I had a package delivered but it was never on my porch. I go next door and I just open the mailbox to see if my package was in it I didn’t stick my hand in it or anything is that agaist the law or can I get in trouble for that when I was just looking to see if my package got sent to the wrong address

  7. Thanks, Leon, for taking the time to leave a reply.

  8. I do not believe that hanging something on the outside of the mailbox is a rule that is applied. You may be right about the specific rule. But, for the past 45 years at my home, I have received hundreds of flyers, bags, phone books, advertising, and other items hanging on my mailbox flag, door, post, decorative curls etc.

    I do not feel infringed or hurt in any way. This is a tried and true American tradition. Normal Americans do not mind and feel that small businesses should be allowed to use this type of sweat equity to promote their American businesses.

    blocking people from using the outside of the mailbox is Un-American and will not be tolerated by the True Americans. We love people who work hard and put their own sweat into their businesses.

    EVERYONE knows not to use the inside.

    It’s a good warming. because their are always Gladys Kravitz type idiots around. So, of they have a problem with the mailbox flyer, stop doing it to their house. It’s a harmless tradition in America.

  9. No, I don’t know officially except that we’re not supposed to put anything on a mailbox.

  10. Do you have an answer yet about me placing a small US flag on my own mail box out front of my house?

  11. Hi Don:
    I believe the mailbox is federal property so we’re not supposed to mess with it.

    Plenty of other places you can put a flag, however! And, who knows, may not have been the mailman who removed it.

    Thanks for sharing.

  12. We had a small, 12×18 American flag attached to the mail box post not interfering with the mail box itself, the local postman took down and I am guessing took it with him. Was this flag illegal?

  13. Wow, Annie, I love the depth of your thinking!

    I have no idea the answer to your question. If you can’t find it in the USPS info in the link I included in the post, you’re probably good to go. Perhaps ask your local Postmaster?

    Let us know what you find out and thanks for asking!

  14. Hi Karen,

    What an informative post!

    I am a designer and designed some cool and creative numbers and letters for names/house numbers based on a font I created, and selling them via Shopify. I copyrighted these designs to make sure they are legally protected, and have sold quite a few (friends and families mostly)

    As part of each sticker I put my copyright info which does have a link to my website.

    [c] http://www.mycutedesigns.com (not the actual name)

    I would think the copyright info is legit, but it contains a link to the website where the sticker was purchased, and would that be considered ‘advertisement’?

    Maybe I am overthinking this lol.

  15. No problem, if it’s your mailbox, Brett.

    Thanks for the question!

  16. Great Article!

    What if I put a sticker with the name of my company on the mailbox (easier for the mailman and when customers show up). e.g:

    (C) http://www.MYSTORE.com

    Is that illegal? It is kinda advertisement, but it’s my own, not hawking any product directly which I think the law was written for.


  17. Thank you, Kevin, for taking the time to add this to our conversation.

  18. There is a difference between illegal (against a law) and violation of regulation (against a govt body’s policy).

    The former involves the police, courts, and will land you in jail. The later has lesser consequences like a fine, withholding of the service, or such.

    Placing items inside a box is illegal, placing items outside the receptacle is not.

    Kindly correct your headline.

  19. J:
    I don’t know for sure, but I would think those tubes are perfectly fine because they are not USPS regulated, to my knowledge.

    Thank you for the question!

  20. When there is a newspaper tube or box incorporated into the mailbox support, is it legal to leave an unsolicited tabloid or printed message in that box?

  21. Tampering with anyone’s mailbox is a federal offense.

    What an odd thing for your neighbor to do!!!

    By the way, I went to Renton High School and worked at Boeing in Renton.


  22. We noticed that our flag was up several days in a row when we went to get our mail. Our security cameras showed our neighbor who lives up the street putting our flag up and driving off. We live in Renton WA and I wanted to know if this was illegal.

  23. Hi Tien:
    I really don’t know the answer to your question, but I did put a link in the article where you can search for that. There are so many bits and pieces to these laws!

    Thank you for reading and for asking. Let us know what you find out!

  24. Hi There! I have a question about mounting mail box and warnings signfor decoration front of my house.Is that illlegal? Mail box is not in used for area. We are used community mail box. Thanks have a good day!

