You sure you actually ordered that pair of shoes? Here’s how to recognize and avoid package-delivery scams.
Do you order cartons of strawberries, flat-screen TVs, running shoes, and light bulbs online? You’re far from alone. Oberlo reported that in 2023, the number of people who shop online rose to 2.64 billion worldwide. That’s equal to 33.3% of the globe’s population.
But as the number of online shoppers continues to rise, so do the ranks of scammers hoping to trick these consumers into giving up their personal or financial information or accidentally flooding their phones and laptops with malware.
One way that criminals do this is with package-delivery scams, cons in which consumers receive notices supposedly from UPS, the U.S. Postal Service or FedEx stating that their packages are lost or that drivers need more information to complete their deliveries.
And when consumers provide this information–sometimes including their credit card or Social Security number–scammers can sell it on the dark web to the highest bidders or use it to steal their victims’ identities.
Fortunately, you can avoid package-delivery scams by remembering two rules: Never provide your personal or financial information to someone you don’t know and never click on a link embedded in a text or email if you don’t know the sender, even if it looks like the message comes from a legitimate delivery service.
How package-delivery scams work
The Federal Communications Commission says that package-delivery scams typically start with a text message or email containing what is supposed to be an update on a recent online order’s delivery status.
These messages often include a link that you can click on to supposedly track your package. When you click on the link, though, you’re taken to a web page that asks you to provide personal information such as your credit card number, address or Social Security number.
Once you provide this information, the scammers who sent the message use it to access your online bank accounts or credit card portals, making illegal withdrawals or running up unauthorized purchases in your name. Other times, they can use this information to take out loans or open credit card accounts in your name. Still others will sell your personal information to other scammers on the Dark Web.
Sometimes the links that these scammers send will flood your computer or phone with malware once you click on them. This software might allow hackers to spy on your keystrokes or take control of your computer. Hackers can use this malicious software to steal your passwords and financial information or break into your online accounts to cause you plenty of financial pain.
Some package-delivery scammers leave a recorded message on your phone, asking you to call a number for an update on a delivery. If you don’t call, these messages say, your order might be canceled. But when you call back, your phone is connected to an international number that results in high connection fees and even higher per-minute rates.
Other times, you’ll connect to a live person claiming to be from UPS or FedEx. This person will request your personal or financial information, saying that the service needs it to complete a delivery. Once you provide this information, the scammer will use it to steal your identity or access your financial accounts.
A growing threat?
How common are these scams? The U.S. Postal Service has released its own warning to consumers, citing a rise in the number of delivery scams hitting its customers. Often, the scammers behind these cons disguise themselves as representatives of a government agency, bank, or other company, the postal service says.
You might be tempted to click on a tracking tool that you think has been sent by the U.S. Postal Service. The service does provide free tools that consumers can use to track packages. But customers are required to sign up for these tools online. And the postal service’s messages will not contain online links.
It’s easy to fall for these scams because the odds are high that you are waiting for a delivery. Scammers might not state exactly what kind of package you are waiting on or what company is sending it. But if you are eagerly awaiting new clothes from your favorite department store or a laptop to replace your dying computer? You might not take the time to consider whether a message offering free tracking of your delivery is legitimate.
How to protect yourself from delivery scams
The best way to protect yourself from package-delivery scams is to recognize the warning signs of these cons. FedEx lists the most common of these red flags:
- Never trust a text or email message stating that you must immediately send money to guarantee the delivery of your packages. FedEx, UPS or the U.S. Postal Service will never require you to make a payment to receive a delivery.
- Never respond to a message requesting your personal or financial information to guarantee the delivery of your package. Carriers will never ask for this information in a message that they send to you.
- Watch for misspelled website or email addresses. For instance, if you see a link to fedx.com, don’t click on it. The real FedEx website is fedex.com. Scammers often include links to website addresses that appear real but are fakes. When you click, you’ll be taken to a page requesting your personal or financial information. In other cases, the link you open will infect your device with malware.
The key to avoiding delivery scams? Use your common sense. Never click on links in email or text messages claiming to be from a package-delivery service. Never provide your personal or financial information to someone you don’t know. And never send anyone a payment to receive a package delivery.