All day and all night, your mailbox sits outside, vulnerable and easy prey to criminals who want to steal your most personal details. Identity theft has become a real problem in the U.S. and even though mail theft is a federal crime, that’s not always enough to deter criminals. Mail-based crimes, like identity theft and fraud, are on the rise from 2.9 million reports in 2017 to 3.2 million just two years later.
That’s why, when Ring announced the coming arrival of its new Mailbox Sensor, curiosities were piqued, and many consumers sat up to pay attention. Could this be the solution to mail theft, another weapon we can place in our arsenal of home surveillance? It very well could be.
We take an in-depth look at this burgeoning technology.
Introducing the New Ring Mailbox Sensor
You may not have noticed the Ring Mailbox Sensor, buried as it was in a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it kind of launch. The new Ring Car Camera grabbed the headlines for its innovative new features, but this little sensor packs a serious punch for its low price.
The Ring Mailbox Sensor boasts a fairly simple set up. For $30, you receive a battery-powered sensor that attaches to either the door or flap of your mailbox. It’s weather-resistant, so it can be placed on the interior or exterior of your mailbox, and it connects to Amazon’s new Sidewalk network, which extends your home’s WiFi network to your mailbox.
All in all, it’s a very user-friendly device that users of all ages and lifestyles will have no trouble using.
The Ring Mailbox Sensor integrates with the Ring app to send notifications to any Alexa-enabled device, as well as several devices from the Ring family, such as the doorbell and camera, but you will need a Ring Bridge to link the devices.
You can even set your doorbell to ring or your camera to begin recording any time your mailbox is touched. For better clarity and security, there is also the option of Smart Lighting to illuminate your mailbox with a motion-detector feature. It comes with a Theft Protection policy, so you can even have your device replaced should it become stolen or damaged.
“You may find it challenging to file a claim on stolen packages if you have a lack of evidence that it was stolen in the first place,” says Imani Francies, a home security expert. “The Ring Mailbox Sensor was created to protect homeowners and renters from acts of such nature.”
“Privacy and security guide everything we do at Ring, and we are always looking for ways to deliver more user control and improve our customers’ experience,” says Ring President Leila Rouhl in the company’s September 2020 press release.
Drawbacks of the Ring Mailbox Sensor
We did find some surprises about the Ring mailbox sensor.
Despite Ring’s heavy usage of video and audio surveillance, it is missing from the sensor. There is neither camera nor microphone, leaving notifications solely dependent on mobile alerts delivered via the Ring app. You can integrate with other devices, but that will require additional expenditures.
The Ring Mailbox Sensor is best used with a single-mailbox setup, like those you would see with single-family homes, townhomes and some condo and apartment buildings. However, this is not a good feature for anyone who uses a communal or shared mailbox or if you have a mailroom in your building. The sensor also won’t apply to packages that are left at your doorstep or elsewhere. You'll need a Ring video doorbell for that.
What Ring has done here is offer a wildly affordable means of security for those who would like a little extra help keeping an eye on their mail.
Will the Ring Mailbox Sensor Prevent Crime?
The Ring Mailbox Sensor is an affordable solution to increase awareness and provide greater security to your mail, but without video or camera, you are unable to communicate with, and thus scare away, would-be criminals.
If you are at greater risk of mail theft or identity fraud, another sensor equipped with video or audio could perhaps be a better fit. You just need to be prepared to pay for it, as it will undoubtedly carry a much higher price tag. You can also invest in other Ring products, plus a Ring Bridge to unite them all together.
Still, there is no arguing that the sensor can make a huge difference with its notifications and even just its presence.
“Package theft has already dwindled with the Ring doorbell camera,” Francies says. “In 2015, the company claimed to have slashed burglaries in Los Angeles neighborhoods by around 50 percent, so one can assume the company hopes the mailbox sensor will have a similar effect on society.”
Tal Shelef, Realtor and Co-Founder of Condo Wizard, sees it as a worthwhile investment, especially given the low price tag. “This 30-dollar mailbox ring sensor promises safety of your mail. Mail holds our bills, credit card statements, important and sensitive notices, messages and information,” he reminds us. “If it takes only 30 dollars to protect your personal details, then go for it. It's always better to be safe than sorry.”
The Bottom Line
Without the option for two-way talk or video, we find that the new Mailbox sensor lacks many of the advanced technologies to which we've grown accustomed from Ring. The notifications are helpful, but for maximum benefit, you will want to connect to another Ring device for audio and video.
Photo by Kyrylo Glivin/EyeEm/Gettyimages