Q. My neighbor was recently scammed by providing credit card information for delivery of a package that did not exist. Please provide information on this type scam?
A. With so many people shopping online, package deliveries are on the rise, doubling since 2010. Scammers, never missing a beat, are taking advantage of this to fool consumers into giving out their personal information.
How the scam works
You receive a call or an email from someone claiming to be your mail carrier or a parcel delivery service saying that they were unable to deliver a package to your home. If you don't remember ordering anything that needs to be delivered, the caller may try to convince you the package is a gift from a friend or relative. The caller may sound friendly and professional, making the scam harder to spot. The email messages also look legitimate, containing official logos and using professional language.
However, things get suspicious quickly. The caller will ask you to verify personal information or give them your credit card information to reschedule the delivery. Email messages may ask you to click on a tracking link for your mystery package. When you click, you may download malware onto your computer that gives con artists access to any personal information and passwords. No matter the method of contact, the package doesn't exist. Sharing your personal information puts you at risk for identity theft.
How to avoid package delivery scams
Be wary of unsolicited communications. Package delivery companies will never contact you unsolicited via telephone call. Instead, if a package cannot be delivered, they usually will leave a note on your door. They may follow up with an email, but most official communications will be within your secure online account.
Track your packages. Always keep track of your online purchases and expected deliveries. Request tracking numbers so you will know when each package is due to arrive. When you know what you are expecting, it will be harder for a scammer to fool you with the claim of a fake package delivery.
Never give your personal information to strangers. Even when the caller is friendly, always use caution when asked for personal information. You can always hang up, look up the official customer service number, and directly contact the company to confirm their request. Whenever possible, use the customer service contact information or chat function within your account at the company.
Never click on links in unsolicited emails. Links in emails can download malware onto your computer. Don't click links in emails from people you don't know or from companies who you have not asked to be contacted by. Be wary of official-looking email; popular brands can easily be spoofed.
To learn more about shipping fraud, see FedEx's website. www.fedex.com and UPS's online resource center, www.ups.com . For more tips on how to protect you from scams, go to BBB.org/ScamTips. If you've been the victim of a phishing scam like this one, report it on the BBB.org/ScamTracker. Your report can help others protect themselves from similar cons.
Jim Winsett is president of the Better Business Bureau in Chattanooga.