One of the more recent tricks that are involved with identity theft scams revolves around the victim’s mail. The scam is achieved by diverting mail to another location. This diversion is initiated by a simple change-of-address form. Once this form is filed with the post office, it becomes possible to have the victim’s mail sent directly to doorsteps of the criminals. This will occur even while the victim is waiting at home for mail that never appears.
A television station in New York, WCBS, conducted an investigation regarding the details of this particular scam. In its investigation, WCBS was able to determine that no ID was required. Additionally, there was no red tape to deal with and very little effort was actually required to file the fake address change card.
An inspector for the Postal Inspection Service, Al Weissmann, told WCBS investigators very few fraudulent address change forms are filed. He indicated that service record numbers showed approximately 100 out of every 45 million address change forms filed are fraudulent. But for those that are affected, the results can be devastating. It can mean that pre-approved loan applications and all types of personal information are sent directly to an identity thief. Some of this data can also include bank account information. Credit card replacements can also be intercepted.
WCBS also reported a case where an identity theft victim was hit hard by the scam. Steve Zuckerman who resides in Great Neck, New York had nine different credit card applications placed under his name. In this case, $90,000 of fraudulent credit was directed to the identity theft criminals.
According to WCBS, a non-profit consumer rights group, The Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, pointed out the scope of this crime. They state that over 100 million sensitive information records have been stolen since 2005. This private information allowed the theft of over 670,000 identities in one year alone.
The most prolific time of year for a change-of-address form scam is during tax season. This is when W-2 forms (and other tax documents) are being mailed by employers and the IRS. These forms are particularly sensitive since they can have the following information:
• Full Social Security number
• Employer name
• Bank account that paychecks are mailed to
There are several things that can be done to protect yourself from change-of-address form identity theft. The most important thing to understand is that this type of fraud is very easy to perpetrate. Therefore, if you are concerned about sensitive mail that is normally sent to your address, here are some things that can be done:
• Be on the alert if you have not received mail for a couple of days. This is especially true if there are others in your home who are still receiving mail. Change-of-address forms don’t always affect everyone in the same residence. Each person needs to be specified on the address change form. A change-of address form scam can target a specific individual.
• Consider sending mail from a post office or public mailbox. Sending mail from a home mailbox is not as safe. Also, send mail from a public mailbox just before the last collection time listed on the mailbox. Thieves have been known to steal from public mailboxes during night time hours.
• Never leave mail sitting overnight in your mailbox. Get it immediately after it arrives. Also, electronic mailbox sensors are available. These will let you know if someone is tampering with your mailbox.
• Mailboxes that have a locking mechanism are preferable to those that anyone can open.