Are virtual mailboxes safe? Best virtual mailbox services

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Snail mail is becoming an obsolete concept in a virtual world. Logistically, it's hard to maintain a physical address, especially if you move frequently or travel often.

Still, it's useful to have a mailing address where you can receive important documents, parcels, bills, and other pieces of mail.

Virtual mailboxes bridge the gap between the physical and digital world. It gives you a real, physical mailing address without the hassle of managing a physical mailbox.

Like all things digital, however, you may be worried about the risk of identity theft, stolen mail, and other malicious activities when it comes to using a virtual mailbox.

We get it – that's why we went ahead and conducted in-depth research on the safety of virtual mailboxes.

We looked up various virtual mailbox services to find the best ones available today.

We filtered them by checking their official websites, their profiles on sites like BBB and Trustpilot, plus user reviews on popular forums like Reddit.

Along the way, we discovered the TOP factor you should consider before signing up for any virtual mailbox service.

Make sure to keep reading until the end! While all of the services we list below are great options, that factor will help you choose the right virtual mailbox for YOUR specific needs.

What's a virtual mailbox, and what can you do with one?

A virtual mailbox is a service that allows you to receive mail at a real street address that isn't your physical address. 

The staff at the virtual mailbox company will receive, open, scan, and upload your mail to a secure online account.

Depending on the service you purchase, you can do the following with a virtual mailbox:

Receive most types of mail

A virtual mailbox works exactly like a traditional mailbox in terms of what types of mail it can receive. This includes deliveries from sites like Amazon, checks, letters, bills, and packages.

The only difference is that you don't physically visit the mailbox to retrieve your mail. Instead, you log in to your online account to view scanned images of your mail.

Forward mail to your current address

If you have a virtual mailbox, you can have your mail forwarded to wherever you are. This is useful if you travel a lot or move frequently. 

Most virtual mailbox services offer this feature for an additional monthly fee.

Request that packages be held for pickup

If you're expecting a package, most virtual mailbox services will hold it at the location for you to pick up. 

This is generally free of charge, but some locations may charge a small fee.

Shred mail you don't need

Hate receiving spam, leaflets, and other unsolicited mail? No problem. With a virtual mailbox, you can request that these types of mail be shredded on your behalf.

Discard mail you don't want

If you don't need to keep the mail for any reason, you can ask the staff at the mailbox location to discard it for you. For instance, you may want them to discard mail that's already been opened and scanned.

Consolidate multiple packages into one

If you have multiple packages being delivered to your mailbox, most services will consolidate them into one. This can save you money on shipping fees, as well as the hassle of dealing with multiple packages.

Track your mail online

You can track your mail using the virtual mailbox's online interface and receive notifications when new mail arrives. Since all mail is scanned, including letters and bills, you can read them electronically.

Use a virtual mailbox as your business address

If you're running a business from home, you can use a virtual mailbox as your business address. Not only does this make your business look more professional, but it can also help you keep your home address private.

These are just some of the basic features offered by virtual mailbox services. Depending on the service you choose, you may also be able to do things like a sign for packages, deposit checks by mail, and run a virtual office complete with voice mail, fax, and phone numbers.

The 3 main types of virtual mailboxes

Aside from offering a variety of services, you can also select from three different types of virtual mailboxes:

1. The forwarding address

A forwarding address is the most basic type of virtual mailbox. With this service, your mail is delivered to a real street address and then forwarded to your current location.

By “current location,” we mean literally anywhere you are – whether that's another country, another state, or just across town.

2. The third-party mail center

A third-party mail center is similar to a forwarding address, but with one key difference: your mail is stored at a physical location that you can visit. 

So, if you're ever in the same city as your virtual mailbox, you can drop by and pick up your mail yourself.

3. The virtual address company sorting center

The virtual address company sorting center is the most comprehensive type of virtual mailbox.

In addition to offering all the features of a forwarding address and third-party mail center, it also provides a professional business address complete with a suite number. 

This can be useful if you're running a business from home or don't have a physical office.

Most virtual address company sorting centers also offer a variety of other business services, such as live phone answering, scheduled package pickups, and conference room rentals.

