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BBB ON HOMES Beware of false change-of-address websites

January 27, 2019

Changing your address through the United States Postal Service (USPS) is an inexpensive and straightforward process that can be done online.

Recently though, scammers have been creating websites that look like the USPS site and tricking consumers into paying steep prices for no service at all.

The scam follows a similar pattern. You type “address change” or a similar query into a search engine.

Several results pop up. You click on the one that looks official and says USPS. When the site loads, everything looks normal, you fill out the forms and make a payment with your credit or debit card. Shortly after, you notice a hefty charge from a business that is not the USPS. When you call the company to find out what happened, they claim, at best, that they can only offer you a partial refund.

The Better Business Bureau of Greater Houston and South Texas offers the following tips to avoid falling victim:

Doublecheck the URL before you enter personal and payment information. It can be easy to click on a sponsored ad or imposter website without noticing. Before you enter any sensitive information, double check that you are on the right website and that the link is secure. (Secure links start with “https://” and include a lock icon on the purchase page). Also look for a padlock on the browser. A padlock demonstrates that the website is secured by https and is generally safe for you to enter any credit card or financial information into a form.

Be wary of third-party websites. Some websites appear to offer a legitimate service but are only fronts for a scam. Be suspicious of websites with no working customer service number and no physical address. Typos and grammatical errors can be indications of a scammer’s handiwork too.

Protect personal information. Read a site’s privacy policy and understand what personal information is being requested and how it will be used. If a site doesn’t have a privacy policy, that is a red flag too.

Make online purchases with your credit card. Fraudulent charges made on a credit card can usually be disputed, whereas that might not be the case with other payment methods. Be sure to know and understand the website’s policies before you make a purchase.

Keep documentation of your order. Save a copy of the confirmation page or email confirmation and keep this documentation with your purchase records.

Check your credit card statements often. Do not wait for paper statements to arrive in the mail a month later. The BBB recommends that you check your credit card statements and banking account online for suspicious activity at least once a week.

To report a possible scam or review scams reported by others, visit BBB.org/scamtracker.

The Better Business Bureau is an unbiased nonprofit organization that sets and upholds high standards for fair and honest business behavior. Visit www.bbbhouston.org or call 713-868-9500. Leah Napoliello is senior director of Investigative Services with the BBB of Greater Houston and South Texas. Send questions to Leah Napoliello, Better Business Bureau, 1333 West Loop South, Suite 1200, Houston, TX 77027, or e-mail lnapoliello@bbbhou.org. Include your mailing address and phone number.

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