Summer is typically a popular time to make a move, and scammers are looking for ways to take advantage of those moving to a new home, as noted in a recent BBB study on moving scams. The Better Business Bureau is urging consumers to be extremely cautious when searching for official websites which allow you to update your address and other personally identifying information (PII).
Scammers are creating websites that look like services pretending to help switch your address for a move, sell property titles, renew your driver’s license and more. The sites trick consumers into paying steep prices for services that are typically free or low cost. Also, sharing your information with scammers through these phony sites puts you at risk for identity theft.
How the Scam Works
One common version of this scam involves changing your address through the United States Postal Service (USPS). You type “address change” or a similar query into a search engine. Several results pop up. You click on the one that looks official and says USPS. When the site loads, everything looks normal, you fill out the forms and make a payment with your credit or debit card. Shortly after, you notice a hefty charge from a business that is not the postal service. When you call the company to find out what happened, they claim, at best, that they can only offer you a partial refund. The cost to change your address with the USPS should only be $1.05; visit the official USPS change of address site. In Canada, visit the official Canadian government change of address site for information.
One consumer reported this experience to BBB.org/ScamTracker: “They set up their site to perfectly mimic the USPS website and charge $80 for an address change that they never actually perform.” In most cases, these fake companies get away with your money and your address is left unchanged.
BBB.org/ScamTracker has also recieved reports of lookalike sites pretending to sell fishing licenses, property titles, drivers license renewals and more.
How to Avoid Falling Victim to a Fake Website
- Double check the URL before you enter personal and payment information. It can be easy to click on a sponsored ad or imposter website without noticing. Before you enter any sensitive information, double check that you are on the right website and that the link is secure. (Secure links start with “https://” and include a lock icon on the purchase page. Learn more at BBB.org/BBBSecure.)
- Be wary of third-party websites. Some websites appear to offer a legitimate service but are only fronts for a scam. Be suspicious of websites with no working customer service number and no physical address. Typos and grammatical errors can be indications of a scammer’s handiwork too.
- Make online purchases with your credit card. Fraudulent charges made on a credit card can usually be disputed, whereas that might not be the case with other payment methods.
For More Information
If you are planning a move, read BBB’s recent study on moving scams.
If you have been the victim of this or another scam, make others aware by filing a report on BBB Scam Tracker.
If you have been the victim of identity theft, get a personalized recovery plan at IdentityTheft.gov (a service of the Federal Trade Commission).