Video catches neighbour’s dodgy act



Welcome to Sisters In Law,'s weekly column solving all of your legal problems. This week, our resident lawyers and real-life sisters Alison and Jillian Barrett from Maurice Blackburn tackle your legal rights when it comes to neighbourhood disputes about mail.


QUESTION: I've got a problem with a man who lives around the corner. For the past six months, various things have gone missing from our mailbox, including a replacement ATM card. We set up a CCTV camera, which showed this man going through our mailbox almost every morning when he walks his dog in the early hours. We've tried putting a lock on the mailbox, but he used a twig to fish envelopes out and see what they were. How do we deal with this situation? Tammy, VIC


ANSWER: Unfortunately, with the rise of online shopping, mail theft has also increased. You've already taken the first step of trying to identify the person responsible and installing a padlock, which is great.

Now you know the identity of the offender, and that he is a neighbour, you should approach him directly about it if you feel comfortable to do so.

There could be an "innocent" explanation, like he was trying to get some junk mail in order to pick up his dog's poo if he'd forgotten a bag.

Of course, this is still no excuse, but could encourage him to stop if he knows that you know.

Last year, a Melbourne woman who was accused of stealing her neighbour's parcel defended

her actions by saying she was moving the parcel to prevent someone else from stealing it.

Your neighbour likely wouldn't be able to use that defence if you have CCTV of him trying to fish envelopes out of a secure mailbox with a twig.

The brazen thief even used twigs to remove mail from the mailbox. Picture: iStock
The brazen thief even used twigs to remove mail from the mailbox. Picture: iStock

Mail theft doesn't just occur when people want what you bought off eBay. Another cause of mail theft is so a person can commit identity fraud.

One in five Australians have been the victim of identity fraud, so beware that this could be your neighbour's motive.

In Australia there are no national laws making identity theft a crime in its own right. However, there are a number of other crimes that someone can be guilty of, consequential to identity theft - things like using a false document, forgery or fraud.

Warning signs you could be a victim include:

• Unusual or unexplained transactions on your bank account or credit card

• Receiving bills, receipts or invoices for services you haven't signed up to or for goods

you haven't bought

• Being denied a loan or credit, or a Centrelink benefit, on the basis you've maxed out

your entitlement.

If you're concerned your neighbour may be stealing your mail in order to steal your credit

card, fraudulently obtain a credit card or loan in your name, then you should contact the

police and your bank immediately.

If you find that your bank card has been stolen, and there is an unauthorised transaction on your bank account or credit card, then you should also report it to your bank as soon as possible.

The sooner you report it, the more likely you are to get your money back.

As you're missing your replacement ATM card you should carefully look at your statement to see if there are any suspicious transactions and report it immediately to your bank and the police.

He was eventually busted by CCTV. Picture: iStock
He was eventually busted by CCTV. Picture: iStock

You are likely to get your money back after an unauthorised transaction if:

• The transaction occurred before you received your new card/PIN

• Your account was debited more than once for the same goods/services

• A cancelled, forged or faulty card was used.

You may not get your money back if you haven't notified your bank that your card was stolen.

Tampering with mail, such as opening someone else's post you're not permitted to, is a criminal offence with imprisonment of up to five years.

If a person has accidentally opened someone else's mail, such as where a postie has delivered it to the wrong house, then usually they won't face criminal charges.

You should report your concerns to your local police service and, in the meantime:

• Clear your mailbox each afternoon or evening: Australia Post and parcel delivery

services usually come during the day, so if there's nothing there, he may stop looking

• Consider installing a sensor light that lights up the area of your mailbox as that may

deter him

• Redirect your mail if you're going away.


This legal information is general in nature and should not be regarded as specific legal advice or relied upon. Persons requiring particular legal advice should consult a solicitor.


If you have a legal question you would like Alison and Jillian to answer, please email

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