NYC lawmakers take aim at postal fraud

August 13, 2008 4:00:40 PM PDT
The post office isn't as safe as it looks - that's the message a group of New York City politicians is trying to send. The lawmakers held a news conference in New York on Wednesday to urge the United States Postal Service to impose more stringent rules on how people forward their mail to new addresses.

Rep. Anthony Weiner, a Queens Democrat who is running for mayor, called the current system an "open door to identity theft."

Currently, the postal service allows people to change their address and forward mail by stopping at their local post office, mailing in a form, calling the USPS or using the postal service Web site.

Those who use the Web site or telephone service must submit credit card information for the postal service to double-check their identity, but people who mail in the paperwork or show up at a branch office do not.

The postal service then sends out confirmation letters to both the old and new addresses before the switch occurs, advising people to call them if they did not request the switch.

In the case of one Queens woman, Susan Simons, that wasn't good enough to prevent someone else from using change-of-address paperwork to con their way into two checks totalling $3,500.

Postal Service Inspector Douglas Bem said the system is safe and has proper security procedures in place.

Bem said that in Simons' case, the perpetrator was arrested and has already pleaded guilty in federal court.

"The process is set up so that the letters go out several days prior to the instance of mail being redirected," Bem said. "As soon as we hear of those fraudulent orders we investigate those crimes and when we identify the suspects we'll bring all applicable federal or state charges against them."

Approximately 43 million Americans change their address with the post office every year. Of that number, less than 1/100th of one percent are fraudulent requests, Bem said.

Weiner is pushing legislation that would require the USPS to receive a signed confirmation back from the customer before mail can be forwarded.

Under Weiner's bill, the request for a signed confirmation would only be sent to the old address. The bill would not require people to present proof of identity when changing their address.

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