Can USPS Tracking Be Wrong? (All You Need to Know)

When you know you have something on the way via USPS, you’re likely checking your Tracking info at least once a day. As your package makes its way to you, you have to simply trust that Tracking is updating correctly, giving you an accurate picture of your parcel’s progress.

But can USPS Tracking be wrong? What is the likelihood that USPS Tracking is inaccurate? I’ve got the answer you need, so keep reading to learn more about this topic!

Can USPS Tracking Be Wrong in [currentyear]?

USPS Tracking can be wrong on occasion, though the service is generally accurate in [currentyear]. Most likely, there has been a delay while the mail is in transit, or your parcel missed a scan, so an update won’t appear until the next stop. However, tracking doesn’t occur in real-time, so there may be a delay.

To learn more about the accuracy of USPS Tracking, how often Tracking is updated, how often packages go unscanned and much more, read on!

Is USPS Tracking Inaccurate?

USPS Tracking, which is the tool to follow along as a package makes its way to its destination, can be inaccurate at times.

However, on the whole, Tracking is right on the money.

As says, “Tracking updates may not be in real-time, but they’re rarely late or incorrect, and there is rarely cause for concern.”

So, what is happening when you think your USPS Tracking is inaccurate?

Well, it could be one of a few things:

1. When your package hasn’t moved for a few days

When your package hasn’t moved for a number of days, and you’re starting to wonder what’s going on, it could simply be that the distribution center where it has stopped is backed up.

So, consider the time of year – is it near the winter holidays? Well, USPS actually has to hire temporary help during this season because of the volume of packages.

As well, a sorting machine could have broken down, which puts a pause on packages being scanned and sorted, or backs up another machine that now has to handle additional parcels.

2. When your package has been in transit for a long time

If your package is in transit for some time, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s lost, or the Tracking is wrong.

Rather, if inclement weather or a major weather event occurs where your package is traveling, that can slow down its progress.

Also, a major traffic accident can cause your package to be stuck in transit for some time.

Another reason your package may read as being in transit for some time is that it wasn’t scanned in; It might have reached its next distribution center but missed a scan.

So, if your package sits in the distribution center for a few days before heading out, it won’t be scanned again until it departs.

Whatever the reason, note that these are not inaccuracies on the part of Tracking; rather, these are things outside of our control, machine error, or even human error.

How Often Is USPS Tracking Updated?

USPS Tracking is updated whenever a new event to report occurs, which can vary widely between hours and days.

However, Tracking can take up to 24 hours to update, as it’s not at all a real-time service.

That said, I’ve refreshed a Tracking page and had an update appear mere minutes after the event actually happened.

How Often Do USPS Packages Not Get Scanned?

How Often Do USPS Packages Not Get Scanned?

In a report put out by the Office of the Inspector General (that’s the USPS’s investigation organization), they reviewed scanned procedures at 25 different Postal Service units.

Twenty-one Postal Service units were found to be improperly scanning packages, and 38 percent of packages were being scanned incorrectly.

While the data released doesn’t state how many of those were actually packages not being scanned, you can bet that it made up some of the scanning errors.

Can a USPS Package Be Delivered Without Being Scanned?

A USPS package can be delivered without being scanned. Basically, what happens is the package’s Tracking shows that it’s still at the Final Destination Facility.

In most cases, that’s the Post Office from whence your packages get sorted and then delivered.

You’ll go outside and see that your package has been delivered, despite the Tracking not showing that it was Out for Delivery at all.

In fact, the Estimated Delivery Date might be a completely different date.

Now, I’ve found that the Tracking eventually updates – perhaps later that day or the next day.

Tracking was inaccurate for whatever reason and didn’t keep up with what was happening.

Likely, the package missed its Out for Delivery scan.

Why Has Your Package Been in Transit for So Long with USPS?

As I mentioned in the above section, there are many reasons why your package has been in transit for so long when it’s sent via USPS.

Those reasons include the following:

  • Inclement weather or major weather event
  • Traffic incidents, like an accident that has caused a pile-up
  • Truck malfunction or flat tire
  • The package might not have been scanned into its next Destination facility
  • The package could, though unlikely, be lost

If it’s the last item on the list, see below for what you can do.

How Do You Know If USPS Lost Your Package?

If your package has been In Transit for more than two weeks, it’s time to complete a help request form and then initiates a missing mail search.

You can find both forms here on the website.

The Help Request Form forwards to your local Post Office location, but say your package went missing before it reached its final destination.

In that case, you can submit a Missing Mail Search Request.

To do so, you will need the sender and recipient mailing address, the type of box or envelope you used, Tracking info, mailing date, and your purchase receipt.

You will also include what was inside the package, including brand, model, size, color, etc., and any photos you might have of the item.

If you sent the item via a mail class that included insurance (like Priority Mail, which covers up to $50) or purchased insurance separately, you can also file a claim for it.

Also, if you used a service like Priority Mail Express, you can request a refund (also: Priority Mail Express is considered lost after just seven days).

To know more, you can also read our posts on how many numbers in USPS tracking, is USPS tracking down, and what is USPS Tracking Plus.


USPS Tracking can be wrong, though it is usually the fault of human error or some major issue out of the control of humans.

Sometimes, Tracking simply takes 24 to 48 hours to update, even for Delivery scans, so you may receive your package when you weren’t expecting it.

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Florence Howard

Florence Howard has been freelance writing for over a decade, and has a vocational background in retail, tech, and marketing. Outside of work, she enjoys listening to rock and metal, and playing with her dog and cat.

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