Most incorrectly delivered or addressed post comes about as the result of an innocent mistake. However, receiving letters at home that aren’t for you could be the first sign that you are the subject of an identity theft scam.
So what should you be looking out for, and what can you do to minimise the chances of falling prey to such a crime?
Can I open a letter that isn’t addressed to me?
Yes, under some circumstances the law in England and Wales does allow you to open a letter that isn’t addressed to you. The Postal Services Act 2000 states that:
(3) A person commits an offence if, intending to act to a person’s detriment and without reasonable excuse, he opens a postal packet which he knows or reasonably suspects has been incorrectly delivered to him.
So, as long as you have a reasonable excuse for opening the letter or parcel and don’t do it with the specific intention of doing so to cause detriment to the person to whom it has been addressed, you should be OK.
But that doesn’t mean that you should open it, if for no other reason that you could face up to six months in prison if the courts think that you have committed an offence.
The best course of action is to mark it clearly with “Not known at this address. Please return to sender” on the front and pop it back into the postal system. Royal Mail will then return it to the sender – opening the envelope to establish the sender’s address if necessary.
Can I keep goods delivered to me by mistake?
What if it is from a bank, credit card company or a debt collection agency?
The best advice is still to return it to the sender. If someone is using your address to run a financial scam, then the bank (for example) will probably follow the matter up with you; if they didn’t then a scammer could simply carry on with impunity!
So the bank, credit card company, or debt collection agency might send someone around to your home to check that you are who you say you are.
If in doubt, ask to see some identification and consider phoning their office to double-check that they are who they say they are.
Once you’re happy with their credentials, they might ask to see some form of ID. I’d happily comply as I think that it’s a small price to pay to nip the matter in the bud and stop the flow of letters.
Will my credit rating be affected if an identity scam scammer is using my address?
No, as long as you have never been financially linked with that person (by taking out a joint loan or credit card, for example) it won’t. It might be worrying but your credit rating is a much more sophisticated process than it used to be and is based on a person rather than an address.
Find out why a new employer might check your credit report
Can I check to see if someone else’s scam has affected my credit rating?
If you are still worried then you can check your credit rating record by contacting either Experian and/or Equifax, who will provide a copy of your file for £2.
If there is anything on there that is inaccurate or just plain wrong they are legally obliged to correct it. You can also place a Notice of Correction on there, which is a short explanation that will help clarify something that you feel is misleading, even if it is accurate.
You should contact the police if you think that someone has used your address to commit fraud or otherwise commit a crime.
Finally, please don’t worry unnecessarily. Most incorrectly delivered or addressed post is the result of someone simply making a mistake; the chance of you falling victim to a fraud of one kind or another is very slim indeed.
How to deal with wrongly delivered post