Someone is using our mailbox to steal money...
February 16, 2011 5:29 PM   Subscribe

Someone is using our address to take out loans and not pay them. It continues to go on, despite marking the letters "Not At This Address" and sending them back. Is there anything more we can do?

We bought our current house about 3 years ago (location: Australia) and for a while we kept receiving the previous owners' mail, who had failed to set up a mail redirection. We marked all the letters "Not at this address" and sent them back.

In the last 3 months, the mail for this guy has started arriving again. My 4.5 year old son is excited by mail, and when we leave the envelopes on the counter, he has a habit of opening them. Inside we've found bright, shiny new credit cards, and pay-day loan cards, under our address. We've also found letters saying "Pay in 14 days or we'll see you in court..." We keep resealing them and sending them back, but they keep arriving, from a diverse range of companies. Is there anything more we should be doing? Contacting the credit companies directly? I'm a bit afraid that the previous owner might be turning up to take mail our of our letter box, or that collection guys might show up on our doorstep.
posted by Jimbob to Law & Government (7 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I was hassled for almost 2 years to pay a phone account belonging to someone with my first and last name, but different middle name and different birthdate, who ran up their phone bill in a state I'd never lived in. I provided reams of evidence proving that it wasn't me, and still the phone calls and nasty letters persisted.

The last I heard from them was when I sent a letter saying that any more contact would force me to ring "A Current Affair". Please note that I never watch that trash but the mere threat finally did the trick.

Does your letterbox lock? (Perhaps the addressee does plan to raid it.)
posted by malibustacey9999 at 5:49 PM on February 16, 2011

No, it doesn't lock, but it is on the inside of a fence, so retrieving mail would involve going through the gate into our garden. Not that much of a hassle, though.
posted by Jimbob at 5:51 PM on February 16, 2011

Oh I should also say - one letter our son handed to us was demanding a child support payment. Companies and government department have a habit of not putting their name on envelopes anymore, just their address, so it's impossible to know where this stuff is coming from, if it wasn't for looking inside. We are aware that opening someone else's mail is illegal, so we're worried about phoning the authorities and saying "This guy you're chasing isn't here anymore, maybe you should go looking for him..."
posted by Jimbob at 6:02 PM on February 16, 2011

Don't be worried about that Jimbob, nobody, absolutely nobody, is going to prosecute you for your son opening a letter or two. A judge would dismiss the prosecution case in 0.5 seconds flat. de minimis non curat lex.

I would just keep sending the letters back, or throwing them in the bin.
posted by wilful at 6:20 PM on February 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

I had a similar problem at our last place and it's looking like were having issues here too.

At our last place we were getting serious mail of the sort you're getting, court summons and lots of collections notices. I called the Post Office and let them know that I was concerned because obviously the former tenant hadn't filed a change of address form and we were getting alarming letters. I also explained that it was kind of disturbing to see these letters marked "Past Due" and "Final Notice" when I had credit in good standing. (You know that feeling when you see the bold red writing and your heart skips a beat before you double check who the letter is addressed to?)

The Post Office dealt with the problem by putting a label inside our mail box with our last name on it. Apparently that's their clue that if the mail doesn't have that last name then we don't want it. That cut the stream of mail down dramatically. We have that label here on this box, but I think I need to call them and let them know we won't accept mail with somebody else's name.

I don't know if the Australian Post can do something similar, but I'd call them and ask. IMO it's as much their problem as it is yours.
posted by TooFewShoes at 6:53 PM on February 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

Technically, tampering with the mail (eg opening a letter addressed to somebody else) is a crime, but that's where police & judicial discretion comes in. It's also why judicial discretion is such an important legal principle, and why you should never vote for anybody using "tough on crime" rhetoric to take discretion away from the courts.

Derail aside, that's a good suggestion, seeing if Australia Post can intercept the mail. As I understand it, sorting is done by barcodes & optical character readers at a handful of huge mail centres. This sorts the letters into delivery rounds - ie the posties' actual beats. From there, it's up to the postie to sort the letters into order, eg using a bunch of pigeonhole type slots. A sticker on the slot might be possible. It would be more productive to approach your local Postal Manager than to ring the call centre - keep it on a personal level. And tip your postie some Boags at xmas.

But that won't prevent various companies from thinking that the people living at 1 Jimbob St, Twoheadtown TAS are defaulting on their loans. If those become bad debts & are sold off to debt collection agencies (which is what normally happens, even from the banks) you might find yourself dealing with some rather unsalubrious bounty hunter types.

I'd try sending the letters back with something stronger that "Not at this address", eg "We have no idea who this person is, they have never lived at this address, they do not live here now, and if you don't stop spamming us with your letters we're going straight to Today Tonight"
posted by UbuRoivas at 7:40 PM on February 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

This kind of thing has happened at most of the places I lived in, especially the dodgier sharehouses in Adelaide. Cards, notices of demand, solicitors' letters etc. Nothing more serious (personal visits from debt collectors etc) ever happened. When I took a big pile of the letters to the post office they just gave me a stack of "return to sender" stickers to put on them.

Actually, just last night my girlfriend called the Commonwealth Bank and asked them to stop sending us things addressed to a former tenant of our house. The girl there said something like "oh yeah, there's a note on that file saying the letters have been coming back return to sender. I'll try to put a block on it but it might not work". So other than asking the post office whether they've come up with a better solution I don't think there's really much you can do.
posted by A Thousand Baited Hooks at 3:29 AM on February 18, 2011

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