Should I Be Worried If a Scammer Has My Address?

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When someone requests permission to use your address, they are legally allowed to do so. However, you should be worried if a scammer obtains your address, as they are likely to use it for malicious purposes. Address fraud, which includes scams such as brushing scams and rental scams, can have serious consequences.

An example of address fraud was reported by KOAA News5 in February 2023, where online scammers used a Colorado Springs family's home address in a puppy scam. Individuals were tricked into believing they were purchasing a puppy online, only to show up at the family's home and realize it was a scam. This incident highlights the dangers of scammers having access to personal information.

The United States Postal Service (USPS) and federal lawmakers have taken notice of the rise in change of address fraud and identity theft. Data shows a 167% increase in these types of fraud from 2021 to 2022. The USPS Inspector’s office has identified seniors as the most vulnerable targets, prompting lawmakers to urge the USPS to enhance their identity verification process.

What can a scammer do with your address?

If a scammer obtains your home address, you may begin to receive unwanted visitors or correspondence. These could include fraudulent lotteries, prize drawings, get-rich-quick schemes, and investment scams. According to Identity Guard, scammers have the ability to alter your address and reroute your mail to a location thousands of miles away from your residence. 

By utilizing your home address, scammers can create a facade of legitimacy for a fictitious business, potentially resulting in disgruntled customers arriving at your doorstep in search of nonexistent goods, similar to the situation experienced by the family in Colorado Springs who had individuals show up to collect puppies they had supposedly purchased online.

In February this year, The UK SUN reported that residents of a neighborhood street in Britain were targeted by mysterious Chinese scams. Two fake companies, Zhuangzhixiang Ltd and Zefanniubi Ltd, were supposedly headquartered on a quiet Welsh road, yet locals claim they have never seen any sign of them. The residents realized they were involved in a scam when they started receiving mail from Companies House addressed to their home, but not to them.

Scammers have been known to lease or sell properties that they do not actually own, leading to renters or buyers attempting to gain access to your home if your address is misused in this manner. Additionally, if a criminal uses your address to avoid arrest or a warrant, you could find yourself in a precarious position when law enforcement comes searching for the individual in question.

What can you do as a victim of address fraud?

Address fraud is a pervasive issue that can be challenging to completely avoid. However, there are steps you can take if you suspect you have fallen victim to identity theft or an address scam.

To begin, it is crucial to gather any evidence related to the fraud, such as mailpieces, real estate listings, photographs, documentation, and correspondences. Creating a timeline of events can assist investigators in resolving the case efficiently.

Next, filing a police report is essential. This action not only triggers an investigation into the fraudulent activities but also asserts your innocence in any illegal activities associated with your address or identity.

Additionally, reporting the scam online can help prevent others from falling victim to similar schemes. By sharing your experience, you can contribute to protecting the community. Platforms like the Better Business Bureau's Scam Tracker allow you to report fraudulent businesses and practices. Sharing your story on public forums, such as the Scam & Fraud section of the AARP website, can also raise awareness and potentially prevent others from being targeted.

How to prevent address fraud

As I mentioned before, it is nearly impossible to completely eliminate the risk of address fraud. However, it is crucial to safeguard your personal information at all times. Exercise caution when sharing your information with individuals whose identity and intentions are unclear. To mitigate the risk of address fraud, you should be mindful of the information you disclose online, especially on social media platforms. 

Take proactive steps to remove your address from public websites, as a simple online search can reveal all locations where your information is publicly available. Follow the guidelines provided by the respective websites to have your information removed, or reach out directly to the site administrator for assistance.

As a preventive measure, consider shredding all personal documents before disposing of them. For documents containing sensitive information such as your Social Security number (SSN), it is recommended to either burn them or dispose of them in multiple secure receptacles. You should always remain vigilant, as you never know who may be searching through your discarded items.

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