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What Is Address Fraud?

By K. Testa
Updated May 16, 2024
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Address fraud is a form of fraud whereby someone uses a fictitious address or an inaccurate address for economic gain or some other type of benefit. A fictitious address is a location that does not exist. An inaccurate address could be, for example, a former address that was never updated, or an acquaintance's or a relative’s address. There are several ways to commit address fraud, and it is considered a crime in most jurisdictions. Depending on the severity of the crime, the legal penalties can include fines and imprisonment.

A common example of committing address fraud is opening a bank account or credit account using a false or stolen address. Someone might submit a credit application containing another person’s address or a fictitious address. Another regular practice is to steal documents with personal information and portray the identity as one’s own when seeking credit approval. Once approved, the perpetrator can incur debt in another person’s name and not have to pay the charges.

School enrollment is also subject to address fraud. Many parents or guardians claim addresses in public school districts where they do not live in order for their children to attend certain schools. This practice causes controversy because many schools have only a certain number of slots for students. Since those slots are supposed to be reserved for district residents, giving a false address is considered illegal as well as unfair to those placed on waiting lists or denied admission to preferred schools.

Phony businesses often use false addresses or commit other forms of fraud as well. Many of them change locations frequently, which is not necessarily fraud by itself. They might, however, also use a false location as a “warehouse” or portray a residential address as a business location by using a mail drop instead of a post office box number.

There are several other motivations for committing address fraud. In the US, for example, automobile insurance regulations vary by state. As a result, many people claim or create addresses in states with more lenient regulations in order to avoid the costs of maintaining insurance. Political motivations can encourage address fraud as well. In such cases, voters cast their votes in precincts where they do not live. Frequently, criminals commit address fraud simply to hide their whereabouts from law enforcement officials.

Address fraud and identity theft are associated with several other types of crimes, and they are punishable according to a particular jurisdiction’s laws. The penalties vary by state in the US, for instance, depending on whether the particular crime is a misdemeanor or a felony. For example, someone convicted of these types of crimes could be convicted of larceny and ordered to make restitution to the victim. Felony convictions, on the other hand, could result in imprisonment.

FAQ on Address Fraud

What is address fraud and how does it occur?

Address fraud involves the deliberate use of an incorrect or fictitious address to gain benefits or advantages such as credit, goods, services, or to evade obligations. It occurs when an individual or entity provides false address details on official documents or to service providers. This can be done by using a non-existent address, the address of a vacant property, or by hijacking the address of an unsuspecting victim. The intent is often to deceive creditors, avoid legal responsibilities, or commit identity theft.

What are the potential consequences of committing address fraud?

Committing address fraud can lead to serious legal consequences, including criminal charges, fines, and imprisonment. It is considered a form of identity theft or fraud, which are criminal offenses. The severity of the punishment often depends on the scale of the fraud and the jurisdiction. Additionally, individuals found guilty of address fraud may face civil lawsuits from those harmed by their actions, and it can cause long-term damage to their credit score and reputation.

How can individuals protect themselves from becoming victims of address fraud?

Individuals can protect themselves from address fraud by regularly monitoring their credit reports and financial statements for unauthorized activity. They should also be cautious about sharing personal information, especially their address, and ensure that their mail is secure. It's advisable to use a locked mailbox and to promptly collect mail. If moving, one should update their address with all relevant parties and consider a mail forwarding service. Additionally, using identity theft protection services can provide an extra layer of security.

What should someone do if they suspect they are a victim of address fraud?

If someone suspects they are a victim of address fraud, they should immediately report the issue to their local postal service and financial institutions. They should also check their credit reports for any unusual activity and place a fraud alert on their credit files. Contacting the police to file a report is crucial, as it can help in the investigation and serve as evidence if legal action is taken. It's also important to notify credit bureaus and potentially freeze one's credit to prevent further misuse.

Are there any government agencies or organizations that help combat address fraud?

Yes, there are several government agencies and organizations that help combat address fraud. In the United States, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is a primary agency that deals with issues related to identity theft and fraud, including address fraud. They provide resources for reporting and recovering from fraud. The United States Postal Inspection Service also investigates mail-related crimes. Additionally, organizations like the Identity Theft Resource Center offer support and advice to victims of identity theft and fraud.

MyLawQuestions is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.

Discussion Comments

By anon1006304 — On Feb 26, 2022

I live on the west coast and someone from the east coast somehow hacked my email, changed my address through email at my phone company, and ordered an expensive phone on my account. Luckily I get text messages about changes on my phone service so I went to the cell company and changed it immediately. I had paperless service that lowered my bill, so the hacker had changed that too.

