Package scams are nothing new. They’ve been around since people started buying merchandize on the internet. Recently, however, these scams have been getting more sophisticated and much harder to spot. The following scams are ones that have recently seen a rise in victims.
The Free Package from Amazon Scam
How can getting a free package from Amazon be anything but good? Maybe you didn’t order those electric socks but so what? You’ve found out that you can keep any unsolicited package you receive so it’s like a free gift, right? Well, that’s partially right. You can keep any unsolicited product you receive, but you are paying a price. The price is that someone has gotten hold of your personal information, otherwise, how would they know where you lived?
But so what? Well, the price is that the sender will be using you to give themselves a 5 star verified review. They can use the fact that you received a product from them to post a review in your name. Good verified reviews are the best advertising. In other words, you have become a tool in a marketing scam. Bad reviews can also be generated. A bad review of a competitor’s product can be devastating and can even be used to steer buyers to their, purportedly, better product. This review scam goes by the name of the “Amazon Brushing Scam”.
If you are worried about which reviews of a product to believe, you can check with a site such as Fakespot. They will let you enter the URL of a review page and analyze the reviews based on certain patterns their algorithms find. For example, I checked out the reviews for some Chinese made headphones and Fakespot made the following assessment.
I know. Who would have thought that a Chinese company would try to game the reviews?
But maybe you are okay with having your name used in a fake review. Keep in mind, however, that somehow your personal information is widely available for other scammers to use, and they can use it for more nefarious activities. The amount of damage they can do depends on how much of your personal information they have. They could, for example, get a credit card in your name. They could use the information to take over your email or social media sites and pretend they are you. The opportunities are endless.
Scammers can take advantage of you even if they only have your address. Once your address is known, your home could become a drop site for products purchased with stolen credit cards. The thieves will try to avoid detection by using your address and stealing the package once it arrives at your home in what is referred to as a ‘Porch Pirate Scam’.
The Fake Return Scam
This is a scam that affects sellers on Amazon and probably other sites as well. It is highly effective and takes advantage of Amazon’s return policy.
In this scam, the seller sends high quality merchandize in sealed packages to a buyer. The scam buyer then complains that they have received inferior merchandize or that a part is missing, and they say they have the photos to prove it. The photos are usually taken next to the shipping label to show where the product came from. The scammers then ask for a refund on the item.
This puts the seller in a bind. On Amazon, it’s all about reputation. Most sellers will simply do anything to avoid a bad review and the scammers know it. Should they just accept the buyer’s story and give them a refund, even if they know they are being scammed? Many sellers will do just that.
The problem here is that, at Amazon, the customer comes first. That’s what makes it such a great place to shop. Unfortunately, there are those who are ready to take advantage of this. So, unless the customer has a history of complaining about the items they buy and asking for refunds, Amazon will put pressure on the seller. This being the case, many sellers will simply give up and refund the buyer, even knowing they are being scammed. Of course, the scammers will change to another name and address and do the whole scam again.
The Package Mule Scam
The traditional package mule scam begins with a job offering. The job is a work-from-home offer that involves reshipping packages, often to foreign locations. The victim is told to repack, inspect, and ship the package to a specific address. They are promised good pay for their services. They are never paid.
The reason this scam continues to work is because it has become increasingly sophisticated over the years. A recent variation on the scam now making the rounds is fooling a large number of people. I will, therefore, elaborate on why it has been so successful.
First of all, the job ad seems professional. There are no glaring English errors to tip off the needy job seeker.
Now for the warning signs. Orwox does not show up as a legitimate company. The address and email I have for the place also do not check out. However, if you need work badly, the pay is probably good enough but not so high as to give it away as a scam; $2500 a month plus expenses. The ad appeared on the well-known job sites Indeed.com, and CareerBuilder, giving it more legitimacy.
Some of the victims report being given a phone interview by “an Asian man saying he was from HR at Orwox”. A few hours after the interview, the victim gets a call informing them they were hired. A woman, usually called, Sylvia, then calls to explain the job and inform the victim they will be sent documents. My guess is that the documents are a way to gather personal information on the victim. Most people claim they gave out all of their personal information, including their Social Security Numbers.
When their month of work is through, the victims do not get paid. When they complain, they will be told their check is coming. The scammers will try to keep stringing the victim along as long as possible with fake “the check is in the mail” promises. (Warning: These scams are still showing up on Career Builder, usually under the Shipping and Receiving title.)
The FedEx Package Return Scam
This scam begins with stolen credit card information which the scammers can get in a number of ways. They then use this information to purchase a product, such as a laptop, from a major retailer and have it sent to the address of the actual card holder. Thus, the victim is surprised to see a laptop that they never ordered delivered to their home. They usually check out their credit card purchases, or they call the store and learn that someone bought a laptop with their card and, for some reason, sent it to their home. At this point, the store usually tells the victim to return the laptop.
This is when the second stage of the scam kicks in. An actual FedEx truck arrives. The driver delivers a pre-labeled box for the victim to ship the laptop back to the store. It may have the name of the store on the address label but the street address does not match the actual store address. If the victim does not notice this, they will ship the merchandise to the scammer. The scammer is then free to keep or sell the product. The sudden appearance of a FedEx employee may also stop the victim from simply keeping the item, as it would seem that the store realized that a mistake had been made. And if the victim fails to notice that the address on the package is incorrect, and the seller never receives the returned laptop, the victim may end up paying for it after all.
But wait. Wouldn’t the police be able to trace down the scammer’s address? Sure; which is probably why the address will only lead to a naïve package mule. The mule is simply told to change the label and ship the package on to someone else.
The above scams are the ones that are now being most reported. Of course, these are just templates and many variations on them exist. The problem is that these scams keep getting more and more believable. The basic hooks remain, however. Just keep in mind that nothing is really free, good jobs are hard to find, and criminals don’t care who gets hurt as long as they make money.