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Is it illegal to open someone else's mail to get return address?

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Found 20th Jun 2013
Hi, do you know if it is illegal to open someone else's mail?
A letter was posted to my address today. The recipient was wrong. That person has never lived at this address. The postcode is wrong though (I.e. not the correct postcode that is associated with my address), although the first line of address is where I live. 'Final notice' is written boldly on the envelope. There is no return address on the envelope.

Question, which may be silly, is it illegal for me to open the letter to find a return address? I don't want debt collectors coming to my door! If it is illegal, what should I do?

Thank you for your kind advice everyone!
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Just endorse the envelope "Not known at this address" and pop it back in the postbox.
Even though there is no return address?
elsasukie

Even though there is no return address?



Yes. The Royal Mail has a returned letter centre in Belfast. They are permitted to open the letter to obtain the return address.
I had opened a few letters in the pass myself ..........and i returned them to the correct address. The receivers were very thankful as letters were from hospitals , insurance ...solicitor ....etc..
The Postal Services Act 2000 states, "A person commits an offence if, intending to act to a person’s detriment and without reasonable excuse, he opens a postal packet which he knows or reasonably suspects has been incorrectly delivered to him". It carries a penalty of a fine up to £5,000 or up to six months imprisonment.
I do not think you could be acccused of acting to a person's detriment by trying to alert the sender that they do not live at your address. I would not bother too much about opening it. That way, if they are threatening action you can telephone and let them know they have the wrong details. However, writing "Not known at this address" and putting it in the post box would also be ok.
opened in error.
bin it
If it comes through my letterbox it's fair keeps
if it's a different address with a different name and you open it then yh is illegal.
ceres

Yes. The Royal Mail has a returned letter centre in Belfast. They are … Yes. The Royal Mail has a returned letter centre in Belfast. They are permitted to open the letter to obtain the return address.



This is correct, do not open it. Mark up the envelope - not know at this address and RTS (return to sender) and Royal Mail will do the rest. I recently received a letter back as the addressee of the recipient had changed and the Belfast RM office sent my letter back as my address was on the letter inside.
elsasukie

Even though there is no return address?



Yep, not your responsibility.
only if you intend to do something fraudulent with it.
Open it and contact the sender.

Not illegal (and frankly even if it was, do you really think that the CPS are going to waste court time prosecuting you for it?) . You have good reasons for opening a letter to your address which looks to have financial implications for the address.
watchcote

Just endorse the envelope "Not known at this address" and pop it back in … Just endorse the envelope "Not known at this address" and pop it back in the postbox.



Wouldn't make any difference if you did anyway. The sender may think you are trying to avoid a payment, happened to my mum recently. Someone was using her address for some dubious reason. Sounds similar to what's happened to you.

Open it and contact the sender, explain to them that you're not the recipient. If there's no phone number, try Googling it.

Explain to the sender you had to as you were concerned that it may a be a bill of some sort. After all, it has a final notice written on the envelope. And as mas has pointed out, it appears this has financial implications, and as you say, you wouldn't want debt collectors coming to your door.
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