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I am starting to get more and more letters addressed to someone else even though I've lived at the current address for more than 10 years. There have been 4 different names with few different institutions ranging from a credit card that came to my address in someone elses name to requests for donation from a charity. Some repeat some do not. Googling revealed many articles all indicating that "this may be a SIGN of a scam / identity theft". What none of the articles shed any light on is the actual mechanism in which the scammer can take advantage of such a scam. After all if I got the scammers credit card, alerted the bank and threw it in the trash, what good did that do for them other than waste their time?

I need to know the mechanism for the following reasons

  • Apparently someone using my mailing address is completely legal (as long as they don't commit fraud) So going to the police/financial institutions will probably not get me far. But if I know the mechanism I can spot when the scammer crosses a line and take it to the relevant authority with the right evidence.
  • It can help me be alert for the step that comes next. I'm assuming this is some kind of "multi-step" scheme, because I still can't figure out what good does it do for someone to have their mail sent to me. By knowing what comes next I can hopefully avoid the trap.
  • I get this happening at least once per month (not credit cards, but other other mail), so instead of chasing down every single name and every single institution, I'd like to focus on the most risky instances
  • If the mechanism is very convoluted or obscure, I might sleep better at night knowing that whatever the scammers are doing is a long shot. If the mechanism is straight forward I will be very motivated to stay vigilant. There is ton of scams targeting me (and you) and I want to spend my scam fighting focus wisely. Or is this the scam? To desensitize me to this happening so that I'm not paying attention any more and then I am a much easier target for other stuff?
  • Normally I would just freeze my credit and be done with this, but that's not available in my country, so I need to be even more aware of what's going on.
  • The curiosity of "what are these scammers up to now?" is driving me crazy. If I know the answer, I am more likely to avoid doing something to play into their hand while I take steps to try and figure this out.
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  • Even though you can't freeze your credit, can you request a credit report to see if someone is opening accounts using your identification number (whatever it's called in your country)? – RonJohn Dec 4 '20 at 19:17
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    Did you really get a credit card in someone else's name, or did it say "You, A Wrongname, have been approved for a super duper low interest credit card!!!!!" – DJClayworth Dec 4 '20 at 21:59
  • Yes, it was a legit credit card including the sticker "call 1800..... to activate". Sent to my address with someone else's name on it. When I called the credit card company they just told me to destroy the card and that they put a note on the account. When I pressed them they said that maybe someone made a typo when filling out the address. I don't buy it. Especially given the other letters that are coming. How many typos is this? – user3280964 Dec 4 '20 at 22:22
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    Should you be opening mail addressed to someone else at your address? "Not known at this address" and back in a mailbox is the legal way to handle it... – DJohnM Dec 5 '20 at 1:27
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    Could be just marketers buying/using outdated mailing lists. I was getting mail for the previous owner of my house for 10-15 years after I bought it (and a decade after she died). I got life insurance offers for her husband, who died years before I bought the house, and credit card offers for her son and housemate... – jamesqf Dec 5 '20 at 4:38
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My guess is that your mailing address has been identified as easy to intercept. If I am a scammer (specially an identity fraudster) and I have enough details of Person A to enable me to open a credit card in their name, I can associate it with any of the following:

  • Person A’s address - if anything goes wrong and I don’t manage to intercept the card I have ordered in Person A’s name, Person A is immediately alerted to the problem.
  • My own real address - this gives the law a direct route to me, so no thank you
  • Another address (yours!), likely bought from a list of such addresses, that is near enough to where I am to make it possible for me to get to.

Obviously it is easier for me to intercept mail sent to a third party’s address if that third party has an open mail slot in a communal area, or some other arrangement that means someone else can access the mail. Evidently in your case they have not been successful in accessing the mail.

Depending on your arrangements for collecting your mail it might be worth securing things physically (for example using a lockbox with a letter slot) to make it harder for others to access, but honestly I wouldn’t actually worry too much.

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  • In the US, from what I gather, a lot of mail is delivered to external mailboxes, whereas in the UK virtually all mail is delivered through a letterbox in the front door, making interception much less likely. Do you know which system Canada uses? – TripeHound Dec 5 '20 at 14:45
  • @TripeHound en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Letter_box#Canada - looks like UK style in urban areas and US style in rural areas. – Vicky Dec 5 '20 at 15:38
  • My mailbox is locked, so I can't see how that would make it easier than other alternatives in the area where I live. – user3280964 Dec 6 '20 at 23:08
  • @user3280964 most locks only slow down a thief for a few seconds, or at most a minute or two. See YouTube lockpickinglawyer. – RedGrittyBrick Dec 7 '20 at 13:02
  • Yes, I completely understand, but why mine in particular? The answer's premise is that "your mailing address has been identified as easy to intercept" and I will accept that it is easy to intercept (I agree with lockpicking lawyer point), but so is the mailing address of my 100 neighbours. Criminals go for the lowest hanging fruit, if mine is same as others, then all that's left is chance, and I'm not buying that explanation. And if we broaden the scope a bit I'm 100% sure there are MANY much easier addresses to intercept in the city. They don't need my address, they need an address. – user3280964 Dec 7 '20 at 22:49

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