Scammers messing with your mail, your life

Travis Palmer’s lifeline is a backpack that provides him 100% of his nutrition through a feeding tube.

Palmer’s mother, Kara, said the equipment is called a G-tube and is vital because Travis has an extremely rare metabolic disorder called Barth’s Syndrome. It affects Travis’ heart, muscles, and growth.

However, scammers changed their address, re-directing that vital equipment more than 1,000 miles away to a home in Nevada.

“It’s been a nightmare,” Kara said.

What happened to the Palmer’s is called change of address fraud.

John Wiegand from the United States Postal Inspectors Office said out of 36 million changes of addresses made each year in the U.S., only 36,000 come back with some kind of issue.

It’s rare, but it’s happened to the Palmers, twice. “You know, when it happens twice to somebody, that’s an indicator to us that something a little more is going on here,” Wiegand said.

For more than a decade the Office of the Inspector General has filed reports on issues in the Postal Services Change of Address process.

In 2008, the OIG reported that the Postal Service should improve controls to ensure proper authorization and validation of COA requests.

Ten years later another on ineffective verification controls for online requests. In April of 2022, new data that revealed fraudulent change of addresses almost tripled from 8,857 in 2020 to more than 23,000 in 2021.

And in April of this year… new data that reveals fraudulent change of addressees almost tripled from 8857 in 2020 to more than 23 thousand in 2021.

“If they said they work for the customer, then really work for the customer. Don’t just allow anyone to change your name and address and forward your mail somewhere because it causes a lot of problems for the person that it’s happening to,” Kara said.

A change of address can be made at the post office or online. In person it requires an ID to confirm. Online, just a credit card is needed.

Issue is, if the scammer gets a credit card in your name, they can change your address easily.

In Kara’s case, that’s exactly the scammers game. “Oh, all kinds of accounts, I mean a credit union, I mean he was just getting started.”

He opened quite a few credit cards in her name and Kara had to shut them down immediately.

So, how does mail intended for a home in Tacoma end up at a home in Nevada? Someone has to pick up Travis’ mail in Nevada, right? So, it’s time for a road trip.

All the bad guys have to do is come by with their key, open up the mailbox, take the mail and be on their way with your personal information or even a credit card in your name or your medical equipment.

Brian McDermott from Mountlake Terrace had a false change of address filed at his address. His mail was sent to California.

His issue, the three trips over five days to the post office to get his mail back.

“It’s stressful because there’s nothing you can do to correct it, absolutely nothing. You can go up there, make all the requests you want, but you got to through the process,” McDermott said.

Wiegand said they will investigate the Palmer’s case. “We’re going to start looking into it now.”

As inspectors keep an eye on cases like the McDermott’s and the Palmer’s, Travis’ parents will continue to live, play and worry about the next change of address request that could be on its way.