on Dec 14th, 2009 in Delivery & Collection | 31 comments
 
Did you know that one in seven people in the United States change their address each year? Naturally, this creates a tremendous challenge for the Postal Service, which strives to maintain a high-quality repository of current addresses.

Change-of-address requests can be made in person at local Post Offices using a hardcopy form (PS 3575), or electronically using the Internet. They can even be made over the telephone. By far, the most popular way to change one’s official address is still using the hardcopy form, but those contemplating a move should consider their options carefully.

While the Postal Service’s change-of-address process generally works properly, our audit found that improvements are needed in the way hard copy requests are processed, authorized, and validated. Although Postal Service employees should reject and return orders with no signature, in some cases change-of-address orders without a proper signature slipped through. We also saw signature mismatches and occasions when Postal Service employees rather than customers signed or initialed the forms.

Is there a better way? We think there is. Our audit also examined the Internet and telephone change request systems. We found that these electronic alternatives are not only much more convenient for the customer, they are also far more effective in ensuring that only authorized and validated change-of-address requests are processed. Digital requests can be electronically matched against customers’ credentials quickly and efficiently. This results in a more secure environment, which is important because mail diverted to another location based upon unauthorized change-of-address orders is a major contributor to identity theft — America’s fastest growing crime.

There has to be a catch, you say. Well, there is. This service costs $1. We think it’s a bargain! To change your address online, go to moversguide.usps.com. To change your address by telephone, call 1-800-275-8777.

You should know the Postal Service does have systems in place to protect customers against unauthorized address changes. If a change of address has been submitted for you, the Postal Service will follow up with a Move Validation Letter. This letter is sent to your current address and notifies you that a request has been made to forward your mail to a new address. If you did not request to change your address, you should inform your local Post Office immediately as a potentially fraudulent situation may exist. In our audit, we found that the Postal Service generally sends these letters in a timely manner. Recently, the Postal Service has taken steps to further improve the timeliness of these letters, ensuring that they are processed within 3 to 10 days.

What do you think about the Postal Service’s change-of-address process? How can it be improved?

This topic is hosted by the OIG's Information Technology audit directorate.

31 Comments

If you think I am going to pay you a dollar to give you a change of address electronically, which may be the cheapest way for you anyhow, you are nuts. But, since Consumers Reports says that anyone interested in privacy and security, and reduction in identity theft, show not ever use the USPS Change of Address System, I would guess that I will not give you my new address at all.

they need to charge for every 3575 ran thru the system. Millions of $'s being lost. too much work for nothing, charge for the service, a private company would. Customers expect to pay something, the day of FREE is gone as will be the Postal Service if they don't collect for some of these services, free cartons for shipping, no,charge something you can always go lower but it hard to raise the price, they need to charge for all the free stuff.

Quit trying to cut the carrier out of the system. They know the customer and their needs best.

time should be shortened. 6 months should be long enough to get address changed with entities the customer wants it changed with. We should be returning a lot more mail, rather than fixing addresses for customers who haven't lived there for years, or senders just don't have the right town or whatever. Way too much manual handling of letters at the destination offices.

It is not "change of address." It is "forwarding." That's why the mail is undeliverable after 1 year.

"There has to be a catch, you say. Well, there is. This service costs $1. We think it’s a bargain!" That's why you make too much...no brains!!! Free is a much better bargain!!!! Now quit ruining my Post Office....and fire Potter.

The never ending rush to automate everything...here we go again. As a carrier for 29 yrs, I can say for certain that the worst way to submit a change of address is online. Who in the Postal Service needs to know if you move? Thats right your mail carrier! Who is the last person in the Postal Service to know that you move if you file online? Thats right your mail carrier. This system flat out sucks! Weeks have gone by from a customer moving and the carrier(remember the only one who needs to know if you moved) being informed. The hard copy change of address handed to the carrier is the most efficient and you are delusional if you think otherwise.

The $1 charge was not a USPS requirement, but required from the credit card companies. The credit card is used to vett your current/future address. The credit card companies didn't want the USPS using their databases without a charge. $1 is the minimum amount that can be charged.

To Observer: I applaud you for mot using our change of address system. I would much rather prefer that you the customer makes sure all your mail is sent to the correct address. This would make for a much easier job for me!!! Thank you so much for your kindness..

Good to know. I'm moving in about 6 months. Was wondering what I should do. I guess I'll be going online, although it'd be better if it were free :)

The only reason there is a $1.00 dollar charge from your credit card is to ensure it is actually you submitting the change.

As a 24 year carrier, I have always informed all senders of my new address weeks before moving. I agree with Mr. Hammond, the current system is worse-than awful and has been since forwarding was taken out of the carrier's hands.

Why don't we charge for this service? One day a private company will take it over and make a profit. Lots of revenue producing options out there that USPS will continue to ignore....

PROGRESS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I was going to tweet this, but i thought my pc 10
(yr ole) would suffice.
So, tell me..... What did the Subcommittee on
intelligence and information sharing....... feel about the postal address database?
Is the usefulness of this asset across the web
critical? Or is it simply another resource for
free access by officials, or authorities?

