Consumer Alert: How to avoid a big charge when changing your address

(WXYZ) - Moving into a new home can be one of the most stressful and costly events in our lives. Packing, hiring a mover, and getting the kids ready for a new school...there's a lot to deal with. 

The last thing you need is to pay more on apart of your move that could be free. 

Some websites are now cashing in on an important part of your move, the address change. With 37 million people changing their address each year, you can bet they are making a profit. 

Elise Papazian from West Bloomfield, is the caregiver for her father. At 97 years old, he recently moved from independent living to an assisted living facility. "It was a hard transition. I had to go through a lot in order to make sure he was comfortable, and do the proper procedure. The last thing, which I thought would be the easiest, was to change his address." 

Because Papazian worked the same hours as the post office was open, she went to google and typed in, "how to change your address." Among the options was a site she believed was a United States Postal Service website. She submitted her father's old address in Bloomfield Hills, and the new address in Wayne County. The site stated there was a one dollar fee so she entered her credit card information, and answered the questions. 

"So, I accepted, and I said okay, great.Then I saw a different little area and it said do you want to do this as a permanent resident, is it just temporary? so I put permanent, and then they asked me to accept again. I accepted again, there was no other price showing, I did, I thought that was the end of it."

Papazian's mail started coming to the new address right away, so she had no concerns until she recieved her credit card statement. 

"There’s a dollar charge, and a $59.99 dollar charge, and they’re merged together under this. And I said, this is crazy." Papazian realized the transaction was from the address change. "I thought everything was legit. And I’m not one who falls for anything. 50:48 and nothing stated that it was anything more than a dollar."

According to the Better Business Bureau faux web sites tend to pop up when people do basic searches like, "how to change your address" 

Unfortunately, this could direct you to a third party website and not the United States Post Office site. These sites will change your address for you, but will also charge you additional fees and these fees will be recurring monthy. 

Wylie Christopher, a United States Postal Inspector Detroit Division reccomended that, "if you’re going to change your address with the postal service,  that you use the postal service and that you change your address through our web site at USPS.com" 

Inspector Christopher adds that if you come into the post office it's free, but the USPS web site does charge you a fee. "If you change your address on the Internet, there will be a one dollar charge that is charged to your credit card and we use that as a form of verification that it is you, who is in fact, changing your address." 

Christopher says there are some third party web sites out there that will change your address, but they're not affiliated in any way with the United States Postal Service. 

Fortunatly, in Papazian's case, she caught it fast and her credit card company took the charges off, as well as an upcoming payment that was already scheduled. 

You can avoid the hassle by going directly to the USPS website to change your address. If you think something similar may have happened to you, double check those credit card statements so you don't waste your money. 

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