By: James McAllister


When we order something online or have something sent to us, we all hope everything goes smoothly.

Normally, no news is good news. We simply want our packages to arrive quickly, and in good condition.

Therefore, it can be alarming when you check your tracking number, only to see that it’s been marked by USPS as ‘Addressee Unknown’.

But what causes this message to show up, and what does it mean? Is there anything you can do to fix it before the package is returned?

In this article, we’ll cover everything that you need to know!

What Does Addressee Unknown Mean?

Addressee Unknown means that the package was addressed to somebody, who is not known to live at that address.

This can be due to incorrect spelling, or the package being addressed to somebody who is not a resident of that household.

USPS maintains a database of all addresses, and the people that are known to live at that address. If the package is addressed to a non-resident or the information on the package does not match up, the package may be unable to be delivered.

So, you should always ensure you are having packages addressed to somebody that is known to live at your address. Even if you have a friend or relative visiting temporarily, you should still ensure that the packages are being sent to somebody who actually lives or resides at that address.

Likewise, you should double check your address while ordering to ensure that everything is spelled correctly, including the name used for the mailing address.

It should be noted however that in extremely rare circumstances, even valid addresses can have the package flagged as ‘Addressee Unknown’, even if you have in fact used a known resident on the address.

In these instances, you should contact USPS and the person shipping you the package in order to have it redelivered.

What Happens If A Package Is Marked ‘Addressee Unknown’

USPS Vehicles

If the package is flagged as ‘addressee unknown’ or ‘unknown recipient’, USPS will return it to the original sender.

This comes at no additional cost to you, but can be a major inconvenience as you will have to wait for the item to be reshipped – especially if the package was international!

Tracking will continue to update on USPS website until the package has been fully returned. So, you can use this information to get a refund if you ordered something online.

However, most of us simply want the item to be delivered as normal. Thankfully, there is a way to stop this process.

Can You Stop A Package From Being Returned To Sender?

Yes. It may be possible to prevent a package from being returned to the sender by USPS, provided you act quickly.

You should contact someone at USPS or visit your local post office branch straight away to notify of them of the error.

It is possible that if you are quick enough, they may be able to collect the package before it has been shipped back to the original sender.

However, waiting more than a day means it’s likely that your package has already left the post office, and is in transit. Unfortunately, there usually isn’t anything you can at this point except wait for a replacement to be sent out by the company that you ordered from.

Remember To Update USPS If You’ve Moved!

If you’ve recently changed addresses or moved into a new house, you should certainly update your information with USPS.

This will ensure that packages addressed to you in your new home will arrive safely, and won’t be sent back.

Additionally, USPS’ mail forwarding service can ensure that any mail that would have normally gotten sent to your old address, will be rerouted to your new address as well.

You can begin the change-of-address process by clicking here.

Note that USPS allows you to schedule this in advance, so it is a good idea to take care of it as early as possible!

Do You Have To Use Your Real Name When Receiving Packages?

Yes, you are required to use your real name when having mail sent to you, if you want to ensure it actually arrives to your address.

While not every package with an incorrect name will be returned to sender, it is always a possibility if you use a name that doesn’t match up.

USPS maintains a database of all addresses, and the people that reside at that address. If a package is addressed to somebody that doesn’t live there, there’s a good chance USPS will mark it as addressee unknown and have it sent back.

However, this seems to be up to the discretion of the carrier, and is not a guaranteed occurrence.

If you want to have something sent to you but do not want the seller to see your name, it would be a good idea to rent a PO box.

PO boxes come in many different sizes, and allow you to have the mail addressed as “Postal Customer” rather than using your real name.

So, this will allow you to have a little bit of anonymity while still receiving all of your packages safely.

What Does This Mean For Sellers?

Having a package returned to sender because the addressee was unknown isn’t just frustrating for buyers. It’s also frustrating for merchants as well.

We all want deliveries to go smoothly, but unfortunately the ‘addressee unknown’ message is usually outside of your control.

Thankfully, there are some things you can do to remedy the situation.

First of all, if USPS verified the address prior to shipping, you should take the package back to them and ask that they reship it at their expense. On rare occasions, USPS will return the package citing addressee unknown even if the address is completely valid. This can be caused by something as simple as the mail getting loaded onto the wrong truck. Therefore, they should make good on their error.

Secondly, you should contact the buyer to verify that their address is correct. Even slight misspellings can cause USPS’ automated systems to return the package back to you.

Finally, keep in mind that many marketplaces (like Amazon, eBay or Etsy) pin the responsibility of getting the package to customers on you. This means that you are liable for any fees incurred, even if it is due to errors by USPS. Therefore, if the package is returned to you, you may be required to give a full refund without issuing any restocking fees, or deducting shipping costs from the order. This is true even if the buyer did in fact use an incorrect address.


If USPS tracking shows that the addressee is unknown, this means that the package or letter used a name that wasn’t in their system for your address.

Unfortunately, this means it is likely to be returned to the sender unless you are able to take action quickly.

In order to ensure that your packages arrive safely, always use a resident’s name that actually lives at that address, as this will prevent packages USPS marking the delivery as ‘Addressee Unknown.’

I hope that you’ve found this article helpful. If you have any other questions about USPS, Fedex or UPS, please ask them using the comment form below.

Wishing you the best,

– James McAllister

About the author 

James McAllister

James is the owner of He started his first blog at the age of 11, and has since gone on to start several successful businesses. In total, these businesses have sold hundreds of thousands of units and have touched millions of lives. Here on, he shares his knowledge that brought him to where he is today. If you want to connect with James, follow him on your favorite social networks!

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