Why would former tenant use my address sending mail?
July 8, 2014 12:36 PM   Subscribe

Why would a former quasi-tenant address a package to an erroneous address and write my address as his own? This package just got "returned to sender" and he hasn't lived here in 7 months! Should we be worried?

My SO and I had a troublesome tenant who moved out last January. One of the problems we had with her was that she invited over her boyfriend to permanently stay with us without any notice.

Today, we received a package addressed to an unknown person (address covered by a USPS sticker) and the sender of the package was the former tenant's boyfriend, who had written our address as his.

The USPS office return the package to the sender (our address) because it was impossible to deliver.

My question is: why would this man use our address to mail stuff? Should we be worried? We did not end the tenancy in the best of terms, and it makes me uncomfortable that he is using our address 7 months after he moved out of this house, after never being officially a tenant. This man and his girlfriend are not very responsible at all, and I am worried about what this box could contain. It also doesn't seem likely that this is the only time he has used our address as his, and we happened to find out. I feel it has to have happened more times.

A neighbor came and told us he came to look for this box a couple of days ago (it hadn't arrived yet) which also supports the idea that he is aware he is using an address (we thought he may have gotten confused).

What should we do if anything?
posted by Tarumba to Law & Government (25 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Take the box into the Post Office and give it to them to hold. Explain to them that this man has NEVER lived in your home, and that he has no business using your address as a return address.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 12:39 PM on July 8, 2014 [7 favorites]

It could be a scam, according to the USPS.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 12:45 PM on July 8, 2014 [2 favorites]

Wait, you said your female tenant had let her boyfriend permanently live with her without permission. So, he actually WAS living there, right? Maybe it wasn't with your permission, but as far as they were concerned, he sort of lived there. In that case, it's not that crazy to think maybe he was using that address when he signed up for stuff, right? The fact that he went looking for the package seems to indicate her knew something was being sent to that address and he wants it. So... it's probably not a bomb or anthrax.

I moved into a new apartment and the previous tenant, from what I can tell, hadn't lived here in several months. But he had signed up for some sort of regular coffee orders and never updated it. It's something he had probably signed up for long before he moved out and forgot to update. So I got a package of coffee for him. I opened it and the slip had his number so I texted him and told him to come get it and asked him to update his recurring order with his new address.

Unless you think your previous tenant and her live-in boyfriend are criminals and you have reason to believe they were doing very bad things, other than being irresponsible and lazy, I think you may be overreacting slightly. If you're sincerely worried it's a package of drugs or firearms or something, call the police and ask them what to do with the package.
posted by AppleTurnover at 12:53 PM on July 8, 2014 [5 favorites]

Could be way off-base, but: My first impression, especially considering the fact that the dude has already come around your place in search of this very package, is that the box contains drugs or some other kind of illegal contraband. Since there's no official documentation connecting him to your address but he still knows where you live, and is familiar enough locally that even the neighbor recognizes him, it's pretty safe for him to ship whatever he'd like while using your address as the return.

I'd bag up the box post-haste and take it over to your local USPS branch, for sure.
posted by divined by radio at 12:53 PM on July 8, 2014 [6 favorites]

I would report it to the Postal Inspector and the police.

I'm not sure which entity you should give the box to, tho. The Postal Inspector can issue attention under Federal Law, so I guess them?
posted by jbenben at 12:53 PM on July 8, 2014

The relevant detail is that the fellow (or someone else?) used your address to send an undeliverable box, and then came to your home looking for that box.
posted by jbenben at 1:00 PM on July 8, 2014 [3 favorites]

Yes, you should be worried. He is likely shipping drugs and using your address. Bring the package to the police and explain the situation.
posted by Melismata at 1:11 PM on July 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

Actually, I think the police or your local post office would be interested in this. Don't involve the neighbor, and don't call the police - just bring the box to your local precinct or to your local post office and tell them exactly what you said here.
posted by sockermom at 1:25 PM on July 8, 2014 [2 favorites]

"If you see something, say something." The police have no excuse to laugh this off. As noted, it could easily be a misdirection ploy to ship something covertly.
posted by SemiSalt at 1:27 PM on July 8, 2014

Could be illegal reasons why he used your address. Also could be that that was the address that matched his credit card he is using. Did he stay there long enough to update his bank info to your address? If so, it should be updated to the new address immediately, and I might be worried about creditors coming to look for him at your address.
posted by photoexplorer at 1:31 PM on July 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

Even if you ignore any illegalities, or scams that you might be wrapped up in, if you give this guy his package, why won't he do this again? And then be regularly hanging out around your house ready to scoop up misdelivered packages? And maybe he'll "accidentally" grab a package correctly delivered to you.

