By Steven Shukor
BBC News website
The postal services watchdog has urged the Royal Mail to introduce tighter controls after a postman was jailed for six-and-a-half years for stealing chequebooks in a £20m scam.
The vast majority of post is delivered safely, says Postwatch
Postwatch wants the firm to shore up its recruitment, vetting and training procedures among all staff coming into contact with post.
Vivienne Peters, Postwatch's postal policy manager, said 15 million out of 22 billion items of post go missing annually, either because it is misdirected, lost or stolen.
"That is much too high a proportion of the mail not being delivered," she told the BBC.
She said Postwatch wants Royal Mail to inform relevant staff about particular instances of missing post and said the public can help by reporting any cases of lost mail.
Former postman Dido Mayue-Belezika, 34, from Camden, admitted his part in the scam, over which 24 people were charged.
Police believe the operation netted about £5m from Golders Green in north London alone, and involved more than 220 people.
Paul, from Ruislip, who worked as a postman for 34 years, told the BBC it was "easy" to steal mail while on a delivery round.
"When you're sorting in the morning, there's pigeon holes in front of you and one of those pigeon holes is the one you do for a walk.
"So if you pick up some mail and it feels like something that's interesting like a cheque book, you can just throw that into your pigeon hole.
"And then when you start throwing in the walk-off you just sort that out later on, you just take it with you.
"If you find money in the bundle you were delivering, you could just put it back in the pouch," he said.
He said supervisors in sorting offices were no deterrent to those bent on thieving.
"If you're determined to pinch something, you can do it," he said. "It's not hard at all."
However, Ms Peters stressed that cases of dishonesty in the postal services were rare.
"We have to be clear that the vast majority of postmen and postwomen are hard working, honest and are seen by the community as a great friendly resource," she said.
The Royal Mail said measures have been introduced to reduce the potential for mail to go missing, including checking the criminal record of applicants.
A Royal Mail spokesman said the vast majority of mail - 99.93% - arrived safely at its destination.
"Of the remaining 0.07%, only of small proportion is stolen - and the huge bulk of this stolen mail is taken by people outside the company, including criminals who mug postmen or steal from vans," he said.