Mail Diversion Fraud is A Growing Scam Among Identity Thieves
Does it seem that your holiday mail dwindled this year? Perhaps more friends and relatives have switched to e-cards or other online messaging. No harm there. However, there's a second trend in play that could cut or eliminate your postal service deliveries—the change of address that you never requested.
Changing your address of records is not as simple as it once was. Decades ago, the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) provided a small green postcard to fill out and sign before turning in to a local office. That approach eventually proved to be a recipe for successful fraud because little was done to confirm the customer’s identity.
How It Should Work
Today, the agency attempts to confirm the requester's identity online. At usps.gov, you'll be asked to pay $1.10 via credit card. If that charge is approved and you provide a valid email address, your identity is confirmed. However, this tactic only works for folks with internet access and decent credit. Filing in person is still an option listed on usps.com, but can be difficult to find at nearby locations, and some employees don’t know much about it.
With either choice, a change of address conformation is mailed to both the old and new address in the filing. These affirmations direct you to report suspected fraud, but it’s possible to overlook their arrival. Is this enough identity proof?
Imagine losing your wallet containing a credit card. That holder probably includes at least one document with your address, too. Thieves use these or other tools to circumvent the US Postal Service's (USPS) requirements and divert your mail to an address you can't control. The only indication of a diversion could be a reduction in mail followed by an end to deliveries.
What's the Point?
The bogus change of address (COA) scam is simple; a fraudster submits a form to forward your mail to a different address. That allows the thief to funnel your holiday cards, personal checks, gift cards and packages to their address.
Hackers can also scoop up W-2 and 1099 income forms in the spring, which are the key ingredient for income tax refund-related identity theft. Obviously, it makes sense to guard your mail carefully given all the ways thieves try to get their hands on it.
Look at today's delivery if you have doubts. How much personally identifiable information (PII) would a thief obtain by strolling up to your mailbox and grabbing its contents?
Be on guard for any entrepreneurs who require that you pay dearly for a change of address. USPS warns, "There are third party websites that will charge you fees of $40.00 or more to submit your Change of Address. The Postal Service is not affiliated with the businesses that own these sites and, unfortunately, will not be able to assist you, or offer any refunds for activity on ANY non-USPS site."
ID thieves can glean more of your personal info from a shipping label or contents from a package to further inflict financial damage.
Sign up for Informed Delivery from the Post Office. This online tracking system provides photographs or information on the mail and packages headed your way. Advance knowledge makes detecting items stolen from an unlocked (or locked) mailbox easier.
Set up this account before a fraudster uses your name and address to do so. If someone beats you to the punch, they could check your incoming mail for items that appear to contain new credit cards or other data that could be monetized rapidly. Unauthorized access to this data gives the con artist knowledge of when to target your deliveries
If you're traveling this winter, order a mail hold. When expecting a package, Informed Delivery will let you divert it to another address where someone's home to receive it.
Once you grasp the risks, it's easy to see why IDShield data monitoring scans the National Change of Address (NCOA) database created and maintained by USPS. We compare your name and address to entries in the NCOA files to catch unapproved changes rapidly.
You might think this data is private, but the small print reveals that USPS sells NCOA updates to numerous sources, including mailers who had your old address. In addition, many senders need to update their mailing records every 95 days to qualify for bulk mail rates.
We can alert you whenever a request to redirect your mail is processed; learning of this fraud rapidly greatly reduces risk.
IDShield is a product of Pre-Paid Legal Services, Inc. d/b/a LegalShield (“LegalShield”). LegalShield provides access to identity theft protection and restoration services. IDShield plans are available at individual or family rates. For complete terms, coverage, and conditions, please see an identity theft plan. This is meant to provide general information and is not intended to provide legal or tax advice, render an opinion, or provide any specific recommendations.
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