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?

Comments (5)

We welcome your comments related to the topic on this page. Complaints about the Postal Service, including lost, stolen or mishandled mail, that are unrelated to the content on this page, will not be posted. Please visit the Contact Us page for information on where to file formal complaints with our agency or the Postal Service.

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  • anon

    We had an issue with our adult child filing a change of address so her mail would go to her new address. Instead, all of our first class mail quit showing up at our house. Is there a way to put a flag on our address such that nobody but us can file a change of address for it?

    Oct 07, 2018
  • anon

    There is no way to flag your address to restrict the filing of a Change of Address. What you described is a common occurrence - child moved out, filed a COA that was recorded as a Family move rather than an Individual move. With an Individual COA, both First and Last name information must match for the address to be updated to the new address. With a Family COA, only the last name needs to match - thus resulting in all the Family's mail getting forwarded to the new address. However, one of the security processes is that the USPS sends a confirmation letter to the old address so that any issues with the COA information could be identified and the USPS contacted to correct the COA record before any impact to actual address data and/or mail. Did you get that letter?

    Oct 17, 2018
  • anon

    I think the requirement of presenting identification in orders to submit a COA should be required. In addition, the COA should be for the name presented on the applicable., My daughter and I share the same first and last names, and she recently submitted a COA and specifically included her middle initial. She received my mail with my initial which is totally different. How is that? Now this needs to be corrected.

    Sep 24, 2018
  • anon

    Do you know how hard it is for a machine to sort by first and last name let alone adding a middle initial to it? What about mail that does not include either of your initials? Same name COAs have always been a problem--they require special flagging by the post office and special "hands on" handling by postal employees to try to make sure only the mail that is supposed to be forwarded gets forwarded. It is always going to be an issue until the machines get more sophisticated--this also goes for people moving in and out with the same last name--"John Smith and family" move in and "Sam Smith and family" move out. But there is a Family COA on Smith moving out and in--which names go with which families?--big problems!

    Oct 01, 2018
  • anon

    I agree that a change of address should be completed only with the presentation of a government issued ID which contains a photograph. I know of a situation where someone filed a phony change of address that caused a terrible problem for for the person they did it to, and as a single mother with five children she was not any any financial situation that allow her to easily correct the mess. It turned out that two very nice postal employees on their own time drove her around town to get some of the things done that had to be done because of what had happened. Kudos to you all. Having said all there, there are people who do not have a government issued ID. This is a problem for them in many areas of their lives. What about the Post Office coming up with a plan to get these people a ligament ID that they could use in these type of cases and which would have to be renewed (at the post office of course for a SMALL fee)? It would be available to them for voting, gettin a driver's license, cashing a check, changing their address, etc., etc. Thanks for asking for comments. You do a great job and I've always been thankful for your services.

    Sep 18, 2018

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