In depth: mail forwarding scams on the rise
“We are going on a Portuguese river cruise next April and we have applied for new passports,” Pratt said.
Pratt went to Webster’s post office and was shocked at what he was told.
“He found out that my mail was going to a box in Las Vegas, a place called AAA mailboxes… he was able to show me on Google Maps,” Pratt said.
Someone had filed a change of address request in his name and forwarded all of his mail to that box. The scammer was able to intercept a new credit card, activate it, and rack up over $ 3,000 in fees before he even knew he had a problem.
Making a change of address, as Pratt discovered, is actually quite simple. It’s free to do it by mail or in person, it’s $ 1.05 to do it online. All anyone needs is a name, an email address, the old physical address, and a new one.
A copy of the claim made on behalf of Pratt shows the scammer invented a fake AOL email address and provided a phone number that goes to generic voicemail. Nevertheless, the request was processed only one day after his request.
“I think there has to be more checks and balances than just paying a dollar on a credit card and putting in a fake email address and phone number and getting someone’s mail. one for that, ”Pratt said.
In a statement, a USPS spokesperson told News10NBC, “The Postal Service has systems in place to protect customers from unauthorized address changes. If a change of address has been submitted for a client, the postal service will follow up with a move validation letter. This mail is sent to the customer’s current address and informs them that a request has been made to redirect their mail to a new address. If they have not requested to change their address, they should immediately notify their local post office as a potentially fraudulent situation may exist. Additionally, the $ 1.05 charge to the customer’s credit card is an identity verification fee to prevent fraud and ensure you are making the switch.
The $ 1.05 fee is only charged online, it’s free to make the change in person or by mail and that seems to be how scammers get away with it.
So what can you do to protect yourself from a mail forwarding scam:
- Know when your mail normally arrives and how much you typically receive
- Make sure you don’t ignore or throw away USPS mail thinking it’s junk
- If you receive a change of address notification that you did not request, go to your local post office as soon as possible to cancel it.
- Consider going paperless, the less paper mail you receive, the less it can be intercepted
- If you haven’t looked at your credit report in a while, now is the time to make a copy. You can do this for free once a year on www.annualcreditreport.com