A Cincinnati area couple is trying to rebuild their credit after becoming identity theft victims.
What's particularly frightening is that there was nothing they could have done to prevent it because it all started with a change of address form at the post office.
Their story has a lesson for all of us.
Mail stops, suspicions raised
Robert and Angel Clark didn't get any mail for a few days. At first they didn't think much of it. But then they received a letter confirming a change of address.
"We got a letter from the Post Office, and that's when it said there has been a change of address issued to us, Robert Clark said.
It came with coupons to Lowe's, Wayfair and other retailers, and a "Welcome to your new neighborhood" flier from Flo at Progressive Insurance.
Only problem: there was no new neighborhood. They weren't moving from their Forest Park home of 25 years.
"They said someone had put a 2 week change of address on our home mail. But by the time I got the letter, it had been a week and a half into that, he said.
The Clarks' credit nightmare had begun.
Someone had diverted their mail to a new Miami, Florida address, where they then applied for credit cards and loans in their name.
"We actually got a call from out credit card company, that someone was trying to use our credit card," Robert said.
"We also had to check our credit report, and found out that a loan had been opened," Angel added.
In the old days, if you wanted to change your address, you had to go to the local post office and do it in person.
Nowadays, you can do it online, making it easier for you -- and for identity thieves in some cases.
"Anyone can go online and easily just change your address," Robert said.
A US Postal Service spokesman told the online form is actually more secure. Roy Betts explained the system is safe for the most part because you must confirm it with a credit card. It charges you just $1 for security purposes.
Robert, though, suspects the thief had a "Robert Clark" credit card, which may be why he was targeted. He wonders if other Robert Clarks in the country were targets as well.
What you can do
So how can you protect yourself?
- If you don't get mail for 2 days, call the local Post Office. Find out if you had no mail those days, if the postman will ill, or if someone placed a Change of Address, or mail hold, on your account.
- If you learn someone diverted your mail, file a fraud report with the big 3 credit bureaus immediately.
- Open all letters from the Postal Service. The Clarks first thought was that their letter was junk mail. It was not.
Although it may appear that changing address in person is safest, it's not, because there is no rule requiring you to show a drivers license when making a change.
Bob and Angel Clark want change of address rules made tougher -- both for online and in-person applications -- so others don't become victims like them.
As always, don't waste your money.
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