Vallone says post office must fight mail fraud

By Nathan Duke

U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-Forest Hills) and City Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. (D-Astoria) are calling on the U.S. Postal Service to correct its address change policies after an Astoria woman found out earlier this year that a scam artist had filled out a change-of-address form in her name and stolen her mail.

Post offices do not require people who drop off change-of-address forms to present identification, allowing criminals to access the bank accounts, credit cards and Social Security numbers of their victims.

But Weiner and Vallone are calling on the Postal Service to require post offices to check ID when change-of-address forms are dropped off.

Weiner also called on the Postal Service to change a policy under which it sends a confirmation letter to residents at their new address, but does not require them to sign and return the letter before their mail is rerouted.

“The postal service is ignoring the security system they have in place to protect people's identity,” Weiner said.

The loophole was brought to Weiner and Vallone's attention after Astoria resident Susan Simons, 56, received a change-of-address confirmation note Dec. 26.

Simons, who had no intention of moving, said the Postal Service diverted her mail to a Bronx address after a scam artist, who has since been arrested, had filled out a change-of-address form Dec. 6. For two months, Simons said, she did not receive credit card bills, bank statements, checks or W2 forms.

She said she is still feeling the repercussions from the scam.

“When a change of address goes into the Postal Service's system, a majority of companies in a national change-of-address databank automatically change the address without confirming with clients whether it's correct,” she said.

She said she had to call a number of companies, including her cable provider, dentist, phone company and insurance agent, to change her address back after the scam.

“It's still a little nerve-wracking, not knowing for sure whether I've protected myself as much as I can,” she said. “Feeling safe is relative.”

Simons said she was not responsible for a $3,500 check that the thief cashed in her name. Simons said the scam artist, who also attempted to apply for credit cards in her name, had a similar last name.

Vallone said the Postal Services should make simple policy changes that would protect its customers.

“No matter how careful you are to protect your identity, your mail is where you are most vulnerable,” he said. “In a high-tech age, the post office is failing to protect against the simplest of low-tech scams.”

Reach reporter Nathan Duke by e-mail at [email protected] or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 156.