  25. Agreed, Barbara. When you read the law, it’s so crystal clear – Nothing on the mailbox or its support.

    Thanks for commenting!

  26. PER: Mailing Standards of the United States Postal Service Domestic Mail Manual > 500 Additional Services > 508Recipient Services

    “3.2.5 Advertising
    Any advertising on a mailbox or its support is prohibited. ”

    “On a mailbox or its support!” ILLEGAL!

  27. Kirk:
    Click on the link I put in the post. You can read all the details there. Here’s what section 3.2.5 reads:

    3.2.5 Advertising – Any advertising on a mailbox or its support is prohibited.

    I posted the link, not the entire law. Please click on the link where I stated: You can read the entire regulation in the Domestic Mail Manual 508 3.1.3 Use for Mail.

  28. “Whoever knowingly and willfully deposits any mailable matter such as statements of accounts, circulars, sale bills, or other like matter, on which no postage has been paid, in any letter box established, approved, or accepted by the Postal Service for the receipt or delivery of mail matter on any mail route with intent to avoid payment of lawful postage thereon, shall for each such offense be fined under this title.”

    It’s reads nothing about hanging a flyer on the box being illegal. It reads if you try to circumvent the post office so you don’t have to pay postage with an item of mail that’s mailable, that’s illegal. This is another example of people trying to be more important than they are. No, it’s not illegal. Show me one case law to the opposite?

  29. Thank you for this info, Joe.

  30. The EVERY DOOR DIRECT MAIL service offered by the post office is an easy, excellent and price-effective (and legal ;) alternative. You can pick your route via their interactive map. Census info like avg. income is visible above the map for the chosen route. At $ 0.17 / piece, the price is unbeatable. You just print your “standard mail” advertising and bring it to the post office. More at:

  31. You’re right, Selma. But often people have more time than money and are looking for the least expensive ways to find the most properties.

    Thanks for adding your comment!

  32. Well Eric why wouldn’t you just get addresses for the neighborhood and mail them. That would be a lot less trouble and not skirt the law

  33. I looked for that too.

    While I couldn’t say that an individual homeowner might not object if they saw you doing it, I couldn’t find anything about it being illegal.

    Obviously it’s illegal to take anything OUT, but putting it in…?

    Congress seems to have overlooked that issue.

  34. That sounds right to me, Eric. I imagine they want to be paid for using their property. I also think there is a privacy issue with entering someone else’s mailbox.

    Thanks for adding to the conversation!

  35. I think I just found a loophole, although whether anyone wanting to advertise may or may not think so…

    The most direct law I can find is 18 U.S. Code § 1725 – Postage unpaid on deposited mail matter

    “Whoever knowingly and willfully deposits any mailable matter such as statements of accounts, circulars, sale bills, or other like matter, on which no postage has been paid, in any letter box established, approved, or accepted by the Postal Service for the receipt or delivery of mail matter on any mail route with intent to avoid payment of lawful postage thereon, shall for each such offense be fined under this title.”

    I can’t find anything that says that the postage stamp has to be cancelled or that the post office itself has to do the delivery.

    In other words, if I am doing selective advertising where I am driving around and selecting houses that I think would be especially good customers, there is apparently nothing illegal about putting a flyer in their mailbox AS LONG AS I PUT A STAMP ON IT.

  36. Thanks, Joel, for your comment!

  37. That’s messed up. In rural areas you have to buy your own mailbox, sometimes even in incorporated cities. I agree that only USPS mail should be placed IN the box, I disagree with what should be allowed outside the box.

  38. Hi Mark:
    Obviously, if it’s your mailbox, you can put the flag up. It’s supposed to be up if you have anything inside that you want the letter carrier to take.

    However, if it’s not your mailbox, don’t touch.

  39. Is it illegal to put up the flag of the mailbox itself?

  40. Hi Dena:
    If you read the Domestic Mail Manual as mentioned above, section 3.1.2 Exclusions states:

    “The post or other support is not part of the receptacle.”

    Good question with what appears to be a specific answer. Will you leave marketing on the post?

  41. What about the mail box post?

  42. Good to know. Those mailboxes with their open slots look like they are begging for flyers… but you are right – putting anything in them is not allowed…

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