Americans are a mobile bunch. Last year, the U.S. Postal Service processed nearly 37 million change of address (COA) requests, with most of them (20.6 million) submitted as hardcopy requests.
With COA service, residential and business customers can have their mail forwarded to a new address when they move. It’s a convenient and reliable service, but it has also generated some long-standing concerns about protecting privacy and personal information. Congress recurrently asks us to review the COA service, as it did earlier this year.
The Postal Service has a variety of controls in place to help prevent identity theft of customers using the COA service. These controls, which also protect mail and customer privacy, include electronically validating online COA requests using credit card addresses. (Hence, you get charged $1 on your credit card if you fill out an online COA — USPS matches the address from the request with that of the credit card.) The Postal Service also sends hardcopy letters to both the old and new addresses to confirm and validate every COA request.
The Postal Service implemented enhancements to its identity verification controls based on safeguards we recommended in a 2008 audit. While those changes tightened controls, we found in our recent audit report USPS could still do more to improve its COA service identity verification controls.
We recommended the Postal Service require customers present a government-issued identification when submitting a hardcopy COA request at a retail facility or to their letter carrier. This is standard practice among foreign posts in developed countries. The Postal Service agreed with this recommendation and, as a result, indicated it will develop and implement a national policy to that effect.
What are your suggestions for improving the COA process? If you have used the Change of Address Service, how would you describe your satisfaction with the service?