8 practical advantages of virtual mailboxes

Having a physical location where you can receive, sort, and store your mail has a number of advantages. Here are just a few:

1. You can receive mail from anywhere in the world

A virtual mailbox means you're not stuck in one place. As long as you have an Internet connection, you can receive mail from wherever you are. 

You don't need to worry about waiting for the mail to arrive, checking a PO box, or coordinating with anyone to have your mail forwarded.

2. A virtual mailbox helps protect your privacy

There are many reasons why you may not want to use your home address as your primary mailing address, such as:

  • Living with roommates and not wanting anyone to go through your mail
  • Having a stalker or ex who you don't want to have your address
  • Not wanting businesses to know where you live in case they sell your information
  • Worried about identity theft or uninvited guests showing up at your door

No matter the reason, a virtual mailbox allows you to stay anonymous while still getting your mail.

3. A virtual mailbox is more secure than a PO box

A PO box is essentially a locked mailbox that anyone with a key can access. You can see why it's a security risk: if someone gets your key, they can take your mail. 

With a virtual mailbox, only you (and anyone you give access to) can see and manage your mail.

4. You can manage your mail online

One of the best things about virtual mailboxes is that you can access and manage your mail from anywhere in the world – as long as you have an Internet connection. 

Most virtual mailbox services have an online portal where you can view your mail, open and scan attachments, and even request that packages be shipped to you. Some services will even let you pay bills online.

In addition, the best virtual mailbox services offer a smartphone app along with their online portal. This makes it even more convenient to handle your mail on the go.

5. You can get a professional business address

If you're running a business from home or don't have a physical office, a virtual mailbox can give you a professional address to use on your website and marketing materials. 

This can help you build trust with customers and make your business look more credible. 

And if you ever do get a physical office, you can always keep your virtual mailing address as a backup.

6. You can save money on shipping

If you're selling products online, a virtual mailbox can help you save money on shipping. 

Since most virtual mailbox providers have a network of locations around the world, you can ship your products to a location near your customers and avoid high international shipping costs.

Even if you're not selling anything, a virtual mailbox can still save you money on shipping costs. 

For example, if you're ordering something from an online store that doesn't ship to your country, you can use a virtual mailbox as your shipping address. 

This way, you can have the item shipped to the virtual mailbox provider's sorting center in your country, and then they can forward it to you.

7. It lessens clutter and paper waste.

A virtual mailbox can help you go paperless and reduce the amount of clutter in your home or office. Since you can view and manage your mail online, there's no need to keep paper copies. 

And if you do need a physical copy of something, most virtual mailbox providers offer scanning and forwarding services.

8. You can use it for travel or as a temporary address.

A virtual mailbox doesn't just receive mail. Because it's tied to a real-world street address, you can use it as your temporary or permanent mailing address, even if you're traveling or don't have a physical address yet. 

This can come in handy if you're moving to a new city or country and need a local address to use on job applications or other forms.

5 surprising disadvantages of a virtual mailbox

Using a virtual mailbox may not always be ideal. Here are a few downsides:

1. You need to pay for a virtual mailbox

Unlike receiving mail at home or getting it yourself at the postal office, a virtual mailbox requires a monthly fee. 

This can range from $10 to $40 per month, depending on the features and services you need.

2. You might still need a PO box

While a virtual mailbox can replace a PO box for most people, there are still some circumstances where you might need one. 

For example, if you're a business owner and need to register your business with the state, you might be required to have a PO box.

3. You might not be able to use it for all types of mail

Some businesses, like banks and credit card companies, might not send mail to virtual mailbox addresses. This means you might still need a physical address for sensitive mail.

4. You'll need internet access to manage your mail

A virtual mailbox is only as good as your internet connection. Going somewhere off the radar? Make sure you have another way to check your mail, or you might miss something important.

5. It's not available everywhere

Virtual mailbox providers are still expanding their reach, but they're not available in every country or city yet. 

If you live in a rural area, you might not be able to get a virtual mailbox, depending on your location.

