How to avoid a fake shipping scam

Students going back to school should be especially wary of these cons

With September finally here, students across the nation have been making their way back to college campuses. Whether they’re returning for another year or are going for the first time, many will be eagerly awaiting the arrival of online purchases or care packages from home to make their stay more comfortable.

However, students and parents should beware of emails that claim to include shipping information for packages. While some will undoubtedly be honest, others are sent by scammers in the hopes that you’ll infect your computer with malware or reveal personal information.

“Fake shipping scams occur year-round, but the new school year gives crooks a unique opportunity to sneak them in around legitimate shipping emails that students and their family members might be receiving. Any link or attachment in a fake shipping email is a ploy to get you to download malware or turn over personal or banking information,” warns Frank Frassetto of the Wisconsin Trade and Consumer Protection Department.

Red flags

Consumers should be especially aware of shipping emails that ask them to click on an attached file or open a link. Scammers will often tell their victims that the files are shipping labels or forms that need to be filled out with personal information due to a shipping problem, but it’s all a ruse.

There are several other red flags that consumers can look out for to avoid a fake shipping scam. Some of them include:

  • Sender addresses that don’t match the URL of the shipping company – if the email is meant to be from Fed-Ex but the “From:” line lists a person’s name or an unrelated email address, then it’s probably a fake.
  • Shipping emails that lack specific details about the package contents or sender.
  • Emails that have poor grammar or spelling errors – a professional company is more careful about messages they send out.
  • Emails that include threats that the package will be returned to the sender or processed with a late fee – this is just one way to coerce consumers into acting rashly and clicking scam email contents.

In order to avoid falling victim to a fake shipping scam, all consumers need to do is approach any shipping email calmly and rationally. If you suspect that your package has been delayed, contact the shipping company directly rather than clicking on a suspicious link. Keep in mind that many companies offer free tracking of packages as a standard feature.

If you do receive a fake shipping email, be sure to delete it without clicking on any of its contents. In some cases, you can report the fake email to the shipping company’s fraud center. 

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