After I wrote about identity fraud that is perpetrated through the U.S. Postal Service, a reader said his friend's angry ex-girlfriend changed his address without his knowledge. I found it hard to believe such a feat was possible. If fraudsters could change people's addresses at will, then it could cause all kinds of problems, including missed bills, identity fraud, and major headaches.
Luckily, it's not so easy to mess with the mail. I asked Doug Bem of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service to explain how address changes are monitored. His words should be reassuring to people with angry exes in their life. He says:
- Customers can file change-of-address orders online at usps.com or by telephone using a credit card, or with a paper form that requires a signature. All methods require some form of identity verification.
- Once that form is filled out, the Postal Service mails a "move validation letter" to the original address. It doesn't contain the forwarding address, but it gives the recipient a number to call (800 275-8777) if there is any problem. A letter is also sent to the new address within 10 days.
- Over 40 million change-of-address requests are filed each year, and the fraudulent ones amount to less than a tenth of 1 percent, according to the Postal Service. The Postal Inspection Service investigates any fraud claims.
- Rather than going through the Postal Service, identity thieves often instead change addresses directly with vendors, banks, and other financial institutions. So if you haven't received a bill or statement lately, make sure you contact your institution.