Address change goes electronic

The Postal Service is ready to use the Internet to make it easier for postal customers to change their addresses, but a more ambitious change-of-address scheme by the federal CIO Council remains on the drawing board.

MoversGuide is already online, although the Postal Service doesn't plan a formal debut for the service until later this month.

The main feature at www.MoversGuide.com is an electronic form that can be filled out and submitted online to switch mail delivery from one address to another. To prevent the malicious redirecting of mail, the Postal Service verifies change requests before making them, USPS spokeswoman Sue Brennan said.

The Postal Service has had change-of-address forms online for some time, but until now, customers had to download them, fill them out, print them and physically deliver them to a post office. Now, completed forms can be transmitted to the Postal Service electronically.

The idea is to make address changes more convenient and save money, Brennan said. Each year, 44 million people and businesses change addresses — about 17 percent of the population moves — she said.

In addition to changing addresses, MoversGuide offers two dozen other moving-related services, such as providing links to truck rental companies, furniture storage firms, and packing supply vendors. It also offers links to telephone services, Internet and cable companies, and utility companies.

Since early summer, the CIO Council's E-Government Committee has been sketching a change-of-address service that would link the Postal Service with other federal agencies, such as the Internal Revenue Service and the Social Security Administration, and to state and local governments.

North Carolina, Virginia, Iowa, New Jersey and Montgomery County, Md., are involved in the planning, which calls for participants to have automated access to Postal Service data on addresses that have changed.

That part of the scheme poses privacy problems. To protect postal customers from marketers and others, the Postal Service's change-of-address database is kept under "a fairly intense security level," Brennan said. For example, the Postal Service does not routinely share its data even with the IRS, she said.

"There are several privacy issues which must be worked out fully" before the E-Government Committee's plan can be tested, the committee said in a written statement.

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