How Scammers Can Steal Your Mail – And Your Identity

November 4, 2022 - by Identity Champion

Between 2020 and 2021, reports of identity theft to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) increased 150%.1 Believe it or not, paper mail may be a factor. Mail theft complaints increased by 161% from March 2020 to February 2021, according to the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) Inspector General2.

In an age where almost every service has gone electronic and/or wireless, paper mail– also called “snail mail” –is often dismissed as an afterthought. Unfortunately, scammers are taking advantage of this lull to perpetrate a staggeringly simple form of fraud: change of address scams.

What Are Change of Address Scams?

A change of address scam is exactly what it sounds like. The fraudster reaches out to the United States Postal Service – either online or at their local post office – and completes a change of address (COA) form in the victim’s name. The only information needed to do so is a name, the current address, and a forged signature. If requested online, an email address and credit card are also required. At present, no proof of identity is required for either method of requesting the change. Once approved, the victim’s mail will be rerouted to the address provided by the scammer.

Although the USPS sends an address-change confirmation to both your address and the forwarding address (and to the email provided in the online request), the term “confirmation” is a bit of a misnomer. The USPS will automatically begin rerouting your mail unless you reach out with an objection. The address-change confirmation is easy to mistake for junk mail and in the case of an online request, could be routed to an email that isn’t yours. The scammers may even put a hold on your mail delivery so you are delayed in getting the confirmation. 

What could a scammer do if they had access to your mail? 

  • Steal your bank routing information
  • Open new accounts (loans, bank accounts, etc.) in your name
  • Access your medical information to commit healthcare fraud
  • Use your identity to commit benefits fraud
  • Steal personal checks and change the payee name

Signs That Your Mail May Have Been Illegally Rerouted

There are several signs that may indicate your mail has been illegally rerouted. 

  • You stop receiving mail addressed to you by name (letters addressed to “occupant” or “resident” don’t count, as they continue being sent even after the change of address is completed).
  • You receive an address-change confirmation from the USPS that you did not request.
  • You are contacted about a new bank account, loan, or credit card that you didn’t open.

How to Prevent Address Change Fraud

Fortunately, there are ways you can help to prevent address change fraud.

  • Go paperless: When bills and notices (especially from your bank or healthcare provider) are sent to you by mail, scammers may intercept it. If you opt for paperless notifications, you substantially reduce the chance of identity theft.
  • Dispose of paper mail properly: Don’t leave mail sitting in the mailbox, on your desk, or in the trash bin. Make sure you shred sensitive mail.
  • Check your credit report regularly: Routinely check your credit rating, review credit card bills for unexplained activity, and put a freeze on your credit report to prevent anyone from opening up new accounts in your name.
  • Set up monitoring: For an extra layer of protection, set up credit report monitoring and USPS change of address monitoring.

Pro tip: Even if you have credit file monitoring, creditors may be delayed up to 45 days in adding a new address to your report. Fortunately, USPS change of address monitoring (available through Identity Champion’s Protect and Complete plans) will immediately alert you if your mail is redirected. 

How to Respond If You’re the Victim of Mail Fraud

No one expects to be the victim of mail fraud, but if it happens, reach out to the United States Postal Inspection Service (USPIS) and the FTC to report the crime. 

AAA Identity Champion can offer additional support, including change of address monitoring, identity restoration support, and insurance that can cover you for up to $500,000 in stolen funds3. Choose the plan that best fits your lifestyle today! 

The content provided in this blog post is for informational purposes only, and is not intended to be an offer to sell any Identity Champion product or service. A3 Labs LLC makes no representations as to the accuracy or completeness of the information contained in this or any blog post on the Identity Champion website. 

1Fraud Reports By Federal Trade Commission, Q1 and Q2 2022 | FTC Consumer Sentinel Network

2Office of Inspector General | United States Postal Service Audit Report May 2021

3The Identity Theft Insurance is underwritten and administered by American Bankers Insurance Company of Florida, an Assurant company under group or blanket policy(ies). The description herein is a summary and intended for informational purposes only and does not include all terms, conditions and exclusions of the policies described. Please refer to the actual policies for terms, conditions, and exclusions of coverage. Coverage may not be available in all jurisdictions. Review the Summary of Benefits.

The Cyber News by Identity Champion blog is for informational purposes only.