Postal Service site lets anyone hold your mail

The Web site for the national mail delivery agency enables anyone on the Internet to stop your mail delivery. No proof of identification is required.

Wednesday night on Off The Hook, a radio show on WBAI in New York, Emmanuel Goldstein and the guys from 2600 discussed a feature on the Web site of the U.S. Postal Service that can only be described as ill-conceived.

If you're going to be away from home for a while, the your local post office can hold your mail to avoid an overflowing mailbox. Fine.

In the old days (and you can still do this), you went to the office and filled out a form (PDF). Someone on the show who has done this said the Postal Service doesn't validate the identity of the person who requests mail to be held. It validates only the identity of the person who comes to pick up the mail.

Government techies copied this manual system to the Internet.

You can go to https://holdmail.usps.com (or click on Hold Mail at the Postal Service home page, as shown below) and put a hold on mail delivery. Notice that I didn't say put a hold on your mail delivery. You can put a hold on mail delivered to anyone. This is true with the traditional system, too, but the Internet makes it worse, adding more anonymity and making the process easier. Too easy.


The agency site claims that it needs a name, address, and phone number to stop mail delivery. When tested, however, this turns out not to be the case. Requests with wrong names and wrong phone numbers were accepted, according to a listener who wrote in to the show. All you really need to know is an address.

And with the address, you can stop all mail delivery, not just mail to one person. Quoting from the Frequently Asked Questions: "All mail, regardless of name, will be held for the address entered. Submitting an online Hold Mail request once is all that is required to hold mail delivery for everyone at the address."

Don't have a computer? Simply call 800-ASK-USPS


Off The Hook runs for an hour, but you can listen to this 8-minute segment here

WBAI has an MP3 of the entire show.

See a summary of all my Defensive Computing postings.

About the author

    Michael Horowitz wrote his first computer program in 1973 and has been a computer nerd ever since. He spent more than 20 years working in an IBM mainframe (MVS) environment. He has worked in the research and development group of a large Wall Street financial company, and has been a technical writer for a mainframe software company.

    He teaches a large range of self-developed classes, the underlying theme being Defensive Computing. Michael is an independent computer consultant, working with small businesses and the self-employed. He can be heard weekly on The Personal Computer Show on WBAI.

    Disclosure.

     

    Join the discussion

    Conversation powered by Livefyre

    Don't Miss
    Hot Products
    Trending on CNET

    HOT ON CNET

    Is your phone battery always at 4 percent?

    These battery packs will give your device the extra juice to power through all of those texts and phone calls.