The COVID-19 pandemic is changing the way many Americans shop, with online purchasing in the U.S. increasing more than 31 percent in the second quarter over the first, according to Census Bureau quarterly E-Commerce reports. And 2020 third quarter online retail sales estimates were up more than 36 percent over 2019. More shopping online means more package deliveries for consumers.
As we head into the holiday season, the FCC has received complaints about a resurgence in delivery notification scam calls and texts, proving once again that fraudsters are following the trends and adapting their scams to steal your money and information.
Many delivery scams start with a text message or an email about delivering a package to your address, according to the Better Business Bureau. These messages often include a "tracking link" that you are urged to click in order to update your delivery or payment preferences. You might also get a voicemail message with a call-back number, or a "missed delivery" tag on your door with a number to call.
While these messages often look or sound legitimate, you should never click a link or call back the number from an unexpected delivery notice. Contact the delivery service or seller directly using a verified number or website.
In some cases, a link may open a website that prompts you to enter personal information, or it may install malware on your phone or computer that can secretly steal personal information. The number you call back may be answered by a scam "operator" asking to verify your account information or the credit card number you used for a purchase. Other scam calls and texts may claim you need to pay a customs fee or tax before the delivery can be made.
Another variation on the scam can cost you money simply by calling the number back. The fake delivery notice will include a call back number with an 809 area code, or other 10 digit international number. Calling back can result in high connection fees and costly per minute rates. (See also FCC Consumer Guide: One Ring Phone Scam)
To help consumers avoid these scams, other government agencies like the FTC encourage consumers who receive suspicious email, text or phone messages to go to their delivery carrier's website directly or use the retailer's tracking tools.
In addition, the U.S. Postal Service has posted an alert about phony delivery texts. The alert cites "unsolicited mobile text messages indicating that a USPS delivery is awaiting your action" and includes a non-postal service web link to click. The USPS alert includes a video featuring the U.S. Postal Inspector providing additional warnings about the harm that can occur if you click the link.
National delivery companies are also providing information on their websites to help consumers avoid falling for package delivery scams. Both FedEx and UPS say they do not seek personal or payment information through unsolicited texts and email.
On its website, FedEx includes common warning signs of mail, text or online scams:
- Unexpected requests for money in return for delivery of a package, often with a sense of urgency.
- Requests for personal and/or financial information.
- Links to misspelled or slightly altered website addresses, such as "fedx.com" or "fed-ex.com."
- Spelling and grammatical errors or excessive use of capitalization and exclamation points.
- Certificate errors or lack of online security protocols for sensitive activities.
FedEx also warns that "If you receive any of these or similar communications, do not reply or cooperate with the sender."
UPS provides examples of these types of fraudulent communications on its fraud alert webpage.
Remember that imposter scams often illegally spoof phone numbers used in calls and texts to try to trick you into thinking that the number is from a legitimate company or even a government agency.
If you receive any information about an unexpected package delivery, err on the side of caution. Follow the tips above to keep your information and finances secure.