Virtual Mailboxes: What kind of people need it?

Virtual mailboxes sound great in theory, but when you're spending money each month on a service, you want to be sure it's the right fit for you. 

Here are some common scenarios where a virtual mailbox can come in handy:

You're a digital nomad

The freelance life has a lot of perks, but a traditional mailing address isn't one of them. If you want to keep your mail organized while you travel, a virtual mailbox can help.

You move around a lot

Whether you're in the military, a student, or just can't seem to stay in one place for more than a few months, a virtual mailbox can give you a way to keep your mail organized and in one place, no matter where you are.

You live in a rural area

Some areas are so remote that they don't even have a postal service. If your only option for receiving mail is to drive an hour each way to the post office, a virtual mailbox can save you a lot of time and hassle.

You want to declutter your life

Receiving mail generates a lot of waste – boxes, wrapping materials, and of course, paper. 

If you're trying to reduce your impact on the environment or simply don't want that stuff accumulating in your house, a virtual mailbox can help you go paperless.

You live in shared housing

Whether you're in a dorm, an apartment complex, or just have roommates, managing mail can be a pain. Not only do you have to keep track of your own mail, but you also have to make sure it doesn't get lost or stolen. 

A virtual mailbox can take the hassle out of shared housing by giving you a separate, secure place to manage your mail.

You run an online business

Much like digital nomads, virtual entrepreneurs often don't have a traditional mailing address. This can cause several issues, such as delays in receiving payments or problems with shipping orders. 

A virtual mailbox can help you keep your business running smoothly by giving you a dedicated place to manage your mail.

You need to keep your identity private

Like we mentioned above, there are several scenarios where you might need to keep your mailing address private. 

For example, if you're a victim of domestic violence or stalking, it's not safe to have your address public. 

A virtual mailbox can give you a way to keep your mail and your location confidential.

If any of these scenarios sound like you, having a virtual mailbox can be a wise decision.

Are virtual mailboxes safe from identity theft?

Allowing someone else to handle your mail might seem like a recipe for identity theft. After all, if they can access your mail, what's to stop them from stealing your information?

Fortunately, the best virtual mailbox providers take security very seriously. They use several layers of physical and digital security to protect your mail from theft, including:

Physical security
Mail is stored in a locked facility with security cameras, alarm systems, and on-site staff. Before hiring staff, providers conduct background checks to make sure they can be trusted.
Digital security
Mail is scanned and uploaded to a secure online portal that only you can access. To make sure it's you trying to log in, providers often use security checks like two-factor authentication, which requires you to confirm your identity with a code sent to your phone.
Encryption
Mail is encrypted while it's in transit to the virtual mailbox provider and while it's stored on their servers. This means that even if someone were to gain access to your mail somehow, they wouldn't be able to read it, since it would just look like gibberish.
Identity verification
You have to verify your identity before you can open an account with a virtual mailbox provider. For instance, some providers require you to submit a copy of your driver's license or passport before they'll activate your account.
Mobile app security
Just like any other app on your phone, virtual mailbox apps use security measures like SSL encryption to protect your data. Digital security measures like 2FA, biometrics, and remote device wipes are also often used to make sure your account can't be accessed by anyone but you.

In other words, you're probably more likely to have your mail stolen from your front porch than from a virtual mailbox.

8 Tips for choosing the best virtual mailbox for YOU

Because there are so many features, services, and price points to consider, choosing the right virtual mailbox can be tricky. 

Here are a few tips to help you find the best provider for your needs:

1. Know what virtual mailbox services you need

The first step is to figure out what services you need from a virtual mailbox. Do you just need someone to receive and scan your mail, or do you need them to forward it to you?

If you run a business, would you like extra services like phone and fax support? It's important to know what you need before you start looking for a provider; otherwise, you might end up paying for features you don't use.

2. Consider the location of your virtual mailbox

When you're looking at virtual mailbox providers, pay attention to the location of their mailboxes. If you have a business that ships internationally, you might want to consider a provider with locations in multiple countries.

If you're a digital nomad who frequently travels, on the other hand, you might want to choose a provider with locations in multiple cities so you can easily change your mailing address as needed.

