PO Box Mystery
August 6, 2015 11:11 AM   Subscribe

Can you help me solve the mystery of how my name became associated with my parents' PO Box?

My parents received a piece of mail addressed to me at their PO Box, which is really weird. They moved recently, and opened the box within the last six months. The mail has not been forwarded; it is addressed specifically to me, at that PO Box. I moved out of the house almost 15 years ago, and have never lived in their current state. The mail is a check from the AT&T Mobility Settlement, which seems to be legit. While I was, and am still currently, an AT&T customer, I was never a customer while I lived with them. They are not AT&T customers.

I'm absolutely baffled. I checked my credit report, and nothing seems amiss. I don't think my parents opened an account in my name. I'm not living in the same place I was in the late 2000s, but I should be easy to find, since I'm still an AT&T customer. Even if they completely lost my trail, how did they find my parents' PO Box?
posted by Sibrax to Grab Bag (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I'm not sure how they found it, but I suspect it's a profoundly unsexy agglomeration of associating your name with that of one or both of your parents in the past, and carrying over that association to a new address regardless of the facts. I've received mail for my father at addresses in cities where he has never lived, primarily because it's cheap as chips to send mail at commercial bulk rates, and any revenue realized would pay for the franking may times over. It's just an unsophisticated numbers game. Your situation sounds like the inverse of my own.
posted by Emperor SnooKloze at 11:17 AM on August 6, 2015 [1 favorite]

The AARP thought my dad lived at my house for a while there. My dad lives three states away and has never lived anywhere near here.
posted by magnetsphere at 11:24 AM on August 6, 2015

My sister has never lived at the house I live in now -- hasn't even lived in the state in twenty years -- and the IRS was sending certified mail to her at my address for a couple years. I believe if you:

-- lived with someone;
-- then moved away, and filled out a change-of-address with the post office;

Your change of address, tied to the address you shared with the other person, can be reviewed and possibly taken as their new address, and the chain of change-of-addresses will lead to your door.
posted by AzraelBrown at 11:29 AM on August 6, 2015 [1 favorite]

The mail has not been forwarded; it is addressed specifically to me
Does the envelope say "Address Service Requested"?
posted by soelo at 11:38 AM on August 6, 2015

Do you move around a lot and/or have few records in your name, especially public records like property and utilities?

I'm guessing it was a similar process to one I just did: the most recent information in my database for a particular individual was using was a decade old. That database, like many similar databases, lists familial information, so I found a current address for the person's spouse. I found no divorce or death records, so I decided spouse's address is most likely where this person resides and it's just that everything is in spouse's name now. That might be wrong, but it's better information than a location where I'm pretty sure neither has resided for at least 5 years.
posted by lesli212 at 12:14 PM on August 6, 2015

Just as lesli212 said. If you run my name through a search engine, you won't find my current address. The most current address for me is a good eight years old, but you will find my mother's address and a list of many of her relatives, including me. You will also find someone else with the same name as my mother and me listed as their relative. I'm sure they get mail for me upon occasion too, and have no idea who I am or why I'm getting mail at their address. Someone, somewhere within that company probably ran your name through a search engine and most likely found your parent's address with your name.
posted by MildredMakenpace at 12:22 PM on August 6, 2015

When we moved 4 years ago, NONE of the kids were living with us, and none have lived with us since then.. We receive mail addressed to them every once in a while.... Hell, we receive mail for my wife's ex here, he's never even walked in the door... The data out there, powerful it is...

As others have said, there's no plot afoot, tell them to throw it away or forward it to you...
posted by HuronBob at 1:31 PM on August 6, 2015

If there is any data associating you with your parents (and there usually is), there is some program somewhere capable of making the jump. My first wife has received mail at my second wife's address, in a state in which she never lived, more than 10 years after both divorces. My most recent credit report contained a single cryptic entry: "M6G 2XY" — eventually I recognized that as my son's current Canadian postal code. Bear in mind I have never co-signed a loan for my son, and he has been a legal adult for more than 15 years. These things just happen. Unless creditors are making demands on you based on the association, just chalk it up to modern-day weirdness and forget about it.
posted by ubiquity at 1:32 PM on August 6, 2015

Do you sign on any of your parent's checking accounts or the like? That would create an association?

My parents still live in the same house I moved out of when I got married (25 years ago) and it was probably only 5-7 years ago the letters from military recruiters stopped. What has always seemed strange about that is you'd think a military recruiting mailing list, of all things, would age off the old records pretty quick.
posted by randomkeystrike at 1:53 PM on August 6, 2015

The Change of Address card your parents filled out with the post office when they switched addresses has a little checkbox or something that says 'do you want this to apply to only you, or to the entire household?' If they checked 'entire household' (which is what most people want, as otherwise every person in the household would have to fill out a separate COA card), the USPS takes that to mean every one who gets mail at the old address (however rarely, and even if one card or letter were sent to you at their old address) would have their address updated in the NCOA (National Change of Address) database. I bet that's how it happened.
posted by DandyRandy at 1:56 PM on August 6, 2015

Response by poster: Thanks for the responses, everybody.

I can't think of anything at all that would associate me with them. It probably has something to do with my parents' Change of Address form, but my name isn't unique, which means whoever sent it must have had some other identifying information. But I can't think of anything that would lead them to that old address and not my current one, which I've had for two years. For the purposes of the settlement, I would have expected them to use something tied to my AT&T account, and nothing there would have pointed to my parents' address.

I suppose I won't worry about it, but I still think it's pretty weird.
posted by Sibrax at 3:06 PM on August 6, 2015

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