Address Fraud Explained: This is How Mail Fraud Works
It seems that fraudsters' ingenuity has no limits, as they keep coming up with new ways to cheat people out of money and steal identities. One scam that fraudsters particularly like, is address fraud. With more than 17,000 address fraud complaints in 2017 alone, this scam puts people at risk of identity theft, and you can be one of those victims. To protect yourself from the dangers of money and identity theft, you must first know what is address fraud and notice the signs that you may be at risk of falling victim to such fraud.
What is Address Fraud?
Address fraud is a type of identity theft where fraudsters take advantage of address change to steal people's identity. When an individual changes their address to a new home, fraudsters reroute their mail to a different address. Once they do so, the mail is sent to a different address than it should be sent to. As a result, instead of the rightful owners of mail getting the letters addressed to them, scammers receive mail instead of their victims.
How Does Address Fraud Work?
While it causes complex problems, address fraud is not that hard to pull off; all a scammer has to know to commit address fraud is your name and current address. Once the scammer has this data, he can request to change your mailing address from your current address to an address of his choice. The address change is simple and available at the post office by filling out a simple form.
Once the address is changed, the person who requested the change will receive your mail; the information in the mail can help the fraudster get additional information about you, like your banking and insurance data. Once scammers have this information, they can easily steal your identity, set up credit in your name, sell your identity, and commit several other identity theft-related crimes that take weeks to discover.
Address Fraud Signs
The United States Post Office (USPS) receives approximately 37 million change of address requests a year, which makes it difficult to track address fraud. To prevent yourself from becoming a victim of address fraud and identity fraud, you must know the following signs of address fraud:
1. You no longer receive mail: this is one of the biggest address fraud red flags; if you notice a substantial decrease in the number of letters that you receive via mail, it might be because someone has changed your mailing address without you knowing. If several days go by without you receiving mail, contact your local post office to find out why this happened and whether someone changed your mailing address illegally.
2. You receive an address change validation letter: if you receive a letter notifying you of your change of address, don’t just dismiss it as a mistake. It could be because someone has asked to change your address to steal your identity/money. If you have not requested a change of address or the address in your validation letter is incorrect, contact your local post office as soon as possible and tell them about the mistake. Then, the post office can perform an inquiry and let you know if someone asked to change your address on your behalf.
3. Your credit card billing address has changed: if your credit card billing address or zip code no longer works, you may be the victim of address fraud. So, if you try to use your credit card and you receive a notification that your billing address is incorrect, you must check why that is. It is possible that your current billing address was changed by a scammer, so you have to be alert to any changes in your billing address.
4. You are notified that new accounts have been opened in your name: to steal people's money and identity, scammers first steal their victims' addresses and set up accounts in their name. If you get messaged from stores, banks, or credit card companies that an account has opened in your name, do not dismiss it as a plain old mistake. Contact the agency that sent you the message and find out what happened.
I Am the Victim of Address Fraud. What Should I Do?
To minimize the possible damages of address fraud, you should first contact the police as soon as you suspect that something is going on. An official complaint with the police will help you with your local post office – the agency that you should contact next. Local police will not be able to tell you where your address was rerouted to, so you must contact your local post office. Contact your local U.S. Postal Inspection Service office and let them know of what has happened. Call 877-876-2455 (press “4” to report address fraud), or file an online report.
Gather as much information as you can about the address fraud, and notify the U.S. Postal Inspection Service office of what happened. Stopping address fraud in its tracks can save you money and prevent fraudsters from stealing your identity, so you should be alert to what goes on with your mail and report any suspicious activity, no matter how small it may seem to you.