Live in an apartment with other people? Maybe a virtual mailbox with a physical location near you would be more convenient than one that's only accessible online.

3. Check their security measures

As we mentioned before, both digital and physical security is crucial when it comes to virtual mailboxes. If you can, we recommend going to the provider's office or warehouse to see how they protect your mail.

Look for things like:

  • Restricted access to areas where mail is scanned or opened
  • Video monitoring
  • Alarm systems
  • Identity verification protocols for both staff and customers
  • Locks on mailboxes and doors
  • Proper storage of mail (i.e. not in a pile on the floor)
  • Proper disposal of mail that is no longer needed

If you can't visit the provider's office in person, ask them about their security measures and whether they have any certification from organizations like the United States Postal Service.

Ask about their protocol for cyber attacks as well. In the event of a data breach, how will they keep your information safe? 

Don't be afraid of sounding pushy or paranoid – after all, your mail contains sensitive information like your home address and bank statements. You have a right to know how it will be protected.

4. Observe how they treat customers

You'll be trusting this company with your mail, so before you even drop a dime on their service, take some time to observe how they treat their customers. 

Are they friendly and helpful, or do they seem like they can't be bothered? How long does it take them to answer questions?

In short, would you feel comfortable entrusting your mail to them? If even a small part of you is unsure, it's probably best to look elsewhere.

5. Read their reviews

Of course, you can't always trust customer service to give you an accurate picture of what it's like to use a company's services. That's why reading reviews is so important.

Look for reviews from third-party sites like Consumer Reports, the Better Business Bureau, Trustpilot, and Yelp. 

You should also search for reviews on the provider's own website, but keep in mind that these could be biased.

Try looking for online groups or forums where people discuss virtual mailboxes. You might be able to find some honest feedback about providers that you wouldn't find anywhere else.

6. Evaluate the quality of their physical address

Not all virtual mailbox providers will have something like an Amazon Warehouse address. 

While some do have state-of-the-art facilities, others might have a P.O. box or even just a post office box. Some providers also just rent out space in a physical mailbox at a UPS store.

There's nothing inherently wrong with either of these options, but it's important to be aware of what you're getting. This is especially true if you're planning to use that virtual address to represent your business. 

You don't want potential customers to think you're a fly-by-night operation if your virtual address turns out to be a room in an old strip mall.

The best virtual mailbox services will have a modern physical address that you can be proud of.

7. Check how many locations they have in the US and worldwide

This is the TOP consideration we were referring to earlier. When looking for a virtual mailbox provider, you want to make sure that they have locations in the US and all over the world.

The more locations they have, the more flexibility you enjoy. If you travel a lot and the provider only has US locations, then you should cross it off your list immediately. Otherwise, you'll have to change your address every time you leave the country, which is a huge hassle.

On the other hand, if you only ever travel within the US, then a provider with international locations might not be as important to you. Just keep in mind that it's always better to have more options than less.

8. Check if they have a mobile app

This may not seem like an important consideration, but trust us – it's worth taking into account. A provider with a mobile app will make your life so much easier.

You don't need to pop into an internet cafe or bring your laptop with you on vacation just to check your mail. 

As long as you have your phone, you can do it anywhere – get real-time alerts of new mail, read letters, and even deposit checks if the provider offers that service. That's the beauty of a virtual mailbox with a mobile app.

The 4 best virtual mailbox service providers we recommend (plus 2 we don't)

Now that you know what to look for in a virtual mailbox service, all that's left is helping you narrow down your options. Below are our top recommendations for the best virtual mailbox providers out there:

1. iPostal1

iPostal1 is one of the most popular virtual mailbox providers for a reason – they offer everything you could possibly want in a virtual mailbox service and then some.

The company was established in 2007, and they now have over 2,300 locations in the US and around the world. They also offer some of the most affordable prices on this list – you can have a virtual mailbox starting at $9.99 a month.

