4 Ways To Avoid Fake Shipping Fee Swindles

I must get at least one email a week saying that I have a delivery item that is waiting for me at the Post Office or some warehouse.

I never click on the link, which will grab my financial information and charge me a fee. It’s a perennial scam these days, mostly targeted to older Americans.

According to the Cybercrime Support Network, the way a shipping scam typically works is “the seller claims that the product you purchased is ready for shipment but requests an additional payment for shipping fees.”

Like many common scams, this one has morphed into several variations such as auction sites, failed delivery and even pet adoptions.

The “failed delivery” swindle is the one I see most often: “You receive an email or message claiming to be from a well-known courier service, stating that they’ve attempted to deliver a package to you but need you to pay a fee for redelivery or customs clearance.”

How do you spot these swindles?

  • Beware of unsolicited messages offering you items for free if you just pay shipping.
  • Watch out for a sense of urgency or pressure to push you into making a quick decision without thinking it through. They may say that the offer is only available for 24 hours or use language such as “limited time offer,” “one time only,” etc.
  • Be wary of sellers who provide little or no information about themselves or the items they are selling.
  • Watch out for sellers who ask for personal information under the guise of needing it for shipping or payment purposes.

According to the Federal Trade Commission, delivery scams have become increasingly sophisticated, so be on the lookout for “a text message with a ‘shipment tracking code’ and a link to update your delivery preferences. It’s a scam.”

Another sign an email is a scam? “If you hover over the link in the email, it won’t show the official website of the supposed sender” — in many cases, the U.S. Postal Service website.

Do you think you’ve been scammed? The Cybercrime Support Network suggests: “If you paid using gift cards or a wire transfer, contact the issuer. They might be able to help you stop the transaction. If you provided personal information, like your Social Security number, you may be at risk for identity theft. Keep an eye on your credit report and financial accounts for any unusual activity, and consider placing a freeze on your credit. Report it to the FTC—even if you didn’t lose money—at ReportFraud.ftc.gov.”

For more tips, check out FTC articles on phishing and malware. And if you have questions about a delivery by the U.S. Postal Service, visit usps.com or call 1-800-ASK-USPS.

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