Fraud Alert: Change-of-address Scams More Common in NJ
You might not be aware of it, but there’s been a shocking surge in change-of-address fraud over the past year.
According to U.S. Rep. Josh Gottheimer, D-N.J. 5th District, this type of fraud occurs when a criminal fraudulently changes a victim’s address with the Postal Service, redirecting their mail to a new location without their knowledge or consent.
He said this kind of fraud is ridiculously simple because “there’s no requirement, none, to submit any identification when you change your address online, zero. You can pretend to be whoever you want and change whatever address you want.”
During a news conference held outside the Paramus post office, a North Jersey woman identified only as Elise described how her mail delivery suddenly stopped in 2018, how she repeatedly contacted postal officials and was brushed aside for weeks, and ultimately how she became a victim of identify theft.
Gottheimer said tens of thousands of Americans have been “the bullseye” of change-of-address fraud resulting in millions of dollars of identity theft and people deserve to be safe from this kind of thievery.
Pay $1 to change an address
He said you are required to pay a fee of $1 with a credit card “and the United States Post Office claims that’s good enough to verify your identity and it’s secure enough, but they have no idea if the credit card actually belongs to the person living at the address being changed, so anybody can use any credit card.”
Gottheimer said if you file for a change of address in person, the Post Office is supposed to ask for identification but that doesn’t always happen, and they are supposed to send you a form asking you to confirm the request, but the form can take weeks to arrive, and sometimes (as was the case when his office moved locations) it never shows up.
“It’s complete chaos and of course a complete opening for these fraudsters and hucksters for potential mail fraud," he said.
He said a recent Post Office Inspector General’s report confirmed from 2020 to 2021 the number fraudulent change-of-address cases increased by 167%.
“That is a massive increase, it is despicable, it’s widespread and it’s growing like a fungus,” he said.
Gottheimer noted after the Inspector General’s report was released, the Post Office announced they believed their security was sufficient
He said criminals are putting in a change of address forms all over the state of New Jersey “and it’s resulting in credit card fraud, bank fraud, social security number fraud, money and sensitive information theft.”
He's demanding immediate action
In response, he said he is sending a bipartisan letter to U.S. Postmaster General Louis DeJoy demanding answers.
“I want to know how he is planning to strengthen authentication processes, increase public awareness and implement systems to protect constituents, protect change of address fraud and uphold the integrity of the Postal Service.”
What needs to happen
He believes a government ID needs to be required when changing an address online and a notice should be sent to your home that requires confirmation of the address change before it is actually done.