Why does management make us hide the COA forms behind the counter? People come to the P.O. to change their address manually, then they have to wait in line to get one. We have even longer lines to accommodate them. This is another ignorant rule created by a totally clueless management that has no idea what goes on at the customer level!

On related issues.

I've tried to use the hold mail option which I can do on line. If I need to extend the hold mail I'm required to visit the local post office in my home town to make the extension. Makes no sense. If I were home I would not need an extension. If I'm out of town I can't visit the local office.

The last time I did a change of address notice I was covered up with junk mail from vendors that could have ONLY received the new address from the post office. Odd point the junk mail folk seem to get the information instantly but my legitimate senders are months late in receiving the data.

"Why don't we charge for it"....what a moronic statement. First of all, it isn't your property to "charge for". Secondly, it is charged for in hundreds of thousdands of dollars in license fees to access it. Lastly, you cannot deliver 3-4% of the mail you receive even when addressed properly, why not focus on areas like competence that you have control over and let Congress worry about things such as the Privacy Act of 1974.

Another thing I don't like about the online address change is that we don't get to see them-the same goes for the fact that the paper forms are now barcoded. If there is a problem, we might not know about it for a long time. If we had the filled out forms to look at, then we may be able to spot a potential problem before it becomes a real one.

Nothing better as a carrier than to have someone hand me someone's mail and telling me "they filled out a change online a few weeks ago...why are you still delivering their mail here?".

Who cares about the bad service....that just generated 1 whole dollar for the P.O.!!

Please remove "Service" from our company name.

It seems that some Districts may be taking the new directive on pushing electronic COA a little too seriously. Within the last month I've had five manual COAs disappear into the ethers without a trace. The 3575's were handled correctly within established procedure but when they got to the Mid_carolina CFS they disappeared.
One or two? Maybe, but when it happens continually one has to wonder if there isn't a pattern to lose manual changes and then encourage the customer to go online.

What is the point of not making the Change Of Address form (PS 3575) available on the USPS website?! We want to print one out and give it to our father who's moving to a nursing home. Your present system forces us to go to the post office to get the form, bring it back to our father's house and fill it out, then go back to the post office with it. That's CLUNKY! Please post a PDF on your website with all the other forms. Thank you!

We live in Venice Florida for the winter as do hundreds/thousands of others. The Post Office here has run out of Forms PS3575 and there are none online. I tried to fill in the form online but we are Canadians and the online system will not let us enter a Canadian Province or Postal Code in order to get our mail forwarded until we rweturn in the late fall. This is not a very impressive system. The post office can't give us a date as to when the new form will be in (they have been out for a week now). They are probably sending the forms by USPS so who knowswhen or if they will ever arrive. Can't believe this system!!

Seems like the $1 change is going to be an issue with many. But if they realize they are paying for convenience then maybe they'll be more relaxed about it.

The whole system has become a joke.They forward your mail to a proccessing center hundreds of miles away.Can't change address on bank accounts until the USPeiceS of crap gets around to doing their job.
Tracking numbers don't track anything,Talk to someone in person and they stare at you like your stupid.
I just want my mail delivered in a timley manner.
Instead i have to wait weeks because they aren't even sure my address exists.

I want to change my address.

My son is a college student who doesn't have a credit card, so your new validation system wouldn't work for someone like him. He now has to find a way to get to the post office and hope they have a form there. Why can't he just print a form and give it to his mail carrier? With gas at $4.25 per gallon no one wants to drive to the post office just to get a form.

It really is ridiculous that you can't print a COA form from the USPS website. My wife and I go to Canada in the summer and forward our mail there while we're up there. You can't find a PS form 3575 to download, and then fill it out and take it down to the Post Office as you are not allowed to forward mail internationally without going into the post office. Where's the logic in that??? You should make the PS Form 3575 available to download for customers with similar situations. Or if you would put international options on the interactive way I'd be more than willing to pay $1.00...maybe even $2.00!

Put the form back online. So I can print it out and hand write it. The system seems to be set up so you fill the info out on-line and then are forced into the advertising site.

it should be that you can have the option of printing up a form and handing it to your mail carrier or filling out the form online and charging a buck. Even though I must tell you it took two bucks to have mine changed recentlty as the first change order worked for a week and then my mail was going to the old address again. lucky for me I was at the old address and caught it. I put a note inside the box to tell the postal worker delivering my mail to not leave mail in that box for me but to see forwarding orders and send there. It's best to let all your credit card companies, DMW, and utility companies know of change of address right away. those type of things getting into the wrong hands are death to a persons credit report. I know! it happened three times to me. My mailbox was broken into in dec 03 and it took me until 2011 to correct evrything that happened as a result of bad people getting my mail.

Still no 3575 form online. This is why the USPS is going bankrupt. Keep up the good work.

Someone told me over 6 billion pieces of mail are sent out over the holidays... Hmmm each one paying 40 cents or more? You do the math... And they are complaining about bankruptcy? Are you kidding me? What they make during the holidays should be enough to keep them in the green for the entire year! And provide tip top service like they are famous for hahahaha ha lol

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