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POSTAL SERVICE OPTIMISTIC CITIZENS MAIL NOT HIJACKED

No signs found of policyholder letters being misdirected.

The U.S. Postal Service is delivering an optimistic message to mail fraud victim Citizens Property Insurance: Don't worry, the system most likely worked.

Last week, the Postal Service told Citizens that some mail addressed to its Jacksonville headquarters in late June, including checks, may have been misdirected to a Hialeah apartment because someone fraudulent filed a change-of-address form.

That triggered Citizens to launch a $25,000 public service radio campaign over the weekend and staff its hotline to help any policyholders whose checks may have been fraudulently cashed.

On Tuesday afternoon, even as Citizens was ramping up a $97,000 direct mail campaign to alert new policyholders, the post office said its investigation has determined that no mail had in fact been forwarded to the wrong address. At least, probably not.

"We can't reassure Citizens that absolutely nothing got through, but we don't believe anything got through," said Joseph Breckenridge, a spokesman at the postal service's Jacksonville office.

The uncertainty hinges on the two simultaneous paths that someone took in filing a phony change-of-address request. After one request filed at an unidentified post office branch on June 27 was processed, it triggered a letter requesting confirmation from Citizens. That forwarding order never took effect.

However, a second fraudulent change-of-address was also submitted online. Whether that change took effect before Citizens received a confirmation letter and canceled it is still under investigation, said Keith Hannon, a U.S. postal inspector in Jacksonville.

Hannon said his office is pursuing some solid leads on the fraud but declined to discuss details of an ongoing criminal investigation.

Breckenridge said a mail carrier on a Hialeah route was interviewed and does not recall delivering any Citizens' mail to the erroneous address. Moreover, a postal delivery report does not show any mail delivered to that location. But, Breckenridge said, with 600 million pieces of mail a day cycling through, it's impossible to say for sure.

Citizens Property, the state-run property insurer of last resort, prefers to play it safe. It has urged anyone who sent mail to its headquarters between June 14 and June 28 to contact its hotline, toll-free 1-888-685-1555.

As of 4 p.m., Friday, nearly 1,400 people had called the hotline but there were no confirmed cases of missing checks or identity theft, Citizens spokeswoman Christine Turner Ashburn said.

The update on the Citizens' case came on a busy day, as the post office Tuesday announced it was seeking to increase the price of a stamp by 2 cents to 46 cents starting in January. The service has long been fighting to stay solvent in an era of declining mail volume.

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FAST FACTS

Filing a complaint

If you believe someone fraudulently filled out a change-of-address form to redirect your mail, file a complaint through the U.S. Postal Service at https://postalinspectors.uspis.gov/forms/FCOA.aspx

Anyone convicted of stealing mail or filing a false change-of-address order could face a fine, up to five years in prison, or both.

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