Whether postal inspector, or police, doesn't matter. The only point is to not give it to him unless you want this to become a regular thing.
posted by nobeagle at 1:31 PM on July 8, 2014 [2 favorites]

This guy lived in your rental property, without your permission.

Regardless of that, 7 months AFTER moving out, he should NOT be using your address as a return address on any package.

Sure it could be an honest mistake. I've written portions of old addresses for return address -- usually it's just been an old house number and street with my new town, or my new town with my old town's ZIP code. I suppose I could have used the full old address for a return address a time or two.

It could be a mistake, but it could also be a scam. Take the package to your local Post Office or police department (I would choose the Post Office, myself) and explain the situation. Mail fraud is a Federal crime.
posted by tckma at 1:32 PM on July 8, 2014

It's kind of weird, and could be some kind of scam, but yeah, unless the cops there are really bored, they probably won't be that interested.

I'm trying to reverse-engineer this situation into some sort of credible scam, and am coming up nearly blank. It wouldn't make sense that he actually mailed it and then preemptively went to pick it up before it had even been delivered. Maybe someone else intentionally misaddressed it so that it'd get 'returned' to your address, to save on postage or something? Or to create some plausible deniability, even though his name was on the package?

I vote that you just bring it back to the post office, tell them the situation, and let your postmaster decide what to do with it. If there's some elaborate scam where you intentionally misaddress something and get it returned to a dropoff address, they'll know about it. If it's just a mistake, they can deal with that too, and you can tell the guy (or tell your neighbor to tell the guy) to go talk to the post office about it.
posted by ernielundquist at 1:34 PM on July 8, 2014

There is absolutely no legitimate reason why he would use the OP's address for a return address. He no longer lives there. He's using the OP for something. We don't know what, but the OP should not be used this way. Nobeagle is right on.
posted by Melismata at 1:37 PM on July 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

It has to be some kind of scam/drug thing. Why would he be coming back to your place to look for this specific package that contained the address as a "sent from" address? If it was addressed TO this address, I can see him looking for it, but why would you assume a piece of mail would be returned to sender unless you did it on purpose? I would bring it to the cops for sure.
posted by katypickle at 1:40 PM on July 8, 2014 [2 favorites]

Just take it to the post office and tell them he doesn't live there. No need to go speculating about what could be in the box. Let them determine whether the box is suspicious or not. Why cast aspersions? Jeez, people. People can do bad all by themselves; they don't need your help.
posted by elle.jeezy at 1:41 PM on July 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

Well, I was asking MeFites to speculate. I understand there is no way anyone on this forum knows for sure, but these answers have given me perspective on the potential magnitude of the problem. I am very thankful for this because I always prefer to expect the best but prepare for the worst.

We will take the package to the post office and tell them about this. We have been receiving numerous letters from creditors (addressed to ex-tenant and her boyfriend) and we have been diligent about returning them all with a note stating they do not live here anymore. I will make sure to check my credit score/accounts as recommended on that USPS link Marie Mon Dieu posted.

I called the police station and they said to drop the box off at the Post Office, and to get a written record of the incident. They agreed that the whole situation is very fishy and could become problematic if we don't go through the official channels. Thankfully they didn't laugh! They were pretty helpful, actually. They insisted that I take this seriously.

Thanks everyone!
posted by Tarumba at 1:58 PM on July 8, 2014 [15 favorites]

Why cast aspersions? Jeez, people

This is a former troublesome tenant who moved out 7 months ago and is still using the OP's address. Why wouldn't he use his own or the address of a friend? This is Address Fraud at best.
posted by soelo at 2:00 PM on July 8, 2014 [3 favorites]

Jesus christ people are assuming way too disastrous of a situation here.

Yes, i have lived at places i wasn't on the lease on. Yes, i've used them as my address because what the hell else are you supposed to do(and search askme for all the posts about not letting a friend use your address like ever because omg liability and swat teams kicking down your door)

For a long time after that, despite updating my profiles on all the major shopping sites and banks and such, mail would STILL get sent to that place. If something was marked delivered and never showed up, i'd go check.

It was probably just some freaking pants or something. No one mails drugs, jesus. That's how you go to prison.

And yes, i know, it was the return address. It took me an actual meatspace analog phone call to ebay and i think etsy to get them to stop putting that address on my preprinted labels(which is the only way to get cheap postage when using those services).

I would feel like a dick if i didn't at least call the guy, or his girlfriend if you have their number and go "hey, i have your box, why did it have my address on it?" and see what he has to say.

