How To Avoid Overpaying 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 third-party websites that charge anywhere from $19 to $79 and up for the change of address services they provide. These websites are often official and professional-looking — purposefully designed and positioned for credibility — but they are in no way affiliated with the U.S. Postal Service.
How 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 it 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 pay for premium search engine results positioning, which is how these websites 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 the website has 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 special offers and services, 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, we, 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 Third-Party Change-of-Address Sites
Because of their premier internet search results positioning and credible, authoritative appearance, these change-of-address websites can be difficult to detect. MYMOVE offers some simple steps movers can take to differentiate these 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 Refund
Here’s the catch: while these 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 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.