If you’re in the process of moving, you need to be careful when it comes to filling out a change of address request. Better Business Bureau (BBB) advises consumers to be aware of a scam where people are directed to websites that charge significantly more for a service offered by the United States Postal Service (USPS).
Three St. Louis area consumers reported to BBB Scam Tracker in recent weeks that they lost money to various websites that they thought were connected to the USPS. Each of the consumers paid well over the standard $1.05 charge that the postal service charges for consumers to change their address.
A Florissant, Missouri, man said he paid $89 for a change of address in June 2021.
“I cannot get my money back,” the man wrote. “Their contact info only allows for an email exchange in which they will not return any correspondence.”
A St. Louis County woman reported losing $80 in April 2021 when she tried to change her address.
“I did this just a year ago, and I’m familiar with the process,” the woman wrote. “This website … looks identical to the USPS link to change your address.”
A St. Charles County woman reported in April 2021 that she paid a website $79.95 for a change of address which was never completed.
Scammers mimicking government agencies is a problem. These scam sites will buy targeted ad space on search engines in order to draw people to their site. If you need to change your address, go directly to the United States Postal Service website and follow the directions from there. Doing a general web search for ‘change of address’ could lead you to one of these problem websites.
Consumers reported more than 1,500 government agency imposter scams to BBB Scam Tracker during 2020. For those consumers who fell victim to these schemes, they reported a median loss of $800.
Tips on how to avoid being victimized by a fake website:
- Double check the URL. It can be easy to click on a sponsored ad or imposter website without noticing. Before you enter any sensitive information, double check that you are on the right website and that the link is secure. (Secure links start with “https://” and include a lock icon on the purchase page. The link to the USPS site to change your address is: https://www.usps.com/manage/forward.htm.
- Beware of third-party websites. Some websites appear to offer a legitimate service but are only fronts for a scam. Be suspicious of websites with no working customer service number and no physical address. Typos and grammatical errors can be indications of a scammer’s handiwork too.
- Pay with a credit card. Fraudulent charges made on a credit card can usually be disputed, whereas that might not be the case with other payment methods.
- Report it. If you have been victimized or targeted in a government imposter scam, report it to BBB Scam Tracker (BBB.org/scamtracker), the Federal Trade Commission (ftc.gov) and the FBI (fbi.gov).
For more information about government imposter scams, visit BBB.org/scamstudies to read a BBB study on the topic.