The 2020 pandemic has changed the way consumers shop, with many Americans now spending more time buying all of their needs online—from groceries to apparel, home goods, pharmaceuticals, electronics, and luxury goods. Of course, with this new increase in online shopping comes a surge in package delivery scams.
In 2021, the FTC reported that the total losses from all types of scams in 2020 was more than $3.3 billion, up from $1.8 billion from the year before. Of these, online shopping was the second-most common category of fraud reported by consumers, elevated by a surge of reports in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Delivery scams happen every day but are most common around the holidays when more packages are being shipped worldwide. According to the Better Business Bureau, many package delivery scams begin with communication regarding a delivery being sent to your address.
Oftentimes, scammers use these types of texts or emails to steal your money and personal information via phishing links or downloads.
Here's an example of how a delivery scam might work:
In other delivery scams, you'll receive a call regarding a shipment that requires your attention. Typically, the scammers will say they need you to verify your account information or credit card number used for the purchase. Once you’ve given them this info, they’ll have your information and you won’t be able to get ahold of them again.
The good news is, if you’re aware of the red flags of package delivery scams, you can potentially save yourself from being the victim of fraud.
Scammers count on their victims to make quick decisions and not ask questions. The first question you should ask yourself is if you actually ordered anything that requires you to deal with deliveries. If not, delete the email/text or hang up the phone immediately, it’s likely a scam.
Here are other red flags to look out for:
Package delivery scams come in all forms, but some of the most common ones to be on the lookout for include:
In a brushing scam, a person receives a package they have not ordered. There will be no return address, or it will just have the return address of the retailer. In this case, the scammer's intention is to create a "verified buyer" on an online store and then use that buyer's name and details to add a fake positive review about the product.
There are a few varieties of PayPal shipping scams. In a PayPal package reroute scam, the scammer asks you to use their shipping label for a product they purchased from you. The scammer will then have the item shipped to a non-existent address, correct the address to their own, and claim they never received the item.
In a phishing shipping scam, the scammer will send an email that looks like it is from a verified courier service such as UPS, DHL, FedEx, or Amazon. The email will say that there has been an issue with an order and ask the recipient to click a link to correct or validate details. The link will point to a fake site that looks like the official site and is set up to steal any credentials you enter.
In an Amazon OTP (one-time-password) scam, the scammer hacks your Amazon account, buys an expensive item, has it shipped to your address, and steals it when it is delivered. It is named an OTP delivery scam because the victim of the scam will receive OTP emails during the scam.
In an eBay local pickup scam, the scammer will buy an item from you on eBay and then send you an email asking to pick it up locally. The scammer will then pick up the item and, once they have it, file a claim that the item was never received and get a refund of the purchase price.
Example Message from Scammer
I live in the area so I can come pick the item up myself so you don't need to pay for shipping or go through the hassle of going to the post office. I can still pay shipping costs. I just need it as soon as possible since I'm leaving town and won't be home to accept the delivery.
If you are dealing with a delivery and notice some of the red flags of a delivery scam mentioned above, don't worry, you can protect yourself and avoid falling victim to the scammer. Here are some tips to help you do that:
If you have fallen victim to a delivery scam, there are a few things you can do to prevent the damage that scammers will do to your finances and information.
The first thing you need to do is report the scam. Who you report it to depends on the type of delivery scam you are dealing with:
You can also report the scam to the shipping company involved via email:
You should also contact your bank or financial institution if you entered your bank account or credit card information on a fake site or paid the scammer. They can help you with any fraudulent activity on your account and hopefully credit it with the funds taken by the scammers.
While you're not guaranteed coverage, many credit cards today offer protection against scammers, ensuring you'll never lose any money through a scam like this.
If you clicked a link in a phishing email or downloaded a file during the scam, you will need to make sure to protect your device and data.
If you had a product delivered to you that you never ordered, contact the company that sent the product via their online contact form or phone number.
Never use the contact information used on the correspondence (if any) that you received with the package.
Let them know what you received, that you didn't order it, and you think a scammer is behind it. As far as the item itself goes, you can keep it according to the FTC.
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