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Security & privacy

Alarmingly simple way thieves can steal your mail

I love how convenient certain things have become with the advent of the internet. With apps like Skype and FaceTime, we are able to video chat with loved ones who live thousands of miles away. Online shopping makes it easy to purchase and ship the perfect birthday gift to anyone from the comfort of your own home, you don’t even have to change out of your pajamas.

We can also take care of tedious tasks online that used to take hours waiting in line, like renewing a vehicle’s license plates at the MVD. Unfortunately, there are criminals out there trying to take advantage of these conveniences to rip us off.

How criminals are stealing your mail

The U.S. Postal Service (USPS) is one agency that has made the online transition. Instead of standing in line and filling out a change of address form whenever you move, you can now simply do it online. Fill out the online form and pay a $1 fee and just like that you’ve officially changed your mailing address.

The downside to this simplified procedure is the opportunity for someone else to steal your mail. They do this by changing your address without your knowledge. This actually happened recently to a couple in California.

As per protocol, the couple did receive a letter at their home from the USPS confirming that their mail was being redirected. It just happened to arrive too late. Some of the couple’s mail had already been stolen by the thief behind the scam. They also discovered that the thief had opened a credit card in the victim’s name.

Now, this scam isn’t as easy as it sounds on the surface. It is a pretty elaborate scheme that involves identity theft, but it can be done.

The USPS has implemented a security step that makes this scam difficult, but it might be flawed. It involves the $1 fee. Before the address change is official, the USPS must verify your credit/debit card information.

Here is the security step as described on the USPS site:

“In order to verify your identity, we process a $1.00 fee to your credit/debit card. The card’s billing address should match either the old or new address entered on the address entry page. If your card is billed to a different address, you may enter it by selecting the ‘Enter a different address’ option. This is to prevent fraudulent Change of Address requests.”

Can you recognize the flaw? The USPS requires the card’s billing address to match either the old or new address but doesn’t mention the cardholder’s name.

This could leave the door open for the thief to use their own card that has the new address as its billing address. If the cardholder’s name isn’t being matched to the Change of Address form, it could lead to mail theft.

What do you think? Have you ever used an online service to change your address or renew license plates? Leave a comment and tell us about your experiences.

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