I just got charged for some other jerk to send mail.
October 23, 2012 3:24 PM   Subscribe

This morning I collected mail from my PO Box, and was told there was another item with postage due. I paid the $1.50 and then was given three copies of form 3547, 'address forwarding service' for mail I never sent. How can I get this refunded and stop whoever sent it 'in my name'?

Possibly relevant: I possess PO Box 1, Seattle. The forms all look like this, with different people as the recipients. I am guessing that this mail was actually sent by the Post Office itself, and maybe PO Box 1 is often 'the postmaster'? I asked the post office worker who gave me the forms what this was, and she said 'it's your mail! Please move, I have to serve the next customer'. I had to get to work, so wasn't able to stay and ask about it on the spot. I am planning to go back in tomorrow morning and ask what this mail is and try and a) get it refunded b) make sure this crap doesn't turn up again. (If it wasn't sent by the Post Office, is someone sending mail with my PO Box as a return address? I've had it for 4 years so there's no legitimate reason for that.)

So, question: anyone know what might have actually happened? What approach should I take tomorrow morning?
posted by jacalata to Grab Bag (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Yeah, this is a thing, and your post office needs to be on top of it.
Change of address scam. This type of postal fraud comes in two varieties, both of which are used for identity theft:

* In the first instance, a crook changes your address so that all your mail gets diverted to them. They can steal whatever information they need before the victim notices something is wrong.

* More commonly, the scammer has already stolen the victim's identity and arranges for credit card bills taken out in the victim's name to go to another address.

The USPS now conducts security checks when notified of an address change, but, if you're used to getting mail every day, contact them after a couple of empty days.

Monitoring your credit report is the most likely way you'd discover if someone has stolen your identity and is using another address.
The good news is that I have found that if you suspect any kind of identity theft is going on, everyone from banks to government agencies will tend to be very helpful, as they hear this often.

Tomorrow, when you go to the post office, I'd ask to speak to the postmaster. You should not have to deal with the extra worry of a rushed, possibly overworked postal employee giving you less than helpful answers. I've also found the postmaster tends to be very responsive when there is any problem coming out of that particular post office, as it reflects poorly on him (or her).
posted by misha at 3:41 PM on October 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

Could it have something to do with the return address being obscured by the sticker? To a machine, the return address might look like:

P.O. 1
Seattle, Was

Which a machine might think was you.

In regard to misha's comment, unless the old or new address is you, I don't see how it could be somebody trying to steal your identity.
posted by danielparks at 3:45 PM on October 23, 2012

Oh, and you can fill out this form, or print it out and take it with you! United States Postal Inspection Mail Fraud Complaint.
posted by misha at 3:46 PM on October 23, 2012

Sorry, on preview and not to abuse the editing function: if the P.O. Box being used is yours, but the address change request form is not requesting to forward anything from or to your P.O. Box, then it is most likely just someone at the post office putting the Change of Address form in the wrong place and not any kind of identity theft.

I am not sure if that's the case, since you say the mail was sent "in your name", which suggests to me that it appears as if you are asking for this mail to be forwarded to an address other than the post office box. Maybe I am just confused about that?
posted by misha at 3:51 PM on October 23, 2012

Hm, I'll try and clarify. All I got was the form shown in the link, there's no other information. According to the Post Office website, this form turns up in this scenario

1. Person X sends a letter to Y, requesting it be forwarded to a new address if necessary ("Address Service requested")
2. Recipient Post Office gets the letter, sees that Y has moved, forwards the mail to Y's new address and sends back form 3547 requesting payment from X at the return address given
3. I received the request for payment, because Person X actually put my address as their return address.

In this case, Person X appears to have done this for three letters on the same day. The barcode was put over the return address as part of step 2 I think, because on one of them it obscures too much for them to even read 'PO 1' from it.
posted by jacalata at 4:01 PM on October 23, 2012

I think danielparks has it. It looks like the letter was processed upside down (possibly because the actual sender put postage on it in the wrong corner, and again in the right one?), which caused the return address to be obscured by the bar code printer.

Presumably, if you could peel off the sticker, you'd find the actual return address underneath.

Then, since the address it was being mailed to had in fact changed, the "ADDRESS SERVICE REQUESTED" note triggered the post office to send this card to the return address, which was obscured, so the machine decided that the closest match was yours.

Nothing to do, really. If it's never happened before, it's probably a rare screwup that you can simply ignore. Maybe you can get a refund, but it doesn't seem worth bothering with.

PS: How the heck do you come to own PO Box 1?
posted by alexei at 4:05 PM on October 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

Seems like you should be talking to the postmaster about this. Hopefully you'll be able to talk to him or her tomorrow morning.
posted by zsazsa at 4:37 PM on October 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

I think danielparks and alexei are right and the postage due slip for the mail has simply been misdelivered to you because the return address is covered up and it looks like PO Box 1.

I'd go back to complain because it looks like a mass mailing from some agency or organization whose name starts with Administrator and it might happen again. Heck you might get 3 more tomorrow. Also that zip code in the forwarding address is for Wheat Ridge CO not West Ridge CO. The mail might get returned again.
posted by interplanetjanet at 4:56 PM on October 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

« Older Why have case endings and gender endured in...   |   Does the foam padding in most vintage furniture... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.