Watch out for change-of-address scam, says NJ credit repair expert
For only $1.05, someone can change your address online — and if you're not careful, they'll start receiving your mail in a few weeks.
While the United States Postal inspection Service says this type of identify fraud is "not on a wide scale," a credit repair expert in New Jersey has seen clients targeted by the scam, and claims it's the "easiest way in the world" to steal someone's identity.
"This is a real threat because of how easy the post office made it, convenient for us as consumers, to change our address," said Paul Oster, CEO of Better Qualified in Eatontown.
To complete the process online, a bad actor would only need a valid email address and a credit card for the $1.05 fee.
"if they're successful and they complete it, how much time passes and how information are they receiving in the mail?" Oster added.
The Postal Service said change-of-address requests are so easy to submit in order to satisfy customers' expectation for convenience. And given the millions of address changes filed annually, "the margin of potential compromise is small." The card fee implemented on online transactions, the agency added, is one of their internal controls to prevent fraud.
There is no fee for change-of-address requests submitted in person or by mail.
When a form is submitted, the agency said, a "Move Validation Letter" is sent to the original address. It doesn't disclose the forwarding address, but does make the consumer aware of an attempt to change their address. It's up to the consumer to contact USPS if there's a problem.
Customers are encouraged to regularly monitor their incoming mail, the agency said. Any suspicious activity should be reported to one's local post office or the U.S. Postal Inspection Service.
Nearly 37 million change-of-address requests were made last year, the service said. The rate of suspicious transactions, based on customer reports, was less than one-tenth of a percent, and many complaints are not related to fraud.
Oster and the Inspection Service advise consumers to work directly with USPS when attempting to change an address. Other websites may charge as much as $40 for the same service, and may not even make the change.
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Contact reporter Dino Flammia at firstname.lastname@example.org.