January 25, 2023 | 4 min read
Mail forwarding services make it very easy to change your existing mailing address so you can receive mail at a new address when you’re away from home.
Unfortunately, because it’s so easy, it also makes it simple for fraudsters to execute mail forwarding scams.
In fact, mail theft incidents have been on the rise for the last decade. Between 2017 and 2020, mail theft reports increased by 600%
, from 25,000 to 177,000 incidents. Fraudsters will always find more ways to scam people and make an easy buck.
Let’s discuss mail forwarding scams in detail to help you stay on guard.
What Are Mail Address Scams?
Mail address scams are fraudulent schemes that manipulate the Postal Service and reroute your mail to a new address without your knowledge or authorization.
Upon diverting your mail, the scammer receives mail on your behalf and uses your personal information to commit further identity theft.
- Internal Revenue Service (IRS) notices
- Credit and debit cards and bank statements
- Driver’s licenses
- Jury duty notices
- Immigration notices
- Social security checks
- Medicare notices
All of the above contain essential personal information—in other words, a goldmine for fraudsters. These scammers steal your personal data and use it to commit identity theft.
Besides mail forwarding schemes, other types of mail fraud include:
- Pyramid schemes
- Fake lotteries
- Get-rich-quick investment opportunities
- False charities
- Cheap credit card offers
However, the most common and easiest way for criminals to commit mail theft is through mail forwarding scams. Scammers do this by manipulating the change of address request process provided by the United States Postal Service (USPS).
The Most Common Scam: Change of Address Fraud
Change of address fraud is one of the simplest scams for fraudsters to pull off.
USPS makes it remarkably easy to change your mailing address if you’re moving or taking an extended leave from your permanent residence. You simply go online and fill out the change of address form
The Postal Service will then send all your paper mail to your new address. For verification and security purposes, USPS charges $1 to your credit card to complete a change of address request.
The downside is that a scammer can easily impersonate you and complete the change of address process without your knowledge.
They can use your credit card data to bypass the security verification process and change your mailing address to one that’s convenient for them.
Before you notice, scammers will have committed identity crimes like applying for new credit cards and loans using your personal information.
If you don’t detect mail forwarding scams early, USPS may never notice and will continue sending your paper mail to the criminal’s address.
Common Signs of This Scam
Once scammers execute postal mail forwarding scams successfully, you’ll notice the following changes:
Suspicious Activity - Some of the suspicious activities you’ll observe include receiving multiple scam emails from sites you never signed up for, getting a change of address confirmation form from USPS in your mailbox, or you stop receiving your regular paper mail at your address.
Fraudulent Charges - When most scammers complete mail forwarding scams, they rush to commit maximum credit card fraud as quickly as possible. As such, unusual credit card charges are a tell-tale sign of mail forwarding scams.
As soon as you notice these signs, contact USPS immediately.
You may also report mail fraud
to the US Postal Inspectors.
Scammers operate swiftly, so you have a very small window to report mail forwarding scams.
If you act slowly, you may face harsher consequences like living with a bad credit rating or paying off fraudulent loans you never took out. Not to mention the hours and days you’ll spend trying to sort out the entire brutal fiasco.
How To Avoid Scams and Identity Theft
While there’s no one foolproof way of protecting yourself from mail forwarding scams, following these tips will reduce the chances of scammers targeting you:
Regularly and quickly open your paper mail from USPS to make sure you don’t miss a change of address confirmation form, which is direct evidence of a mail forwarding scam.
Shred all junk mail with your essential personal details. Identity thieves can comb through your trash to access such information.
Closely monitor your credit reports and financial accounts, and review credit card bills carefully to spot any fraudulent charges.
Update your address information if you have multiple addresses or if you moved from an old address that’s on record at a bank or other institutions.
Avoid Common Scams By Having a Virtual Address
The good news is you can avoid mail forwarding scams by using a virtual mailbox.
With a virtual mailbox, instead of paper mail and packages going to your home address, they will be delivered to a staffed and safe location. You’ll receive notification of your correspondence directly to your mobile device, anytime, anywhere.
You can securely access and view images of your mail items. You can request to open & scan, forward a mail item or package to another location, shred or recycle, or schedule for pickup at your convenience. Instead of a scammer deciding what to do with your mail, you decide.
Your large parcels and packages will be secured as well.
With over 2,029 virtual mailbox locations
in the US and worldwide, you can access your mail anywhere, without the risk of postal mail forwarding scams. And, if you want to change your virtual address later, you can do that as well—safe and secure.