The U. S. Postal Service (USPS) has a big red flag - PS Form 3575 - that needs immediate attention.
The form is designed to be used as a change of address form (COA), but over the years fraudsters have figured out how they can use it to their advantage – either in-person or online with no proof of identity required – and wait for the mail carrier to bring them checks, credit cards, all sorts of things that they can leverage.
That red flag has actually been waving for five years or more, but the USPS did little, if anything about it until a 167% rise in change-of-address fraud appeared right before its very eyes. Then, the USPS finally decided to fix the problem. But did they?
ConsumerAffairs went to Jeffrey Duncan, senior technical product manager at Smarty, an address verification platform, to get his inside view of the USPS change of address form and related fraud.
“The USPS change of address form serves a vital purpose - enabling homeowners or address custodians to efficiently redirect incoming mail to a new location. However, this seemingly innocuous process comes with a substantial security risk: anyone can complete a change of address form, diverting my mail elsewhere,” Duncan told us.
“This presents serious problems, including missing credit card statements and new cards, and the potential for identity misuse at a different address, unbeknownst to me until it's too late.”
How you can make sure your address is safe
If you haven’t received mail in several days, then it’s worth double-checking to see what’s going on. It may be as simple as no one’s sending you anything, but if it’s something you expect at the same time every month – like your Social Security check – then, step one is to contact your local USPS branch, call call 1-800-ASK-USPS, or check out this COA page on the agency’s website.
You can and probably should get your free copy of your annual credit report, or you can look into your account separately at Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian.
A good preventative measure is to sign up for the USPS Informed Delivery email service. That way, you should get notified anytime mail is to be delivered to you and if someone in fact has fraudulently changed your address, you should get an email telling you that delivery service would be canceled since your mail is being redirected to a completely different address.
If you are indeed moving, however…
The mailing experts at VirtualPostalMail.com (VPM) “highly” recommend that you do not make use of the Change of Address forwarding feature offered by the USPS if you’re moving to a new location.
“Instead, manually update your mailing address with each individual mailer. We understand that this is an inconvenient process, but it is the most reliable way to get your mail. We have seen many instances where, even when the Change of Address is working, mail does not get properly forwarded.”