MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The South Lake Minnetonka Police Department is telling residents in the area to be on alert as mail thefts are on the rise in the community.

Authorities said the South Lake Minnetonka communities of Excelsior, Greenwood, Shorewood and Tonka Bay have had an increase in mail thefts. Authorities say the thieves are stealing mail for the purpose of identity theft.

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Police say there are a few steps residence can take to avoid being a victim. The first is not to use your mailbox for outgoing mail. It’s common for thieves to drive around neighborhoods looking for the upright flag on a mailbox, which signals for carriers that the box contains outgoing mail. The South Lake Minnetonka Police Department said it recommends taking your mail directly to the post office or using the blue postal mailboxes at various locations.

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The second step is to not leave mail you’re receiving in your box for an extended time. It’s also common for thieves to drive around neighborhoods after the mail carrier has come through and steal items from mailboxes.

Authorities say if you’re going on vacation or not going to be home for an extended stretch, put a temporary stop on your mail delivery. There is also the option of a lockable mailbox, which can be purchased at any hardware store.

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Residents in the area should contact the South Lake Minnetonka Police Department if they see any suspicious activity.