Short Answer: It is not always explicitly illegal for someone to use your mailing address. However, allowing someone else to use your address or using someone else’s mailing address as your own may be considered address fraud. Address fraud is a serious crime punishable by jail time in some areas. Below, we answer more questions about address fraud and offer tips for what you can do to stop someone from using your address.
Is It Illegal for Someone to Use Your Address?
It may not explicitly be illegal for someone to use your address or if you use someone else’s address as your own, but the reason for doing so may be considered fraud:
“Fraud is deliberately deceiving someone else with the intent of causing damage. This damage need not be physical damage, in fact, it is often financial. There are many different types of fraud, for example bankruptcy fraud, credit card fraud, and health care fraud. The precise legal definition of fraud varies by jurisdiction and by the specific fraud offense.”
If someone else uses your address and causes some damage — such as evading certain taxes or benefiting from a better public school district — he or she may be committing fraud, depending on how the criminal laws in your jurisdiction are written. In Wisconsin, for example, the state specifically defines mail fraud. In federal law, there’s an entire chapter of criminal law on fraud and false statements.
If someone is using your mailing address because they need to provide residency, our related article details which documents they can use to prove their address quickly and without utility bills.
Legal Ramifications of Using a False Address
There is federal- and state-level legislation against the intentional misrepresentation of physical address, which would apply to using someone else’s address or letting someone else use yours. According to U.S. Code Title 18, Chapter 63, Section 1342, using a fictitious or false name or address for any fraudulent intent or scheme can lead to fines and up to five years in jail.
Using a false address can also lead to legal ramifications on a state level. For example, Florida state law specifies that using someone else’s name or address without his or her knowledge in order to obtain refunds or merchandise from business establishments is a second-degree misdemeanor (s 817.037), which is punishable by up to 60 days of jail time or $500 in fines. And the Wisconsin law we cited above names mail fraud a Class H felony, punishable by fines up to $10,000, prison terms of up to six years, or both.
For specific laws in your area, see the Legal Information Institute’s state law directory.
How to Stop Someone From Using Your Address
If you have been receiving mail addressed to someone else or know someone is using your address, there are a couple of things you can do to prevent them from continuing to use your address. The best course of action will depend on how the person is using your address; we detail your options below.
- Mark any unwanted, unopened mail or packages with “Not at This Address” or “Return to Sender” and leave them in your mailbox or hand them to your postman. If you are able, tell the postman that the recipient does not live at your address.
- If you receive a renewal notice or other important document addressed to the person who is using your address, do not open it. Instead, contact the companies that sent the mailings and make them aware that they have the wrong address.
- Visit a United States Postal Service (USPS) office near you to file a complaint regarding unwanted mail.
- If you believe you are the victim of a scam or suspect that the person using your address is engaging in mail fraud, you can contact the U.S. Postal Inspection Service at (877) 876-2455 or file a USPIS report online.
- If someone is using your address for their driver’s license, insurance, or proof of residence, contact the police using a non-emergency number or visit the police station to make a report. They can clarify the laws in your state and determine whether the person using your address is committing a crime.
Is it illegal for someone to use your mailing address? If you let someone else use your mailing address or you use someone else’s mailing address, it’s the intent that makes this a punishable crime on a federal or state level. Legal ramifications of fraud include fines and/or jail time. In general, it is not a good idea to use someone else’s address as your own or to let someone else use your address as their own. If someone is using your address without your permission, you can return unwanted mail to the sender, file complaints with the USPS and USPIS, or contact the police to stop the person from using your address.