The phone company sent emails back to me to confirm the new phone order, which the hacker answered and deleted those emails. I got the new address off my phone app and am hoping I can turn them in.

By anon1000954 — On Feb 06, 2019

Address Fraud: It is also address fraud, is it not, when a person not living at an address, posts his/her name to another person's residential address? Never has lived at the address, but manages somehow to get his name on to ad blurbs and other mailers with his name added to the address. Can someone please reply. I keep searching all over the net and no information about this.

By anon1000751 — On Dec 14, 2018

I understand that policy, but if you live in California, its sucks when your small city isn't even on the map for weather or google maps. You have some good things, but google and other people in the world will never see Prunedale. They consider it non-existent. Even though you go on highway 101 and you pass through it and it's there on left and right, and you pass through heart of Prunedale. I got something in by mailbox from someone insisting they are residents of my home.

I was like what heck? They don't live here. It must have been an illegal immigrant trying to use my house address to pass off to food harvest bank, or how else would they have found it? The only option is they paired their phone with my parents' phone. It can't have been my phone because my phone doesn't have the address written down. I checked it on my phone, but it said it was not listed, sorry. I could just put the gps location from my map, but that's just dangerous in our society, where thieves could find my location. I was thinking the gps location of the police station would set message straight to anyone and they call me up saying they found my phone? It's a better deal than someone dropping it off directly. But that's just me. I was thinking my mother or father put their home address and it's how they got it. Another idea could been my mother signing up for newsletters. You don't do over the phone, hospital, or online. It's dangerous how people get your data and use it for their own misdeeds.

I am thinking we should probably get another VPN, but it have paired with network this time, to help secure it more. I'm not sure I want to try over the counter again. I'll have to research it again to see if I find one that doesn't monitor but probably finds any unnecessary blips, meaning if there's a blip on the network, there should be a network where I can kick the leeches, and prevent them from stealing anymore data.

I was thinking there could have been a way to secure or name check if they exist or not. However I don't think those people exist in a registry. I may do a background check to make sure they are people, to see if they're really registered as Americans. No more of this crap where people hide behind bushes if they see police and ICE.

By anon979316 — On Nov 25, 2014

I have. Someone using my address on mortgages ins get stuff through mail with their names but my address. Can I prosecute them for address fraud?

By anon945023 — On Apr 10, 2014

I know someone who changed their address on court documents in order to avoid creditors finding her. She is also due to receive an inheritance, which is also currently going through the court process. She is afraid her creditors will get their hands on her inheritance. The really stupid thing is, when the police arrive at her old address, where she was evicted, in order to issue a summons, they will find out real quick she was evicted and doesn't live there and that the address is fraudulent.

By Nefertini — On Feb 06, 2014

@SimpleByte, I experienced another kind of address fraud. I answered an online job ad and got "hired". They sent me the URL to a web site with their supposed address, and it looked real enough. I was supposed to edit some documents for them which I did. After I had edited about $200 of documents for them at our agreed upon fee, they sent me $4000 and claimed it was a mistake which could be rectified if I sent the $3800 to their comrade in the Ukraine. Suddenly I realized I'd been had and this was a money laundering scheme. I didn't send them any money and went to my bank and the police. Of course the address my supposed employers had given me was nonexistent and their web site was offline and no longer existed by the time the money scheme became apparent.

I looked up how to report fraud and sent an online complaint to some law enforcement agents and to the state attorney general. I have been quite disappointed in how little interest there was in trying to actually catch these crooks. My bank wasn't interested after warning me not to send them any money because in their experience the funds this type of criminal sends will bounce and I will be out money from my account and will be legally liable for it if my account doesn't have sufficient funds after the hot check from my supposed employer bounces. The cops didn't even want the emails I had printed out from these crooks and neither of the places at which I filed an online complaint ever followed up on my complaints. It soon became evident why this type of fraud is perpetuated so often. None of the agencies I thought would go after these crooks seemed to care enough to want to bother.

By SimpleByte — On Feb 05, 2014

I'm a teacher in a very good school district, and we have had several cases of parents providing fraudulent addresses so their kids could attend our schools. Usually they use the address of a grandparent or other relative or a friend who does live in the district, but if the child does not actually live in the district it's a fraudulent use of address.

I understand why our district is more desirable than others in the area, but residents in this district pay taxes for it and the parents who live in other districts pay taxes to support their own school systems. Sending your kids to a private school is an option if you can afford it and if you don't like the options in the district in which you reside. Home schooling is another option these days.

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