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What you need to know about a change of address scam that's hitting Ohio

Posted: 6:00 AM, Sep 21, 2017
Updated: 2017-09-21 06:00:51-04

An Ohio couple is trying to rebuild their credit after becoming victims of identity theft. The scary part is that there was nothing they could have done to prevent it. It all started with a change of address form at the post office.

Bob and Angel Clark didn't get any mail for a few days.

"We got a letter from the post office, and that's when it said there has been a change of address," said Robert.

 The only problem is they weren't moving.

"They said someone had put a 2-week change of address on our home mail,” Robert told us.

Their credit nightmare had begun. Someone had diverted their mail to a new Florida address.

"We had applied for new credit cards...they sent them to us in the mail. We never got them," said Robert.

Here's what happened.

When you fill out a change of address card and show up in person, the postal employee that takes the form does not ask for ID to verify that it's actually you.

"You have to produce some sort of identification you'd think...something as important as that," said Cleveland postal customer Randy Kelly.

New 5 got strong reaction from local postal customers to the fact that no ID is needed.

"It's time to change things!” said Larry Freeman. “Once they're aware of it, they should change the policy."

The U.S. Post Office is aware of it. In a statement, a local rep told me that there are hundreds of cases like this referred last year to the Postal Inspection Service.

"(This scam is) dangerous because if someone's that devious, they could really mess you up," Vanessa Crumb.

We asked the regional post office rep why IDs are not required. He sent us a statement outlining that people who tamper with the form are committing a federal offense. In his words, "We believe the statement speaks for itself."

Well, it doesn't speak for the Clark's now dealing with a nightmare or other customers we talked to.

“I think there's a lot of ways to get identities stolen,” said Crumb. “I think that's the low-tech, quickest, easiest one."

You can file a change of address form online, but the post office requires a credit card for that.

How do you protect yourself?  If you don't see mail for two days call the post office. And if you find out someone diverted your mail, file fraud reports with credit bureaus immediately.

Here’s the complete statement from the regional Post Office representative:

Hello Jonathan,

We deeply regret the change of address incident you mentioned. If you would provide me with the couple’s contact information, I will forward it to the Postal Service department that handles change of addresses for follow up.  Meanwhile, here are a couple of links to pages on our website that provide information about the online change of address process.

http://faq.usps.com/?articleId=221220[faq.usps.com[faq.usps.com]]

https://moversguide.usps.com/icoa/home/icoa-main-flow.do?execution=e1s1&_flowId=icoa-main-flow&referral=MG84[moversguide.usps.com[moversguide.usps.com]]

 Here are a few key points:

All customers submitting a change of address –hard copy or online—will receive a Move Validation Letter (MVL) to the old address. It is mailed to the name on the order and “Current Resident.”  This prevents the letter from being forwarded to the new address.

There is a five-day delay before the change of address information is loaded into the system that intercepts/forwards the mail.  This is to allow time for the MVL to reach the old address and allow for validation.

 If no notification letter is received, customers should contact the Postal Service at (800) ASK-USPS (800) 275-8777 for help.

At that point, a USPS support team talks with the customer to get details about the incident, then takes action to stop the mail forwarding and cancel the change-of-address order on file. The incident is then turned over to the Postal Inspection Service for investigation and action.

To change an address online at usps.com[usps.com], a customer must provide valid credit card information at a $1 cost. Approximately 41 percent of all change of address requests are currently submitted online.

Address information associated with the credit card must match the original address or the new address. 

Almost 55,000 change of address orders are processed daily. Of the more than 37 million change of address orders the Postal Service received in FY’16, fewer than 1,000 were referred to the Postal Inspection Service to investigate.

Federal criminal penalties up to imprisonment are possible for anyone convicted of submitting false or inaccurate information.

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 Hi Jonathan,

Whether online or hardcopy, all Change of Address forms contain this statement:

“The person who prepares this form states that he or she is the person, executor, guardian, authorized officer, or agent of the person for whom mail would be forwarded under this order. Anyone submitting false or inaccurate information on this form is subject to punishment by fine or imprisonment or both under Sections 2, 1001, 1702 and 1708 of Title 18, United States Code.”

We believe the statement speaks for itself.

David G. Van Allen

USPS Strategic Communications

Northern Ohio and Ohio Valley Districts