Welcome to the Oregon FBI’s Tech Tuesday segment. This week: building a digital defense against mail change fraud.
When you are moving, there are a thousand and one things you have to get done. Packing, cleaning, and signing paperwork to get out of the old place and into the new place. Getting your mailing address changed just may not rise to the top of the list of must-do’s. When you do finally get around to making the change, don’t let speed and exhaustion push you into making a bad choice.
A simple online search of how to change your mailing address can bring up a lengthy list of options with some vendors offering you special deals, mover-only coupons and more. Costs vary greatly and can start at about $20 and run up to $40 or more. Here’s the catch, though. These companies are charging you big bucks to do what you could do for yourself for just $1.05 through the U.S. Postal Service online or for free at your neighborhood post office. This scenario is not a scam, but not necessarily a smart financial choice.
Our next scenario IS a scam. We’ve had reports that fraudsters are targeting some folks – even when they aren’t moving. We’ve had some complaints where a fraudster managed to file a change address request for the victim. You can imagine the troubles that you might face if your bank statements, credit card bills, insurance documents and more ended up in someone else’s hands.
Another twist on this scheme – you answer an ad for a work-at-home job helping people file these change-of-address requests. Sounds great – until you find out that you are doing the dirty work for scammers who are taking advantage of other victims… and you probably are not going to get paid yourself.
Here are some helpful tips to keep yourself safe:
Go directly to www.usps.com/move or your local post office to submit a change of address request – whether it is just a temporary one or a permanent one. Remember – the Postal Service will charge you $1.05 on a debit or credit card. This is actually a good thing – this allows U.S.P.S. to verify your identity against your address used for your bank account.
If you use a search engine to find out how to change your address, watch for webpages that are designed to look like the Postal Service – and may even use the Postal Service logo. Read everything before clicking through to start entering your info. Make sure to confirm the price the company says it will charge.
If you choose to use a third party provider, know that you will end up paying a big bill for the privilege, and it is often difficult to get your money back if you make a mistake.
If you want to avoid all of the above, you can always notify your important contacts individually.
Remember - if you have been victimized by an online scam, can report your suspicious contacts to the FBI. You can file an online report at the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center at www.ic3.gov or call your FBI local office.