Yesterday, President Trump’s daughter-in-law was hospitalized after she opened a piece of mail containing an unidentified white powder that was later determined to be non-hazardous. She complained of nausea following her exposure and two other people who were present were also taken to the hospital. In this case, the mail was addressed to Donald Trump Jr. and delivered to his mother-in-law’s apartment, a move to avoid screening by agents assigned to protect the President’s immediate family.
Even though you or your business may not be targeted to the same degree as world leaders, crimes perpetrated using the mail are not uncommon. Through collaborative efforts, government agencies including the FBI, DHS, ATF and the US Postal Service have identified characteristics of suspicious mail that have repeatedly shown up, including:
Restrictive markings such as “Personal” or “Handle with Care”
No return address
Misspellings or badly written address
Mail sealed with tape or packages sealed with excessive tape
While this recent incident was a hoax, as most are, all businesses and households should have a suspicious package handling policy with an emergency plan in the event of a real threat. In addition to mail handling procedures, ongoing training is important. Clearly, Vanessa Trump has received security awareness training yet she did not think twice about opening mail addressed to her husband. Didactic education about abstract incidents or passive instruction like mailroom posters are rarely enough.
Key Takeaways: Have a plan to identify and handle suspicious mail. Provide scenario-based training for staff who receive mail and deliveries. Stress test the system to see if response to abstract concepts is aligned with policies and procedures. You may need more or a different type of training.