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U.S. Postal Service dealing with skyrocketing cases of change-of-address fraud

U.S. Postal Service dealing with big problem -- change-of-address scammers
U.S. Postal Service dealing with big problem -- change-of-address scammers 03:40

NEW YORK -- The U.S. Postal Service is making adjustments after a major increase in change-of-address fraud.

That's when scammers change your address on file to get sensitive information from your mail with the goal of stealing your money.

CBS2 has been investigating this big problem.

Just this month, the USPS announced new policies after a recent report found a 167% jump in change-of-address fraud. CBS2 is asking if the Postal Service's new plan will actually fix the problem.

Laurette Olson is no Californian. New York is home.

"I am grounded here in Scarsdale," Olson said.

So imagine her surprise, more than 2,700 miles from the Hollywood sign or the cable cars of San Francisco, when the USPS told Olson someone had changed her address on file to somewhere in the Golden State.

"Complete and utter shock," Olson said.

Her suspicions started earlier this month when she stopped getting mail and started getting notices on her phone that her bills were past due.

She reached out USPS, who filled her in on the fraudulent switch.

Olson said she even got a call from a bank saying someone was trying to open a credit card in her name, which she stopped before she lost money.

"I know about three bills, but I don't know what else was sent there. And I don't know what they have in terms of personal information," Olson said.

The Postal Service has long faced criticism over a lack of safeguards when it comes to people signing up to change an address.

A 2018 report from the USPS inspector general found when people change an address in person some post offices check IDs, but "there is no national policy outlining such a control."

When it comes to changing addresses online, another inspector general report found fraud and attempted identity theft jumped 167% from 2020 to 2021.

"The verification process, if you want to call it that, is far too lax," New Jersey Rep. Josh Gottheimer said.

In March, Gottheimer slammed the Postal Service's online process and its requirement of a $1.05 credit card charge to let users submit their form, but with no ID required.

"But they have no idea if the credit card actually belongs to the person living at the address being changed," Gottheimer said.

In a series of new requirements just announced, USPS says it is now texting online customers with one-time security passcodes.

USPS also plans to send activation letters to the new address.

When asked if that's going to fix the problem, Dr. Chelsea Binns of John Jay College of Criminal Justice said, "I think it would help. It won't get us to 100% because there's always going to be a way that fraudsters get around those controls."

And the new announcement says starting May 31, USPS will offer "enhanced in-person change-of-address transactions" in which customers can present an ID to verify it's really them. But the USPS website, since at least January, has already listed a requirement to show IDs. Yet, the fraud is still happening.

CBS2 asked the USPS what it is doing differently to ensure IDs are checked, and hasn't received an answer.

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