The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) is warning people not to fall victim to a parcel delivery scam this Christmas.
Scammers contact victims pretending to work for legitimate parcel delivery services such as Australia Post and Fed Ex, and tell the victim the company has made an unsuccessful attempt to deliver a parcel to them.
They tell the victim that to have the parcel delivered they must pay a fee.
ACCC deputy chair Delia Rickard says complaints about the scam have more than doubled in the past 12 months.
“The fake delivery scam is when you’re contacted out of the blue – it could be by phone, it could be by email or by letter – by somebody who’s posing as an employee of a legitimate parcel delivery service, Fed Ex, Australia Post, something like that,” Ms Rickard said.
“They tell you that they’ve been unsuccessful in trying to deliver a parcel to you – it could be because you weren’t home or the parcel was too big – there’s a whole range of reasons they give.
“Then they say that if you pay them a small fee, usually somewhere between $10 and $30 then they deliver the parcel to you, and then they’ll ask you for your credit or bank account details or sometimes they’ll ask you to send the money via money order or international wire transfer, which should send all your alarm bells ringing.
“There will then be fraud on their account, fraud on their credit card.”
Signs you could be getting scammed:
• Parcel delivery services requesting payment for re-delivery of an item to your home
• Requests for sensitive information such as credit card or bank details via email or phone
• Prompts to make payments through a wire service or money order
• Online stores offering unrealistic prices or delivery times: if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is
• Insecure web addresses: always look for ‘https’ in the URL or the closed padlock symbol to verify that a site is secure
The ACCC has received almost 300 complaints totalling $30,000 about the scam this year.
Ms Rickard expects a spike in the number of people being targeted by scammers in the lead-up to Christmas.
“Our complaint stats are always just the tip of the iceberg. Some people don’t realise they’ve been scammed or defrauded; they might report it to someone else or they might just think there’s no point reporting it,” she said.
“The first warning sign is they ask you for a fee to deliver the parcel.
“Australia Post and legitimate delivery agencies don’t do that. If you think that for some reason it might be legitimate, then independently source the contact numbers for that agency through an internet search or via a phone book and contact them yourself – never use the contact details in the email or the letter because they will take you to a fake site.
“The other sure fire way is if somebody asks to be paid through a wire service or an international wire transfer, then that is almost always a warning sign that is a scam.”
Australia Post says it works closely with the ACCC to alert customers to scams.
It has told the ABC: “Australia Post takes the safety and security of our customers extremely seriously.”
“Raising public awareness of scams is one of the best ways to protect the community and Australia Post works closely with the ACCC to alert our customers to scams, including providing information on our website.
“Our staff also receive regular training and updates on the importance of vigilance in relation to all scams.”
More scams around Christmas
The ACCC says one scam that has been prevalent this festive season is fake internet stores.
“Some might be imitating a real store, some may be entirely fake and these days scammers are really good,” Ms Rickard said.
“They create great-looking websites, they look like the real thing and what you’ll often find though is they’re offering goods at much cheaper prices than normal – I wouldn’t be surprised if they’re offering quicker than normal delivery right now,” Ms Rickard said.
“It sounds great [and] you go about trying to make your purchase and then you get to the end and in fact what you see is that the only payment mechanisms that are available are a wire transfer or a money order, and that should set all your alarm bells ringing because none of the legitimate stores I’m aware of will ask for payment that way.
“If you’re using an internet site it’s always best to look for ‘https’ in the web address and the closed padlock as a symbol that is a secure site, and use a secure payment mechanism, something like a credit card when making the payment.
“Christmas is a time of good will and people are more inclined to give money to charities and so the scammers are also taking advantage of that good will and sending emails and letters asking for donations, particularly emails with click throughs to what are fake web addresses and fake payment details.
“So if you are wanting to make a donation this Christmas, again do the independent search for the contact details for the charity of your choice and pay that way, not as a result of an unsolicited email.”
Australia Post has released online shopping guidelines.