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January 11, 2011

Contact: Postal Inspector Marian Williams, 713-238-4442,

                Postal Inspectors Investigate Mail and Identity Thefts

The U.S. Postal Service delivers more than 203 billion pieces of mail a year to roughly 149 million
customers at some of the most affordable postal rates in the world. U.S. Postal Inspectors are
mandated to safeguard all of it—including the people who move it and the customers who use it—
and it’s all included in the price of a stamp. Even in today’s world of fast-evolving technologies, U.S.
Mail remains one of the most secure means of transmitting personal information.

A survey by the Federal Trade Commission of ID theft victims disclosed that of the victims who knew
how their identity was compromised reported that the theft occurred through the mail only 2 percent
of the time. The Postal Inspection Service is constantly evaluating trends and vulnerabilities, and
working to improve the security of the mail.

Each year, the U.S. Postal Service processes more than 45 million address changes. In April 1996,
the Postal Service instituted a “Move Validation Letter.” When a customer submits a change-of-
address form, the Postal Service sends a letter to their old address, advising that a change of address
had been received. If the change is invalid, the letter instructs the customer to contact a local post
office immediately. A verification letter also goes to the new address. By using confirmation letters
and, in some cases, credit card-based verification, the Postal Service ensures that consumers and
businesses are safe from would-be thieves.

Consumers should be aware, however, that identity thieves often prefer to change an address
directly with a vendor, bank, or other financial institution, rather than risk being detected by the
Postal Service’s verification process. The Postal Service and the Postal Inspection Service partner
with business mailers to help avoid unwarranted changes of address, but consumers must remain
alert. Watch for expected mailings of financial or other personal correspondence to ensure you
receive them.

The Identity Theft and Assumption Deterrence Act, enacted by Congress in October 1998 (and
codified, in part, at 18 U.S.C. 1028(a)(7)), is the federal law directed at identity theft. In most
instances, a conviction for identity theft carries a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison, a fine, and
forfeiture of any personal property used or intended to be used to commit the crime. It is extremely
important that individuals report mail and identity theft of any correspondence to the Inspection
Service, because the reports help Inspectors identify problem areas. Report by calling 1-877-876-
2455 or online at

What should I do if I think I’m a victim of an identity crime?
 If the crime involved the U.S. Mail, report it on-line to the U.S. Postal Inspection Service at or by calling 1-877-USMAIL5 (877-876-2455).
 Call the fraud units of the three major credit bureaus and request a "fraud alert" be placed on
  your credit file. Check your monthly financial statements for accuracy.
 Order copies of your credit report from the credit bureaus to check whether fraudulent accounts
   were opened without your consent. A recent amendment to the federal Fair Credit Reporting
   Act (FCRA) requires each of the nationwide consumer reporting companies to provide you with
   a free copy of your credit report, at your request, once every 12 months, from

 The Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the nation's consumer
         protection agency, has prepared a brochure and also has an informative web page alerting
         consumers to deceptive pretenders in the provision of free credit reports. You can visit them at
        Contact your banks and creditors, by phone and in writing, and report the crime. You may be
         advised to close some or all of your accounts. At the least, change your PIN codes and
         passwords immediately.
        Record the names and phone numbers of people with whom you discussed your case and retain
         all original reports and supporting documents. Keeping accurate and complete records are a big
         step toward helping you resolve your problem.
        Contact your financial institutions and request they flag your accounts. Instruct them to contact
         you immediately if there is unusual activity on your accounts.
        File your complaint online with the Federal Trade Commission, at or
         call their Identity Theft Hotline at 1-877-IDTHEFT. FTC counselors can assist identity theft
         victims in resolving financial and other problems that can result from this crime.

    The Postal Inspection Service’s DVD, “Identity Crisis,” received the World Mail Awards 2005 for Mail
    Security. The DVD takes a dramatic look at a couple who were victimized by identity theft and fraud,
    the criminals who defrauded them, and the devastating aftermath. The DVD also provides
    prevention tips and steps to take if victimized. The video can be downloaded at no charge by visiting
    our website,


    About the U.S. Postal Inspection Service
    First appointed in 1772, Postal Inspectors were America's first federal law enforcement officers. As the primary law enforcement and
    security arm of the U.S. Postal Service, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service supports and protects the U.S. Postal Service and its
    employees, infrastructure, and customers; enforces the laws that defend the nation’s mail system from illegal or dangerous use; and
    ensures public trust in the mail. To learn more, visit

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