How To Avoid Getting Scammed When Changing your Address Online
Every year, more than 38 million Americans (that’s 1 in 5 American households) pack up their things, say their farewells and relocate to a new address. It’s a surprisingly large and steadily consistent demographic; one that’s actively searching for any semblance of time-saving convenience that might make the moving process a little bit easier—which is why it’s caught the eye of con artists looking to take advantage of an inexpensive online service the majority of these movers depend upon.
An essential part of the moving process is making sure your mail moves with you. The only way to ensure that this happens is to update your address with the U.S. Postal Service™. Movers may elect to update their information in person at any USPS® retail establishment, however, the option of filing a change of address online using the official USPS website provides busy, frazzled movers a welcomed, much-appreciated convenience. An online update can be completed in minutes, from anywhere, from any device, simply and securely, for a nominal identity-verification fee of $1.05—if completed on the official USPS website.
Unfortunately, there are several fraudulent, third-party websites that trick unknowing individuals into paying anywhere from $19 to $79 and up for the change of address services they provide. What’s worse: many of these sites promote change-of-address services and more, while providing no real services at all: they exist only to trick unsuspecting movers out of their personal information and their money. These websites are often official and professional looking: purposefully designed and positioned as such to create a false air of authority and credibility, but they are in no way affiliated with the U.S. Postal Service, which is why the USPS, and authorized U.S. Postal Service affiliate MYMOVE.com, are attempting to protect movers by identifying these fraudulent sites and raising awareness of their misleading practices.
How Fake Change of Address Websites Fool You
“These change of address sites go to great lengths to imply association with the Postal Service,” says Postal Inspector Andrea Avery, “but they are not affiliated with USPS® in any way. This is how they’re able to trick so many people into overpaying.”
Here’s how the scam typically works: a mover performs an internet search for “moving change of address,” or any variation thereof. Instantly, any number of official-looking websites appear in the results field—many of which even incorporate the “USPS®” registered trademark into their names. They create a false sense of relevancy by paying for premium search engine results positioning, which is how these websites are able to surreptitiously appear above the official USPS Change of Address site after an internet search is conducted. The mover clicks on a link, not noticing that they’re visiting a third-party website. The mover willingly enters their personal information, as well as their credit card number. Once these misleading websites have all the info they need, the proprietors file the change of address, pay the USPS’s required $1.05 online identity verification fee, and pocket the rest of the money. Or, they file the change of address offline, avoiding the $1.05 charge completely.
“We want to make sure anyone needing to change their address is aware of the possible dangers of using one of these sites, Avery says. “Be safe! If you go directly to USPS.com to change your address, you won’t pay too much and your accounts will be safe.”
MYMOVE.com is an authorized affiliate of the U.S. Postal Service that helps movers begin updating their voter registrations, and offers movers the option of selecting coupons and special offers, after completing a change of address on the official USPS Change of Address website. While MYMOVE.com doesn’t ask for payment—or even include any opportunities to enter any type of payment information—anywhere on their site, they, too, receive hundreds of complaints every month from frustrated people, mistakenly requesting refunds for dollars that were never collected by MYMOVE in the first place.
How to Avoid Falling for an Online Change of Address Scam
Because of their premier internet search results positioning and credible, authoritative appearance, these fraudulent change of address websites can be difficult to detect. MYMOVE offers some simple steps movers can take to differentiate these disingenuous websites from the real deal.
- Make sure the website URL includes “USPS.com.” Official USPS change of address websites include “usps.com” somewhere in the URL. If you’re on a site with a domain name that doesn’t include usps.com, navigate away.
- Look out for excessive charges. The U.S. Postal Service charges only $1.05 for an online change of address filing. This credit card charge is necessary for identity verification and, in turn, fraud protection. If you see anything indicating you’ll be paying more than $1.05 to change your address online, you’re not in the right place. Check the legal disclaimers, as this is often where sites disclose charges for their services.
- Look out for recurring charges. The $1.05 USPS online identity verification fee is a one-time charge. Any site that continues to bill you monthly is not affiliated with the USPS.
How to Get an Online Change of Address Scam Refund
Here’s the catch: while these scam websites severely overcharge, many of them do actually submit your change of address form for you—it’s how they justify their business model, and why you can’t submit the charges as “fraudulent” to your bank. What you can do is re-visit the website at which you originally entered your information, locate their contact information, and contact them regarding your refund, as well as any recurring charges you might have accidentally signed up for. Continue to monitor your credit card for additional fees, just in case.
Additionally, you can help shut down these sites and protect any other movers from falling for the same thing by submitting a complaint with the Better Business Bureau here.