As humans we may have been around for a while, but one thing that seems to have not ended, is fraud. There will always be people, with illicit motives trying to take advantage of a widow or other vulnerable members of society, given the opportunity.
Today we will be discussing address fraud; a growing plague that is the leading contributing factor responsible for mail theft.
What Is Address Fraud?
It is the illegal & unauthorized request to change someone’s mailing address, without their consent.
The way this works is, individuals with bad intentions will complete a USPS change of address without the resident’s agreement. Going in person to a post office location is the easiest way for someone to follow through with this form of identity theft. They will simply fill out the 1583 form and have all mail redirected from your address to their address. That means that all credit card information, your social security number (etc) are now at their hands to use as they wish.
What is troubling, is the ease with which someone can request a change of address without your knowledge. All they need essentially, is your name and street address; they’ll handle the rest…
The good news is, the only way for someone to complete a change of address successfully without you being notified of it, is offline. So there is no way that someone across the world can complete such a process off of their computer. That is due to the $1 verification charge that the USPS website will enable, to verify your information & bank account.
The statistics are troubling; over 700 changes of address completed every year are fraudulent. What is more troubling than that, is the fact that the number of address fraud complaints filled each year, is at a little over 17,000. So clearly the difficulty in tracking such activity is quite high.
Why Would Someone Use Your Mailing Address?
At first glance, it may not seem like a big problem. Who uses snail mail in 2020 anyway…right?
All of your government paperwork (including IRS notices,) come through the mail. So, although you may be getting your bank statements online, most likely you are also getting some kind of bank information in the mail. Oftentimes, such information will include your social security number, passport information etc (to name a few.) Other information would include healthcare statements (including Medicare.)
Such information can be used for the purpose of changing your financial information, signing up for credit cards you did not want & charging you for services you did not use. Essentially, they get full control of your identity and can act in any way they like, under your name.
How Can You Check If Your Address Has Been Changed?
Typically, the USPS will send out verification letters with the request of each address change, to confirm that a resident actually completed such a request. Such move validation notices can help prevent the approval of the address change, if this was not requested by you. In the event where you do get such a letter, make sure you reach out to your local post office branch to let them know!
Another good way to tell if your address has been changed, is if you stop receiving mail. Considering that a change of address has been completed, that means that you no longer get mail to your mailbox. If you start noticing that, then chances are someone completed a change of address on your behalf. Similar suspicious activity such as change of billing address for your current credit cards, or new account sign up notifications (credit cards, loyalty programs etc) can be signals that you have been the victim of address fraud.
If no suspicious activity (as listed above) is taking place, then you can still check the postal records, and lookup the address under which you come up. If you need to reach their customer support phone number, you can call (800) ASK-USPS.
What To Do If Someone Is Using Your Home Address Fraudulently
Being a victim of address fraud, essentially means that you become a victim of mail theft, identity theft, and all sorts of financial crimes. Getting an issue like this taken care of, is not something to be handled lightly.
Unfortunately, although the post office will be able to detect whether a change of address has been completed or not, they won’t be able to do much with identifying what address your mailing address has been changed to nor will they be able to do something about it. In order to handle this situation you will want to reach out to the Postal Inspection Service and they would be more suitable to deal with your situation.
How To Avoid Address Fraud
The only way to ensure that you avoid being the victim of address fraud with 100% certainty, is that you do not receive any mail at all; something that is impossible.
Or is it…?
More & more people have been switching to Virtual Mailbox solutions. Whether due to security concerns, convenience, or the fact that a virtual mailbox generally costs ½ what it costs to maintain a physical mailbox, the digital mailbox revolution is well under way.
The way virtual mailboxes work, is that all mail you receive are forwarded to a secure warehouse processing facility. From there, it is scanned & uploaded into a Gmail – like inbox. You can label all your documents & access on demand 24/7. Additional features usually include mail shredding (for documents with sensitive information,) check deposits & shipping. Due to the volume of mail that virtual mailbox companies process, they can usually offer up to 80% off of retail shipping rates.
US Global Mail is one of the leading virtual mailbox companies. Complete your change of address online, and join the smart mailbox movement.