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Did you know you can legally buy someone’s unclaimed mail? We’ll explain

Many Amazon and USPS packages never make it to their destination and can be bought online and in person — but watch out for scams. Katie Teague headshot Katie TeagueNov. 4, 2021 2:00 p.m. PT mail-packages-usps-fedex-amazon-ups-doorstep-mailbox-letters-shipping-coronavirus-stay-at-home-2020-cnet When your highly anticipated Amazon or US Postal Service packages never make it to your doorstep, you’re left wondering what happened that prevented your goods from arriving. While your first guess may be porch pirates, your items could’ve been lost in transit from one delivery truck to another or misplaced in a warehouse. After months of going unclaimed, those packages can be auctioned off or end up for sale at local swap meets. (Amazon typically refunds customers or replaces missing items.) A few TikTok creators have brought the idea of buying lost packages to light, posting videos of warehouses full of mystery items waiting to be unboxed. While some contain cheaper fare like socks, TikTokers have also unwrapped gift cards, Nike sneakers and name-brand purses. Postal Service auctions put some of the items on display before purchase so you can have an idea of what you’re getting. We’ll tell you how to buy unclaimed packages from Amazon, the US Postal Service and other delivery services. We’ll also tell you how to look out for companies that claim to sell mystery boxes but could potentially scam you.

Check these websites to find auctions for unclaimed packages

If a Postal Service package hasn’t been claimed within 90 days, it’ll likely be auctioned on GovDeals, a company the US Postal Services contracts with to sell unclaimed items. Items could be sold in lots, rather than individually — so you may wind up with a bunch more stuff to sift through, resell or donate. On the site, you can browse categories you are interested in, such as sporting equipment, beauty supplies and clothing.

The website Liquidation lets you choose the company you’re interested in buying bulk packages from, including Amazon, Target, Walmart, Lowe’s and Home Depot. For some items, you can see what you’re bidding on, but other listings will only show you images of the boxes or pallets and the category it falls under, as well as an estimated retail price. Depending on the size and weight of the items you get, you can expect shipping to be upward of $100. 

An Amazon spokesperson told CNET that if an undelivered package arrives back to Amazon, an employee removes the item from the packaging and inspects it to determine whether the item can be resold. If not, it’s resold to other customers or liquidators, returned to suppliers or donated to charitable organizations.

Where to purchase undelivered Amazon and Postal Service packages

If you’re looking to buy items that were never delivered, you can search for vendors in your area to see if there’s a local swap meet or other places that sell undelivered items. Websites like Swap Madness can help you identify a vendor that could have packages for sale — for instance, a flea market stall. Note that some days may be better than others for finding packages. For instance, a TikToker visited Treasure Hunt in Evansville, Indiana, after it had just been restocked with packages and found a vast number of items for purchase. A reporter from Insider visited the same store on a weekday right before the store restocked and found everything picked over. If you’re planning to travel several hours to go to one of these stores, we recommend calling ahead to find out when shipments are scheduled to arrive. 21-mail-packages-usps-fedex-amazon-ups-doorstep-mailbox-letters-shipping-coronavirus-stay-at-home-2020-cnet

Look out for scams and avoid theft

Unless you can see exactly what you’re buying, you may run the risk of purchasing items that aren’t valuable to you. What you want to avoid is putting money in the hands of someone who gives you nothing.

We suggest checking the Better Business Bureau website and reading customer reviews to make sure the seller is legitimate. One company I found on the BBB site had reviews from customers who reported not receiving their packages after many months and getting fake tracking numbers.

For legitimate sellers and sources, we recommend going through sanctioned unclaimed package auctions, like GovDeals.

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