Magazine article Business Credit

Helping Consumers and Businesses Protect Themselves: U.S. Postal Service Announces New Rules for Commercial Mail Receiving Agencies

Magazine article Business Credit

Helping Consumers and Businesses Protect Themselves: U.S. Postal Service Announces New Rules for Commercial Mail Receiving Agencies

Article excerpt

Fraud is a concern of every American consumer and business, as well as the government agencies that serve them. The U.S. Postal Inspection Service has a long history of working to deter unscrupulous individuals who rely on anonymity to prey on victims via the U.S. Mail.

As technology advances and communications and commerce continue to develop, so do their fraudulent use. To strengthen protective measures for all those who send and receive mail, the U.S. Postal Service has published new procedures for delivering and handling mail at commercial mail receiving agencies.

Commercial mail receiving agencies are businesses that offer mailing services, primarily mailbox rentals, to their customers. Mail Boxes Etc., Parcel Post and Postnet are all examples of mail receiving agencies. They rent private mailboxes, hold mail for pick-up or re-mail it to another address.

The Postal Service looks favorably on such businesses, as they not only offer useful services to their communities, but often provide mailbox rentals at locations where the Postal Service is overloaded. However, because these firms have not been subject to the same regulations as the Postal Service, they may unwittingly become the targets of criminals looking for a means to disguise who and where they are.

"Our primary concern is the protection of the America public," said Chief Postal Inspector Ken Hunter. "The changes respond to issues voiced by crime victims, the law enforcement community, consumer organizations, mail order firms and financial institutions."

Schemes to swindle the elderly, sweepstakes and lottery scams, identity theft and account takeover, mail order fraud, mail-in rebate fraud, insurance fraud, narcotics trafficking via the mail and child pornography sent by mail are all activities that require anonymity. That's what commercial mail receiving agencies have always offered that post office boxes rented out by the U.S. Postal Service have not: The Postal Service requires two forms of ID, one being a photo ID, from its post office box customers. Now the same thing is required from customers of mail receiving agencies.

"I was recently the victim of a shady business operation that used a [commercial mail receiving agency] as their business address and referred to it as Suite 123. It led me to believe that they were a business in a shopping center. When I had a problem and tried to find their place of business, all I found was [a commercial mail receiving agency] and a Box 123. I am very happy to see you pass this regulation because it will stop unscrupulous business operators from deceiving the public."

- private citizen

"The changes close a loophole that previously existed by strengthening the private mailbox identification procedures and providing for the maintenance of ongoing customer lists," Hunter said.

Recent amendments to postal regulations attempt to eliminate current concerns by making it harder for criminals to victimize innocent customers. Changes to regulations for mail receiving agencies now in effect will take a giant step toward protecting the integrity of the U.S. Mail and deter those who wish to use it illegally by preying on citizens and businesses.

"If it cleans out the crooks, it's welcome. We don't want the undesirables any more than they do."

- franchise owner of a commercial mail receiving agency in New Jersey

Most importantly, the "PMB" designation, which stands for "private mailbox", now must appear on the second line of the address block on mail going to commercial mail receiving agencies, or on the return address of outgoing mail. Some owners of these businesses appreciate the protection the new regulations will afford them.

"If somebody's trying to pull a scam and trying to hide behind one of our boxes, we don't want that customer either," said Tom Winters, a franchise owner in Pittsburgh. Meena Patel, a franchise owner in California agreed. …

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