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Shaheen pushes for answers after mail-fraud reports in Peterborough, Goffstown

U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen pressed the U.S. Postal Service Thursday about what it is doing to prevent mail schemes like those that victimized a Peterborough woman and a Goffstown resident.

Scammers ran a con that involved getting the Postal Service to forward the mail of the two people to new addresses, as The Sentinel reported in July.

The Office of Inspector General said in a report this year that thousands of cases of mail fraud make clear that improvements are needed, but added that the Postal Service has declined to tighten its change-of-address procedures.

Shaheen, a Democrat from Madbury, sent a letter Thursday to Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, saying the two New Hampshire cases reported to her office raise concerns about the security of these procedures and the agency’s ability to confirm the identity of those making mail-forwarding requests.

The inspector general’s office issued a “management alert report” on April 12 that said more needs to be done to authenticate these requests.

Such requests that were confirmed as fraudulent jumped from 8,857 in 2020 to 23,606 last year — a 167 percent increase, the report said.

The report said the Postal Service’s response to the inspector general’s recommendations for improvements was that it had “thoroughly assessed the risk, cost, and failure rate of options and continue to assess these [current] controls as sufficient.”

Shaheen said in her letter the situation needs to be resolved.

“Protecting our citizens’ identities is paramount,” she wrote.

“Therefore, I would appreciate answers to the following questions: How does the Postal Service ensure that the online change of address procedure is secure? What additional measures may need to be implemented in order to secure this process for customers? What action is the Postal Service taking to prevent similar situations from occurring in the future?”

Steve Doherty, a spokesman for the Postal Service, said in a one-sentence response to questions about Shaheen’s letter: “The [Postmaster General’s] office will respond directly to the senator’s inquiry.”

The Sentinel reported July 23 that Peterborough resident Lynn Snow was trying to get the word out about a scam that has been reported across the nation and that had affected her personally.

She said someone had fraudulently forwarded her mail to Florida, causing her packages and mail to be diverted. Someone also set up a credit card in her name.

Snow said her misdirected mail problem came to light July 11 when her longtime letter carrier asked her husband, Phil, if she still wanted her mail forwarded. She came to find out that someone had requested her mail be forwarded to an address in Florida from June 23 to July 31.

Snow recommended that people be alert to any disruption in mail service lest fraudulent activity be afoot.

In addition to contacting the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, she notified Shaheen, whose office also has a report of a similar crime in Goffstown.

Doherty, the Postal Service spokesman, previously told The Sentinel that the organization places a high priority on security, including the 35 million change-of-address requests it receives yearly.

“The rate of suspicious transactions reported by customers is less than 1/10 of 1 percent — and are often related to activity unrelated to criminal compromise,” he said in an email. “We are continuously implementing security enhancements, though not seen by the general public, to enhance the security of our change of address process.”

Shaheen isn’t the first member of Congress to complain about this type of postal fraud.

“In November 2021 and January 2022, we received inquiries from the House Committee on Oversight and Reform and congressional offices in DE, IL, and NH, which included customer complaints regarding fraudulent change of address requests,” the inspector general’s office said in its report.

The report also described Postal Service management’s approach to the problem: “Management concluded ... millions of customers would be harmed to achieve an incremental risk reduction for several thousand customers.”