Lawmakers call on USPS to combat surge in 'change of address' fraud
A group of bipartisan lawmakers has called on the U.S. Postal Service to strengthen its internal processes to reduce change of address fraud, which each year allows fraudsters to redirect thousands of people's mail, including bills, checks and bank statements.
U.S. Congressman Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ, 5th) and other House lawmakers want USPS to make it more difficult for fraudsters to hijack a person's mail by ensuring USPS verifies the identity of the person submitting the change of address request.
In the bipartisan letter to U.S. Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, a Trump administration appointee who oversees USPS, the House lawmakers are also pushing USPS to allow anyone the ability to freeze an address change, just as someone would freeze their credit report to prevent fraud.
“Change of address fraud is costing our families millions of dollars and it’s costing trust in their local post office. Unfortunately, because of an egregious lack of oversight and action at the post office, far too many residents have to worry that they could be the next victim of change of address fraud," said Rep. Gottheimer in a presser on Monday.
The bipartisan letter comes soon after TechCrunch reported the case of a former Microsoft executive whose mail was rerouted by criminals who filed an address change on the former executive's behalf. It's a low-tech hack that can have major consequences, including loss of earnings and identity theft. The former executive caught the bogus address change quickly, but thousands of other victims each year aren't so lucky.
Change of address fraud exploits gaps in how USPS handles the change to a person's address when they move. Most people request to change their address online for a small fee of $1.10 to help prevent fraud, yet many still rely on filing a paper change of address form at their local USPS post office branch.
USPS processed more than 36 million changes of address in 2021 alone, but the number of victims caught out by change of address fraud is rising every year. The post office's watchdog, the USPS' inspector general, recorded more than 23,000 cases in 2021 where someone had fraudulently filed a change of address request with USPS.
A spokesperson for the USPS inspector general told TechCrunch at the time that USPS is supposed to check a person's government ID — like a passport or driver's license — when filing a paper change of address form. TechCrunch found that USPS relies almost entirely on trusting the person signing the paper form, often without any verification checks at all.
Gottheimer said the "shocking surge" in change of address fraud is also affecting victims in his New Jersey district, including one local resident whose address was fraudulently changed without their consent allowing criminals to obtain her bills, bank statements and Social Security number.
"Families deserve to know that the Postal Service is doing everything they can to ensure their mail, checks, bank info, veterans benefits, tax returns, Social Security checks and life-saving medications are safe from thieves," said Gottheimer.