I mailed out more than a couple things without even realizing that address was still on them because i had updated it, and every preview page on the site showed my new address... it was just that when printed it put the old one.

The responses in here strike me as hilariously chicken little. I mean, if he has a super fishy/bullshitty sounding reason then yea, fuck him. But why not at least see what he has to say? It could be an honest mistake or oversight on a site/service that never updated, or that he hasn't used since then. You could be fucking him out of a laptop or something he was trying to sell on ebay, and therefor a good amount of money from not being able to send it back out if there was some sort of shipping issue.
posted by emptythought at 2:59 PM on July 8, 2014 [6 favorites]

But why not at least see what he has to say?

Or, you know, HE could contact the OP directly and politely explain the situation, rather than sniffing around at the house, per the neighbor?

OP, you have nothing to gain by granting this guy any special favors. You aren't a UPS Store or Mailboxes Etc. He's had seven months to sort his mailing address out; and surely if he was shipping something important that he wanted to arrive to the correct address in a timely, guaranteed fashion, he would use some form of trackable shipping, AND make damn sure the return address was current.

If he borked it due to ineptitude or some non-sketchy goof-up, well, that's what's called a Learning Moment. Grownups own up to their mistakes, and live with the natural consequences.
posted by nacho fries at 4:30 PM on July 8, 2014 [4 favorites]

No one mails drugs, jesus. That's how you go to prison.

Almost everyone I know who does drugs these days gets them delivered via USPS after ordering them from Silk Road. At least one acquaintance has said it is the best way to get drugs because the postal service almost never checks packages and if they ever do intercept one you can just claim that you don't know why someone sent it to you.

So yeah, it could totally be drugs, especially with the deliberately wrong (but familiar) return address. If the cops show up looking for the sender, OP doesn't know where he lives now but if the package gets returned the sender still knows where to look for it.
posted by Jacqueline at 5:07 PM on July 8, 2014 [4 favorites]

Gee, not to be a party pooper about all the high drama, but maybe guy who moved in with gf did so because he had no place else to go and maybe he is still homeless and this was his last mailing address and he basically doesn't have another address he can use.

Homeless people get harassed horribly all the time and are basically social outcasts, no matter what they do. So it usually is not in their best interest to go admit "Um, yeah, I am still using this address because I kind of have no other real options." To get a post office box or rent a mailing address requires proof of address, something homeless people kind of tend to lack most of the time. It requires two forms of ID, one showing residency. So lots of homeless people simply have no means to get a mailing address, even if they have the funds to pay for a mailing address, which many don't.

Of course, it could be something nefarious. Or it could be that there is a recession on and lots of people are on the street and so on.
posted by Michele in California at 5:16 PM on July 8, 2014 [5 favorites]

It's possible that he addressed the package when he still lived at your property, and just never got around to shipping it until recently.

It doesn't make sense that the package contains drugs, unless he is the one shipping drugs? Why would you put a return address on your drugs?

Also, address fraud doesn't make sense, unless you think he is trying to make a case for his kids to go to public school in your district or something.

Honestly, it was probably a scatterbrained/irresponsible thing, and not some sort of sooper sekrit plot. Much like emptythought, I've accidentally sent things to addresses I no longer live at.

I'd be more worried about the creditors - annoying as anything.
posted by fermezporte at 5:32 PM on July 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

It doesn't make sense that the package contains drugs, unless he is the one shipping drugs? Why would you put a return address on your drugs?

Because a return address is mandatory on packages:
1.5.3 Required Use of Return Addresses
[3-3-14] The sender’s domestic return address must appear legibly on:
h. Package Services (except unendorsed Bound Printed Matter).
So, whatever he was mailing, he decided to not use an address he could be found at but one that he thought he'd still have access to if the package was returned (advantageous if the contents of the package were valuable). Could just be an error, but if it was deliberate that's pretty suspicious (especially in the context of this being a problem tenant).
posted by Jacqueline at 5:42 PM on July 8, 2014 [3 favorites]

I work in social work with homeless clients all the time. It is extremely common that they will use any address they think they can reasonably check as their own. Sometimes we get mail sent to our office for the clients without them having asked about it, because they figure they can ask us.

If your house is fairly quiet and he thinks he can still pick up mail there, it might seem reasonable if he has no other options. Is it illegal? Most likely, but it doesn't have to be a nefarious drug scheme just because he's using an address that is no longer his. (And yes, if his girlfriend let him live there, he was living there, even if he was not on the lease and didn't ask you about it.)
posted by corb at 7:35 AM on July 9, 2014 [3 favorites]

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