The booming online shopping ecosystem has resulted in the rise of parcel scams. These scams have gotten smarter and more sophisticated over time!

Imagine being excited about a package only to find out that it is a kind of parcel scam that is costing you money and your trust. From fake emails from delivery companies to fake websites, parcel scams have evolved into traps for online shoppers. With more and more online shoppers every day, it is essential to understand how to spot parcel scams and how to protect yourself from them.

What is Parcel Scam?

Parcel scams are a type of fraud that typically involves unsolicited contact about a supposed parcel delivery. Typically, scammers pose as a legitimate courier company, customs official, or even a law enforcement agency to trick people into believing they are receiving a parcel.

The scam begins with convincing communication from the fraudster, such as an email or text message that claims to be from a reputable delivery service. The message may state that the recipient is expecting a parcel or that there are problems with the parcel during transit. The victim is then asked to provide sensitive personal information or financial information, or to pay for alleged customs fees or parcel charges. The scammer may also direct victims to a fake website that masquerades as a legitimate courier service.

In more advanced cases, the scammer may use a fake phone number or official logo to increase the credibility of the scam. They take advantage of people’s trust in delivery systems and exploit their desire to resolve alleged delivery issues quickly.

How Do Parcel Scams Work?

Parcel scams include a wide range of scams that take advantage of people’s trust in parcel delivery services to scam them out of money. Most parcel scams start with someone reaching out to you about a parcel that they say is coming for you. They use different tactics to trick you and trick you into giving them money.

Variations of Parcel Scams:

1. Unclaimed Package Scam: In this case, victims receive a call regarding an undelivered parcel that is supposedly addressed to them. The victim is informed that the package cannot be delivered due to a varied reason, such as wrong address details or inadequate postage. To make matters worse, they claim that the package contains important or time-sensitive goods. Victims are then asked to pay clearance charges or fines to expedite the delivery process. These charges are usually asked to be paid through the most popular digital payment modes in India, like UPI or mobile wallet. The threat of package returns, or confiscation is used as a bargaining chip to get victims to pay immediately, playing on their fears of losing their parcel or facing other inconveniences.

2. Fake Customs Scam: In this scam, victims get a call claiming they have found illegal items in a package that must be delivered. The scammers pretend to be customs officials and say they are going to take legal action against them if they don’t act fast. They ask victims to pay huge amounts of money in the name of “investigate” the matter or pay fines. Some scammers even ask victims to pay in cryptocurrencies to hide their identity and avoid being caught by law enforcement.

Because they fear getting sued and want to get the situation resolved quickly, victims give in to fraudster’s demands.

3. Phishing Scam: In this variant, you will receive an SMS or an email with a fake parcel tracking link or a fake delivery update. When you click on the link, it takes you to a phishing website that has been carefully designed to look like a legitimate courier service. Once you are on the website, you are asked to enter your personal and financial details, including login information for your online bank or payment platform. This is where scammers use the false promise of a parcel to trick you into giving up your sensitive information, which they can then use to steal your identity or steal your money.

4. OTP Scam: Most One-Time Password (OTP) scams happen online or when you receive a parcel from a delivery person. A scammer may pose as a legitimate seller or courier and ask you to share an OTP received on your mobile device. When you share your OTP, you unknowingly give scammers access to your account, allowing them to make unauthorized transactions or take control of your account. To avoid being a victim of an OTP scam, it is important to never share your OTP with anyone, and to double-check the authenticity of your requests before continuing with your transactions or deliveries.

5. WhatsApp Scam: WhatsApp scams are carried out by scammers pretending to be representatives of an online delivery company. They use messaging platforms such as WhatsApp to trick users into believing they are receiving a delivery notification or promotional offer. These messages are usually accompanied by links to fake websites. When users click on these links, they are taken to pages where they are asked for personal and financial information. If users provide this information, they risk losing their bank savings or being the victim of identity theft. To protect yourself from WhatsApp scams, be careful when receiving unsolicited messages and don’t click on suspicious links or give out personal information.

Common Tactics Used by Scammers

1. Creating a Sense of Urgency: Scammers often target victims with panic or anxiety by focusing on time-sensitive issues, such as impending fines or criminal charges. This pressure encourages victims to act quickly and without much thought, which plays right into their hands.

2. Impersonation: Criminals often pose as legitimate businesses, such as couriers, customs agents, or police officers. They may use deceptive tactics, such as masking call numbers as legitimate, to trick victims into trusting well-known entities.

3. Intimidation: Scammers often use fear-based tactics, such as threats of legal action or arrest, to get you to comply. Fear-based tactics are designed to make you feel overwhelmed, which makes you more vulnerable to being manipulated and less likely to challenge the demands of the scammer.

4. Social Engineering: Psychological manipulation is a technique used by scammers to trick victims into giving up personal information. For example, they may engage in informal conversations, pretend to be empathetic, or use emotions to build relationships and gain victims’ trust, which in turn makes it easier for them to access sensitive information for fraudulent purposes.

Red Flags to Watch Out For

  • Unsolicited contact about a parcel you were not expecting.
  • Requests for upfront payments for customs clearance or delivery fees (legitimate companies don’t ask for this).
  • Pressure to make immediate decisions or payments.
  • Threats of legal action or arrest.
  • Suspicious phone numbers, emails, or links, especially those with grammatical errors or generic greetings.
  • Requests for personal or financial information over the phone or through unverified links.

How to Protect Yourself from Parcel Scams

  • Do not respond to unsolicited calls or messages about parcels.
  • Verify information directly with the courier company to avoid fake parcel tracking scam. Look up the company’s contact details on their official website, not from any information provided in the suspicious communication.
  • Never share personal or financial information over the phone or through unverified links.
  • Be cautious of clicking on links or attachments in emails or messages about parcels.
  • If unsure, contact your bank immediately. Report any suspicious activity related to your accounts, including unauthorized transactions.

Parcel scams are a major concern in today’s world of online shopping, where fraudsters are using more and more sophisticated methods to take advantage of people. By paying attention, verifying your information, and being cautious, you can prevent yourself from falling prey to these scams and navigate the world of online shopping safely.

If you have been a victim, you can register a complaint immediately by dialing 1930 or visit the National Cybercrime Reporting Portal.

National Cybercrime Reporting Portal