Stealth Postage – Sending Contraband via the Mail

Stealth postage - Mailing illicit substances in the post

Stealth postage – Mailing illicit substances in the post

If an individual is in a position where they are forced to send sensitive materials through the postal network, they must do so with the utmost care and due diligence. Sentencing for offences making use of a country’s mail system – especially if international borders are involved – is often significantly higher than mere possession of the equivalent amount of contraband within a country’s boundaries, and this, combined with the additional threat of theft by observant postal workers, means that carelessness in such matters is not favourably rewarded.

Below you will find selected information gleaned from various online and offline sources. I would hope it obvious that the careful reader will use logic and reason when considering this advice, making sure to adapt and test the techniques to, as well as take personal responsibility for, their own requirements.

Technologies available to Customs and Police for the detection of posted contraband

Drug Detection Dogs – Trained by Customs to detect anything from trace to considerable amounts of controlled substances, drug dogs are used by virtually all customs agencies worldwide. However, chance is on the sender’s side, with the sheer volume of mail traversing the globe each day enabling most to sneak their packages through without detection. Furthermore, rarer or more esoteric substances (e.g. DMT or Ibogaine) are unlikely to be included in the dogs training. For an in-depth discussion of detection dogs, read my previous article on the subject here.

Drug Residue Detectors – Drug Residue Detectors are analytical instruments which collect traces of suspicious substances via a small filter in the end of a vacuum sweeper hose (previously tested to ensure it is clean). These detectors then ionize the traces, measuring the time the ions take to drift through an electric field, and using the resultant data to try to find a match to known controlled substances.

Infrared and X-ray Scanners – Infrared scanners and X-ray machines are both used to spot irregularities in items of mail, indicating that a specific package merits closer inspection.

Terahertz Ray Scanners – Terahertz Ray Scanners illuminate a package with tuneable terahertz radiation, analysing and cross referencing the resulting image’s absorption spectra with those of a database of substances of interest. Currently taking ten minutes to scan each letter, the T.R.S. is likely used only to scan items of mail that have already been flagged.

Other Tools – Traditional law enforcement tools and techniques including fingerprinting, tracking devices, forensic analysis of handwriting, organic, and inorganic materials, and the matching of type impressions and printer ID (search “Printer steganography” for more on this) may also be utilised during investigations.

Best practice source list for sending sensitive material through the mail

There are three obvious attack vectors when mailing illicit items through the post, the first being the accidental discovery of the package by postal staff due to poorly secured or damaged packaging, and the second, discovery or snitching by nosy house mates, family, or those who have otherwise received or opened the package in error. The third vector is that either the sender or the recipient is already under suspicion by the police and/or customs, in which case you will require luck and fortitude to avoid being fucked over in one form or another.

The following list covers most of the known attributes (or ‘flags’) flagged as suspicious by various customs, law enforcement, and postal agencies. While a parcel possessing one or two flags may be ignored, for each additional flag there is a proportionately enhanced risk of interception. Consequently, when posting anything of a restricted nature, always do so only if certain no-one is interested in you in a legal fashion, and that the package looks, feels, smells, and sounds utterly bland. For an additional layer of protection, arrange the contents of the package as innocently as possible, disguising the contents as best you can.

  • All stages of the packaging process require gloves to be worn. Use cloth gloves that are tight fitting, covering them with latex gloves when handling your goodies. Once you have vacuum sealed and/or wrapped the payload with whatever material, remove and destroy the latex gloves, prior to touching the outer packaging, so as to avoid contaminating it. During all stages of the process, wear dedicated clothing and a hairnet, all of which is to be put on only for these purposes. Subsequently it is prudent to remove, clean, and store this apparel, to avoid further contamination.
  • Package your material as tightly as possible within two to three vacuum sealed bags, washing the outside of the previous layer subsequent to the addition of each new bag. Mylar moisture barrier bags may be substituted. Using heavy duty tape, secure the vacuum sealed bag to some thin card, to minimise any noises upon handling, and in transit. Do not add masking scents – they will not help to mask anything, and may even draw attention to the package.
  • Where possible, send smaller amounts of contraband inside standard-sized business envelopes with a thickness comfortably within the maximum allowed under your country’s postal system. Standard letters are less likely to be sorted by hand, and thus more likely to escape the scrutiny of inquisitive postal workers. Do not tape up your package.
  • Make the package appear as nondescript and ordinary as possible, with nothing obvious to attract undue attention. Do not write ‘anxious’ messages, (e.g. “Private”, “Confidential”, “To be opened only by named recipient”, etc.)
  • Make sure that everything is spelt correctly, including the correct title for the recipient. Type and print the label using a printer with no traceable connection to you.
  • Vary the sender name and return address for each new package sent, to avoid profiling. Ensure the name is believable, so no ‘John Doe’ or ‘Foxington Maverick III’. To avoid involving the innocent should a parcel be discovered, consider using a block of flats as the return address, without including a number.
  • Make sure to include the correct postage, paid for in cash, and don’t be tempted to recycle stamps! Use self-adhesive envelopes and stamps – if this is not possible, use a damp sponge instead of licking them.
  • Always opt for the fastest method of shipping, as long as it is not reliant on the recipient’s signature. This will minimise the time for available for a) possible detection, and b) legal and logistical preparation for a bust operation, as well as to provide a red flag should the package be delayed.
  • If available without user registration, online delivery confirmation/tracking is a bonus, especially for packages originating from other countries. When tracking such deliveries, use either cash in an internet cafe without CCTV, the TOR browser and a VPN proxy, or another location that is easily available yet difficult to associate with any of the involved parties.
  • Some prefer to place a stamped addressed envelope containing the packaged material inside another stamped addressed envelope, in the hope that, should the package be damaged in transit, it shouldn’t be discovered, instead being immediately forwarded. Others believe that using this technique can only invite suspicion.
  • Packages should only be sent from random post-boxes within a reasonable proximity of the listed return address. While mailing the item, it is prudent to disguise the face and other distinguishing features, and to avoid/minimise coming into contact with CCTV cameras en route.

Receiving contraband material through the mail – Security and deniabity

  • Investigate your options – you have a choice of where to receive your delivery, each with its own advantages and disadvantages. The choice is yours – residential address (keep it clean and free of anything illegal, or that could be construed as deviant in any way), abandoned building (not recommended), or PO box (small independent mailbox companies are less likely to require photocopies of your ID, or to have a comprehensive CCTV system – use disguises and stagger collection times).
  • Always opt for the fastest method of shipping, as long as it is not reliant on the recipient’s signature. This will minimise the time for available for a) possible detection, and b) legal and logistical preparation for a bust operation, as well as to provide a red flag should the package be delayed.
  • If available without user registration, online delivery confirmation/tracking is a bonus, especially for packages originating from other countries. When tracking such deliveries, use either cash in an internet cafe without CCTV, the TOR browser and a VPN proxy, or another location that is easily available yet difficult to associate with any of the involved parties.
  • Where possible, ensure that your delivery is from a domestic source – if international, try to avoid items sent from known drug-friendly/-producing countries such as Bolivia, or the Netherlands).
  • Although of debatable benefit, the truly paranoid might wish to write ‘Return to sender’ on the package and leave it by the front door for a week or so prior to opening.