Address fraud is a form of fraud whereby someone uses a fictitious address or an inaccurate address for economic gain or some other type of benefit. A fictitious address is a location that does not exist. An inaccurate address could be, for example, a former address that was never updated, or an acquaintance's or a relative’s address. There are several ways to commit address fraud, and it is considered a crime in most jurisdictions. Depending on the severity of the crime, the legal penalties can include fines and imprisonment.
A common example of committing address fraud is opening a bank account or credit account using a false or stolen address. Someone might submit a credit application containing another person’s address or a fictitious address. Another regular practice is to steal documents with personal information and portray the identity as one’s own when seeking credit approval. Once approved, the perpetrator can incur debt in another person’s name and not have to pay the charges.
School enrollment is also subject to address fraud. Many parents or guardians claim addresses in public school districts where they do not live in order for their children to attend certain schools. This practice causes controversy because many schools have only a certain number of slots for students. Since those slots are supposed to be reserved for district residents, giving a false address is considered illegal as well as unfair to those placed on waiting lists or denied admission to preferred schools.
Phony businesses often use false addresses or commit other forms of fraud as well. Many of them change locations frequently, which is not necessarily fraud by itself. They might, however, also use a false location as a “warehouse” or portray a residential address as a business location by using a mail drop instead of a post office box number.
There are several other motivations for committing address fraud. In the US, for example, automobile insurance regulations vary by state. As a result, many people claim or create addresses in states with more lenient regulations in order to avoid the costs of maintaining insurance. Political motivations can encourage address fraud as well. In such cases, voters cast their votes in precincts where they do not live. Frequently, criminals commit address fraud simply to hide their whereabouts from law enforcement officials.
Address fraud and identity theft are associated with several other types of crimes, and they are punishable according to a particular jurisdiction’s laws. The penalties vary by state in the US, for instance, depending on whether the particular crime is a misdemeanor or a felony. For example, someone convicted of these types of crimes could be convicted of larceny and ordered to make restitution to the victim. Felony convictions, on the other hand, could result in imprisonment.