Highlights:

  • Thousands of locations in the US, UK, Canada, Switzerland, Singapore, and more
  • iOS and Android mobile all
  • Discounted international forwarding
  • Personal and business accounts are available
  • Free mail storage for up to 30 days

2. PostScan Mail

PostScan Mail is one of the newer virtual mailbox providers on this list, having started on 2012. But don't let that fool you – they're already one of the best in the business.

The company already has 400+ locations in both the US and other countries, including the UK, Switzerland, Singapore, Grenada, and more. They use authentic US street addresses. Because of this, they're an excellent option if you need a virtual mailbox for a business that ships to the US.

They have a simple pricing system, and plans start at only $15 a month.

Highlights:

  • Package forwarding and mail consolidation
  • Unlimited junk mail recycling
  • Automated scanning of inbox mail
  • Free storage of packages for 7 days
  • Mobile app for iOS and Android devices

3. Anytime MailBox

Founded in 2013, Anytime Mailbox is a top choice no matter what your needs are. They have an advanced system for digitizing mail, so you can enjoy almost real-time access to your mailbox no matter where you are in the world.

The company offers 1,300+ locations in the US and worldwide, and they're always expanding. We also love how flexible their plans are – you can choose from a super basic “Address Only” plan all the way up to a “Virtual Office Suite” plan that includes a business address, mail forwarding, and even a live receptionist.

Highlights:

  • Rates start at $4.98 a month for US locations
  • Can accept mail from DHL, FedEx, and other major carriers
  • Postal mail is available almost immediately on the web interface and app
  • Mobile apps for iOS and Android devices
  • 24/7 customer support
  • Addresses all over the US, Asia, and Europe

4. Traveling MailBox

Traveling MailBox is a feature-rich virtual mailbox service that's been around since 2011. As the name implies, the company is geared towards travelers who need a reliable way to receive their mail while on the road. Because of this, the company pushes cloud storage and mail digitization pretty hard.

One neat feature of Traveling MailBox is their QuickScan feature. Got a new letter in your virtual mail? Click on QuickScan, and the PDF version of the physical mail will be available on the app in minutes.

We also like how you can send your PDFs to OneDrive, Google Drive, and Dropbox, and other cloud services with just a few clicks.

Highlights:

  • Plans start at $15 a month
  • Enterprise custom plans are available for businesses
  • Offers OCR for automated digitization of PDFs
  • All plans include unlimited cloud storage, free shredding of your mail, and junk mail filtering
  • Basic and premium addresses are available

Not Recommended: Earth Class Mail (no international addresses)

Earth Class Mail was founded in 2004, making it one of the pioneers in the industry. To date, they've served companies the likes of Zapier, Reddit, and Lyft.

Earth Class Mail has almost every part of the USA covered, from the coldest parts of Alaska to the warmest parts of Florida. So if you need a virtual mailbox in the US, they're definitely one of the best providers out there.

A major con of Earth Class Mail, however, is that they don't have any international locations. If you need a virtual mailbox outside the US, you're better off with one of the other options in this list.

Highlights:

  • Unlimited storage online for open mail
  • Offers automatic scanning of your mail
  • Secure mail shredding services
  • Syncing available with cloud storage
  • MailBox plans start at $19 a month
  • MailRoom plans for businesses start at $139 a month

Not Recommended: US Global Mail (only one location available)

Like we said earlier, location is a make or break factor when choosing a virtual mailbox provider. Unfortunately, US Global Mail doesn't have a lot to offer in this department.

The company only has a single location: Houston, Texas. So unless you live or work near Houston, US Global Mail isn't going to be a good option for you.

If you just need a physical address and are not too picky about the location, US Global Mail is a decent provider. But we recommend going with one of the other options on this list if you can.

Highlights:

  • Plans start at $14.99 a month
  • Business plan available
  • 90 days of free storage for mail
  • No mobile app

Final thoughts

A virtual mailbox gives you the freedom to manage your mail from anywhere in the world. With so many features and packages available, there's bound to be a great option for you, whether you just need an address or want a full-fledged virtual office.

As long as you do your research and pick a reputable provider, having a virtual mailbox can unlock a whole new level of versatility, security, and convenience in your life.

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