How the USPS is Sharing Our Information

One of the simplest ways to keep your mail safe is to get a P.O. Box. That’s what I thought I should do…

As soon as I got my P.O. Box, I immediately started getting all kinds junk mail. I was shocked somewhat, because I opted out of all pre-approved offers and direct marketing mailing lists a long time ago and have not been bothered by junk mail for the last few years.

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I received a catalog from Pottery Barn with a personalized letter welcoming me to ‘this neighborhood’. I was in ‘this neighborhood’ for a long time and the P.O. Box is at the post office just around the corner.

Then, I received an email from my auto insurance policy carrier asking me to confirm the change of address request. It was weird, because I have not even had a chance to notify anyone of this address change.

Obviously, the United States Postal Service (USPS) was sharing my information. I started wondering about that… And then it dawned on me! I have made a mistake-I filled out a National Change of Address form. By doing so, I gave the USPS my permission to share my information.

When you fill out this form, online or at the Post Office, you have to agree to the Privacy Act Statement, which notifies you of how your information may be shared. It states that

The information you supply will be used to provide you with the requested mail forwarding and related services. Please be aware that this service is voluntary, and that requested information is required to provide the service. Collection of information for this service is authorized by 39 U.S.C. §403 and 404. We do not disclose your personal information to anyone, except in accordance with the Privacy Act. Authorized disclosures include limited circumstances such as the following: (a) to other government agencies or bodies: when relevant to a decision concerning employment, security clearances, security or suitability investigations, contracts, licenses, grants or benefits; for law enforcement purposes; for voter registration purposes; for jury service duties; and at your request; (b) legal proceedings: in a proceeding in which the USPS is a party or has an interest; or for the service of legal process; (c) to a congressional office at your request; (d) to contractors if the disclosure is necessary to fulfill an agency function; or (e) to mailers, if already in possession of your name and old mailing address, as an address correction service. Information will also be provided to licensed service providers of the USPS to perform mailing list correction service of lists containing your name and old address.

Notice that the information will be shared with mailers if already in possessions of your name and address; and licensed service providers of the USPS as an address correction service.

Who are those Licensed Service Providers of the USPS? Before I answer this question, I would like to give you a little bit more information about the National Change of Address database.

It is extremely expensive and tedious for the USPS to notify countless companies of the address changes, but it agreed to do so only if the Direct Marketing Industry would handle the processing and notifications.

The USPS created the National Change of Address database called NCOALink and granted access to it to several companies, for a fee of course. These companies are called Licensed Service providers of the USPS.

In order to become a licensed service provider of the USPS and have access to NCOALink , companies go through a certification processes, during which they have to complete the following documentation:

• Application
• Confidentiality Statement
• Self-Certification Statement
• Key Personnel Listing
• Web Access Request Form
• Security Documentation
• Site Security Review Worksheet

There are only 20 companies with a license to access the NCOALink database. Here is the full list:

ACXIOM CORPORATION                                          ANCHOR COMPUTER INC
BELL AND HOWELL BCC LLC                                  CREATIVE AUTOMATION
DATALAB USA                                                            EPSILON DATA MANAGEMENT LLC
EXPERIAN                                                                  FAIR ISAAC CORPORATION d/b/a FICO
FIRST DATA SOLUTIONS LLC                                 HARTE HANKS DATA SERVICES LLC
INFOGROUP                                                               KBM GROUP
LORTON DATA INC                                                    MBS INSIGHT INC
MELISSA DATA                                                           MERKLE DIRECT MARKETING
PEACHTREE DATA INC                                              PITNEY BOWES SOFTWARE INC
SATORI SOFTWARE INC                                            TIME CUSTOMER SERVICE

These licensed service providers have a Full Service Provider license category, which costs $180,000.00/year. Only 20 companies! But all of them are big players in the business of information gathering and information selling.

Once you fill out a Change of Address Form, it goes to the NCOALink database. Every two weeks, these licensed service providers access the database and notify countless companies, data brokers, direct marketing mailers and anyone else who is interested in these new address change requests. And by notify I mean sell. The cost per 1000 addresses is ranging between $2-$5. There are millions of addresses maintained in the NCOALink database. Works for everyone! Accept you and I and millions of other consumers.

That is how marketers keep finding you. The simplest solution is to never fill out the Change of Address form. However, if you decided that you want your mail to be forwarded to you, make sure that you choose the Temporary change of address option (see photo). Only Permanent change of address ends up in the NCOALink database.

Some interesting facts about the United States Postal Service

  • The USPS is an independent agency and is not a government-owned corporation. The US taxpayers do not fund it; it is responsible for its own operating costs.
  • The USPS is one of the largest employers with over 550K employees.
  • Ever wondered why FedEx, UPS and companies alike leave packages at your door and not in your mailbox? The USPS has exclusive access to all mail boxes marked with “U.S. Mail”.
  • The USPS is one of the biggest law enforcement agencies.
  • The USPS has the “postal monopoly”. Therefore, FedEx, UPS and companies alike are not allowed to deliver non-urgent letters. In fact, the United States Postal Inspection Service raided Equifax office in 1993 and found that Equifax was using FedEx to send non-urgent letters. Equifax was fined $30,000.00. Read More Here
  • Per USPS, “Postal Inspectors intercepted over 5 million foreign lottery mail pieces containing counterfeit checks totaling over $675 million.” (Source: USPS)

So, here is a question I have for you. When you move or get a P.O. Box, are you still going to do a Change of Address request? What are your thoughts? Leave a comment bellow.

About the Author

Lana is a real life Identity Theft Victim. Identity Theft Manifesto is a result of her own struggles to clear her credit, her name and reputation. She is on the mission to research, learn more and educate her readers about ID Theft Crime.