Ghost in the Machine – Exorcise Phantom Addresses with Delivery Point Validation

December 9, 2020

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This article brought to you by Melissa.

Delivery Point Validation (DPV) is the process of verifying an address exists and can be delivered to – right down to the business suite number or residential apartment number. An address can be submitted and checked against an authoritative database like the USPS®. If a matching record is found, then the submitted address is valid. If a matching record cannot be identified, the address will be considered invalid and mail cannot be delivered there. It is important to identify these “ghosts” in your database because nonexistent addresses costs businesses time and money due to:

  • Wasted postage, packaging and manpower associated with returned mail and packages
  • Poor customer satisfaction when delivery is delayed or fails
  • Inaccurate analytics and business intelligence that leads to poor decisions

What is a Delivery Point?

A delivery point is the destination for parcels and packages. A delivery point can be a mailbox at the curb, a mail slot in a door, or a PO Box. It is the destination where the mail carrier hands off the mail piece to the addressee.

Delivery points are not the same as street addresses. A street address may have many delivery points (think apartments in an apartment building). The USPS uses a unique 11-digit number to each individual delivery point, which is the equivalent of the ZIP+4®Code plus an extra two digits. These 11 digits, plus an additional check digit, are converted into a barcode that is printed on the envelope or packaging when your mail is sorted at the post office.

How DPV Makes a Difference for GIS

Let us look at how DPV makes a difference using a real-world example. We will select a street I am familiar with and use a house number I know is not valid because I live on the street. By typing in the address 950 Aleppo, Newport Beach CA 92660 into Melissa’s free Address Lookup tool, it returns the following:


Try it yourself:

Melissa’s CASS/DPV certified address engine cannot validate the address because it cannot match it against the USPS DPV file to confirm the address exists and is deliverable. That is because it does not exist.

Google Sees Ghosts

Many mapping vendors, including Google, do not necessarily confirm addresses exist. They are fine just matching against the valid street range for the address; in the case of Aleppo, the valid street range is 700s-900s. Instead of validating that 950 Aleppo does not exist, Google will try to map it based on extrapolation.


Google Maps does not verify an address is actually deliverable, it will simply display an approximation of the address on the map – even a photo of the non-existent area where the house would be located if it existed. We will not be too hard on Google because they do not purport to be an address verification company. However, relying on information that is not validated through the DPV process can leave you with phantom properties in your datasets that do not exist and may come back to haunt you.

The Photographic Evidence

Let us go to the street map images to confirm 950 Aleppo, Newport Beach CA 92600 really does not exist. A closer inspection of the cul-de-sac where this street comes to an end shows curbside markers for the addresses 926 and 927. Though obscured by the presence of a truck in the picture, 930 Aleppo is nestled in between, and is the last house on the street. So unless you are Haley Joel Osment, you do not want to see dead addresses (i.e., addresses that do not exist).


Other Benefits of DPV

When you run your addresses through the DPV process, not only will you know for sure that the addresses in your database exist, but they will be corrected and standardized to USPS formatting rules. This is an important preliminary step for successful deduplication. Additionally, the output addresses can easily be enriched with supplemental data like geocodes, property and mortgage data, and residential-business delivery information important for logistics, property valuation and risk assessment. While DPV is specific to the United States Postal Service, similar levels of accuracy can be obtained for addresses in many countries.

Who You Gonna Call?

An address verification provider can provide services to clean up your addresses by adding missing information including house number, prefix direction, street type, suffix direction and zone information, completing the ZIP+4 and formatting the address to USPS standards. This helps increase the matching rate for DPV, speed up processing and delivery of mail and qualify for bulk mail discounts. Look for a provider that eats, sleeps, and breathes DPV. One that is CASS-certified and DPV-based to identify the ghosts of non-existent addresses haunting your database. 


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