Better Business Bureau says consumers can protect themselves against a variety of package delivery schemes by understanding how they work.
End-of-year package delivery fraud has evolved in recent years, with consumers losing money and personal information as a result of the schemes.
A complex ruse circulating this year uses well-known online retailers and delivery companies to intercept or steal packages, or get consumers’ to divulge their credit card numbers and personal information.
Criminals know that some very expensive gifts are delivered to people’s doorsteps, and they use a variety of methods to take advantage of online commerce. One of the websites commonly misused by the scammers is Amazon.
Here is how it works: A fake merchant will open an account on Amazon and sell expensive items at an unrealistically low price. After the buyer makes a payment, they receive an email from Amazon confirming that the item has been shipped. When the package doesn’t arrive, the consumer checks with the delivery company and is told that someone signed for the package. Although the parcel was delivered in the same city, it was not sent to the buyer’s address.
So what happened to the package? The parcel is usually sent to a business address where an employee will sign a delivery confirmation. The package is empty and the scammer racks up a charge on the consumer’s credit card.
Subsequent efforts to recover the victim’s money are rejected by both Amazon and the delivery company, because the item was shipped to an address in the consumer’s city, but not the buyer’s address. All the scammer wanted was for someone to sign for the package, so that they could pocket the consumer’s payment.
Fortunately, consumers can protect themselves from delivery fraud by looking for red flags, such as a recently-opened seller’s account with very few reviews.
More traditional delivery scams are much simpler, such as following a delivery truck to look for drop-offs and stealing packages from people’s doorsteps or apartment building lobbies.
By far the most common scheme involves fake emails that appear to come from a delivery company. The notice tells recipients that they missed a delivery and instructs them to click on a link or open an attachment to arrange for a subsequent delivery or pickup. The links and attachments will release a virus into the victims’ computers, putting them at risk of subsequent fraud and/or identity theft.
Better Business Bureau has some advice to avoid becoming the victim of delivery scams:
Check the seller’s reputation – Buy from established sellers with positive consumer reviews.
Ignore the email – A delivery company will never send notice of a missed delivery by email. Instead, the driver will leave a tag on the door with a telephone number to call to arrange another delivery.
Check door tags carefully – Some fake lookalike tags are left on people’s doors with a telephone number that is not associated with the transportation company. If you call the number, you will be asked for personal and/or financial information.
Have packages delivered to work – If you know that you cannot be at home to receive a package, have it delivered to your office, a relative, neighbor or friend so that it does not sit in an area where it can easily be stolen.
Delivery companies, law enforcement and sellers’ websites are aware of these scams and working on ways to prevent delivery fraud. In the meantime, consumers’ can protect themselves by carefully reviewing all documents and carefully combing through bank and credit card statements to look for unusual charges.