How to Tell if Your Mail or Packages are Suspicious

By Rachel Martin

April 17, 2013 Updated Apr 17, 2013 at 11:09 PM EDT

UNDATED, Ind. (www.incnow.tv) – After President Obama and multiple Senators received mail tainted with the toxin ricin, we looked into what ricin is and how you can tell if you’ve received suspicious mail or packages.

Turns out ricin is a very common, yet very lethal protein that comes from the seeds of a castor-oil plant. It can be formed into a powder, mist or pellet, and if ingested can kill and stop the reproduction of cells ultimately leading to death.

But, how do you know if the mail you receive is tainted with ricin, or any other poison for that matter? Here are some tips from the United States Postal Service (USPS):

• No return address
• If there are restrictive markings or words
• If words are misspelled, addressed to a person’s title only, and if words/address is poorly typed or written.
• Excessive tape and postage stamps
• Oily stains, discolorations, crystallization on the wrapper, or unknown powder and other suspicious substances.
• Unusual odor
• The package is rigid or bulky, or it is wrapped lopsidedly or uneven.
• If things, like wires, are sticking out.

The USPS advises that if you receive a suspicious letter or package like that, do not open it. Stop handling the parcel immediately and place it in an isolated area. They recommend you wash your hands with soap and warm water and notify authorities.

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