The big day is approaching! You are brimming with excitement, impatient to start a new life in a new place. To ensure you did not miss anything, you again flip through the moving checklist pinned to your ready-to-be-moved fridge and freeze. A line wasn’t ticked off, the one prompting you to notify the post office of your change of address.
Just like most people would, you head to the internet and search for “change of address” or “address change US postal service”. You will find that updating your mailing address online is a fast and simple procedure. The problem is that you may click on a link that leads straight to a change-of-address scam site.
Change-of-address scams can happen to anyone, anywhere, at any time. However, some scammers create scam websites that target people who plan to relocate. According to the Better Business Bureau, these sites proliferate during the moving season, roughly between May and September.
Requesting an address update on a fraudulent site can land you in big trouble. Read on to find out how change-of-address scam sites work, how to recognize them, and what to do if you’ve fallen victim to one of them.
Every time you move, you need to update your address with all relevant institutions and organizations, such as your bank, insurance company, and internal revenue services.
You should also notify the post office, even if you receive all your bills and statements online. After all, there is always a chance that someone will send you a greeting card or a package. Besides, some official papers always go out by mail.
The process of rerouting your mail with the United States Postal Service (USPS) is simple. There are two ways to go about it:
And that’s about it! Your mail will be sent to your new address. Do note that the USPS can take up to ten days to forward mail to the updated address.
After effecting the change of address, the USPS will send a validation letter to your old and your new address. This letter may take several weeks to reach you.
While it is great that the change of address postal service online is so simple and hassle-free, the simplicity of the process carries some potential dangers.
It is easy for scammers to create an online portal that mimics the official USPS website, with a similar design and logos. The site tricks you into believing you are at the right place and asks you to pay an exuberant fee, sometimes as much as $80, for a change of address request.
Some of these websites may proceed to change your address with USPS. This will cost them $1.10, which means they pocket the rest of the money.
Other change-of-address scam sites do not even bother to do the work. They just take your money without updating your mailing address.
If the scammers charge you $80 for a service that costs $1.10, you will be $78.90 out of pocket.
Provided the scammers do the legwork and change your address for you, that could be the sum of your losses (not counting the obvious emotional distress).
If they take the money and do not update your address, you could miss making payments or renewing your driver's license.
In either case, the criminals behind the change-of-address scam sites could decide to try their luck and pile more charges on your credit or debit card later.
Even worse, they may redirect all your mail to an address you did not authorize and access your personal information, such as bank statements or credit card bills. Criminals can then steal your identity, landing you in serious financial and credit problems.
Your address could be fraudulently changed even if you did not request mail rerouting on a change-of-address scam website.
Address fraud is one of the easiest identity thefts to pull off. The criminals only need your name and current address. With that information, they can go to a post office, fill in the change-of-address form, forge the signature, and drop the paperwork into the mail slot.
Your correspondence will be redirected without your knowledge, and the criminals may gain access to the information that enables them to steal your identity.
While it is not possible to protect yourself entirely from address fraud, there are several things you can do to lower your risk. Keep your eyes open and follow these best-practice guidelines:
Despite all precautions, it is easy to fall victim to an online or offline address scam. The sooner you notice the warning signs that may suggest someone is diverting your mail, the less damage you are likely to suffer. Here’s what to look out for:
If your address has not been updated or you suspect you have become a victim of a change-of-address scam, immediately contact your post office, bank, and all other institutions and organizations you are affiliated with.
It is also a good idea to contact your local police department. This can protect you if someone assumes your identity to commit a crime.
Your reports could help authorities to track down the criminals.
Moving can be a time of great excitement and commotion. It can also be a stressful time. With some due diligence, you can avoid the additional headaches that change-of-address scams cause.
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