Most of us don’t think twice when we receive communication from a carrier about an order. But there have been an increasing number of fake delivery notifications of late. They are often created by scammers who try to catch us out, steal our personal data or pressure us in to making fraudulent payments. So how can we identify the real from the fake? And what can the brands we buy from do to protect us? How can they provide us reassurance that the communications we receive about our orders are genuine?
One of the things I reflected on before joining the amazing team at parcelLab was my own experience of carrier communication and post-purchase messages. Not only were most average at best (even from many of the premium brands) but like millions of others across the UK, I’ve increasingly been on the receiving end of shipment tracking email scams. It’s getting out of hand!
The rise of fake delivery notifications
The recent spike in online orders across the UK and US has created an influx of emails and messages about parcel deliveries. This has created a perfect opportunity for scammers and cyber criminals to use these communications for fraudulent and illegal activity. Specifically, there are lots of messages that pretend to be from carriers.
Fraudulent carrier messages
We are often excited to receive an order, and this makes it easy for cyber criminals and scammers to manipulate us. But what are the scammers after? A lot of time the scammers are after our personal data. Others send links that download harmful viruses on to our devices. Some pretend a payment is required in an attempt to access our bank details.
And so, for us as consumers, this can result in a lot of confusion and unnecessary anxiety! And especially for the more vulnerable people in our families and communities, it’s a growing concern. A lot of the fake shipment messages are hard to distinguish from ordinary, valid communication. The scammers send very believable messages and it’s easy to get caught out.
How to identify package notification scamming
Here are 6 top tips on what we can look out for - some of the tell-tale signs that the communications we’re receiving may be a fake:
1. An unusual sender
While some fraudsters invent fake delivery compnies, it's very typical that a fake delivery notice or text message will appear as if it's coming from a brand or from a trusted name, like Royal Mail or FedEx, for example. But actually, what you want to do is check to see if there is a mobile number, for example, behind that. And if it looks like it's a private mobile number, then it’s unlikely to be from a company like Royal Mail. Equally, with emails, it’s important to check the actual email address it was sent from. If the domain doesn’t match the brand it says it’s from, this is a big clue it’s fake.
2. Too good to be true
The old adage applies here. If you receive a message that says you’ve won a big reward and you need to claim it, be careful. Or, if you receive a message that says you have received a package, but there are un-expected charges, carefully consider if this is really a possibility before you act.
The next clue that you may have received a fake delivery notice is if the tone is super urgent. Often these messages are encouraging you to do something rapidly. Of course, instinctively we often want to act right away – but exercise caution. Scammers like to play on our natural curiosity and fear to get what they want. So, if there's undue pressure on you to act immediately, that’s a warning sign.
4. Suspicious links or downloads
If the message you receive contain unusual links or downloads, make sure you’re certain that the sender is credible before opening them. If the email lands in your junk account, but it is allegedly from a global brand, this is a sign that potentially the email is not from who it says it is.
5. Spelling errors or typos
This is a small tip that goes a long way! Look out for silly spelling and grammatical mistakes in delivery messages. Brands that send genuine emails will have teams of professionals who perfect every detail of the messages they send, so if you receive a message with mistakes, it’s likely to be a shipment tracking email scam. Also look out for unusual capitalizations and incorrect punctuation.
6. The odd one out
If you've received a few emails or messages from a brand, and then you get another message that just doesn't seem to match, this is a clue that it could be fake. For example, if the tone or style, or phrasing is different, or perhaps there are no images when usually there are, take notice of that. If it’s not consistent it may be because it is sent from a fake delivery company scammer.
Tracking fake courier companies
I hope these tips have been helpful. Remember, if you receive a fake delivery notification, report it to the associated brand and to Action Fraud or the FTC in the US. As we continue to order more online, we need to be aware of the associated risks. And it’s not just on us consumers to be more vigilant. Governments are tacking notice of fake delivery companies and have more power to shut them down. It’s also the responsibility of brands to do everything they can to protect their customers.
At parcelLab, we help online retailers take back full control of their post-purchase communication. This helps brands minimize the risk of fraudulent communication and keeps customers safer. It’s an important step forward for brands so that their customers can be fully confident that the communication they receive are from the brands they know and trust.
Fraudsters have gotten very sophisticated, and it can be hard to spot fake tracking scams especially when scammers use carriers’ branding. Delivery scams are one of the fastest-growing cons as e-commerce shopping grows in popularity. These scams are affecting carriers around the globe, including FedEx, USPS, UPS, and Royal Mail. However, some things to look out for are simple spelling or grammar errors or suspicious tracking links like bit.ly URLs. Often these fake shipment or delivery notices will also include asking for a small payment or verifying some personal information. They may also pressure you to act quickly, which should be a major red flag. If you are suspicious, go to the delivery carrier’s website directly or call them, but don’t click on any links or reply to any phone numbers included in the scam message.
A legitimate company called Delivery Express Logistics Inc, based in the US, has been a target of package delivery scammers. These unauthorized parties spoof branding and may appear real. Keeping in mind that most companies will not ask you for personal information or payment in an unsolicited email, text, or phone call will allow you to spot and prevent most fraudulent activity. In the US, if you’ve been the victim of a shipment tracking email scam you should contact the Federal Trade Commission Consumer Fraud Division.
Yes, there have been many different fraud and phishing scams impersonating Royal Mail including text messages, phone calls, emails, and even chatbots. You can visit Royal Mail’s website for an updated list of the most common scams. Remember that Royal Mail will never send SMS messages unless you’ve specifically signed up for them. They will also never ask for payment via text.