Letter Bombs in the Netherlands Remind Us to Be Vigilant

Two mail bombs exploded at businesses in the Netherlands on Wednesday, February 12, 2020, one in Amsterdam City and another in the city of Kerkrade. At both locations, employees heard a hissing sound as they were opening the letters. The employees discarded the letters and a small explosion occurred a few minutes later. There were no injuries. On Thursday, two more incidents occurred. A letter bomb caught fire at an office of ING Bank in Amsterdam and another device was disarmed by police at a Unisys office near Utrecht.

Suspicious Mail

These incidents follow seven letter bomb explosions that occurred throughout the Netherlands in January 2020. These devices were delivered to companies in Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Utrecht, and Maastricht. The targets included a hotel, petrol station, garage, estate agents, and a bill collection service. The letters were made to look like they had been sent by the Central Collections Agency. The bombs appear to have been sent by the same person, but no arrests have been made and investigations are ongoing.

These incidents illustrate the need for businesses and organizations to exercise proper mail handling procedures.

Stay vigilant when handling and opening mail and parcels:

  1. Be cognizant of mail/parcels with the following suspicious characteristics:
    • No return address
    • Excessive postage
    • Restrictive markings, such as “Personal,” “Confidential,” etc.
    • Sealed with an excessive amount of tape
    • Misspelled words, poorly typed or written address
    • Incorrect title or addressed to title only
    • Oily stains, discolorations and/or a strange odor
  2. After determination that the mail/parcel is suspicious or may contain a dangerous device or substance, do not move the item. Leave it where it is and isolate the area immediately. Call 911 and wash your hands with soap and water as soon as possible.
  3. Mail containing threatening images, language, or items should be preserved in its original mailing envelope and packaging and should be retained for examination by authorities. Remember this may be evidence that could be used later in a criminal proceeding. Once opened and determined to be threatening, place in a plastic envelope or sleeve to prevent other fingerprints from inadvertently contaminating the document.

T&M recommends and provides the following services to help you develop mail/parcel security best practices:

  • Conduct a threat assessment to determine if your organization or particular employees may be targeted.
  • Appoint a mail center security coordinator and an alternate to be responsible for your mail inspection/screening program.
  • Do not bring uninspected mail directly into the center of your office or facility. If possible, mail should be inspected in an easily isolated area near the perimeter of the office or facility. This can avoid shutting down the entire facility when a suspicious item is discovered.
  • Develop procedures for:
    • Communication between mail center personnel, security, and management staff.
    • Confirming, handling, and isolating the contents of suspicious letters and packages identified as dangerous through screening.
    • Screening all incoming letter and package deliveries. Train employees in the procedures.
  • Provide safety and security in the workplace training to all staff, including mail center personnel, security, and management staff, to ensure that all employees who may receive personal or work-related mail to the office are aware of the mail process and procedures.
  • Conduct unannounced tests of mail center personnel and processes.
  • Organizations with a high threat profile may need to use specialized equipment for screening mail or may wish to use commercial mail screening services.
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