What do you do if you get a package you didn’t order delivered to your door?
So, you come home one day during the holidays and find a package you didn’t order. Caution: It may not be a box of fruit from Aunt Susie, but the scammer’s version of the Trojan Horse designed to fool you. Not to panic, it’s not the contents that pose a danger, but the sender might have an ulterior motive, hoping to get something illegally whether it be merchandise or your personal identity.
The Federal Trade Commission says you don’t have to pay for a package you didn’t order. Federal laws prohibit mailing unordered merchandise to consumers and then demanding payment. Keep the following in mind:
If you receive merchandise that you didn’t order, you have a legal right to keep it. However, also keep the following advice in mind:
• Although you have no legal obligation to notify the seller, you may write the seller and offer to return the merchandise, provided the seller pays for shipping and handling.
• Never return something you didn’t order without first verifying that it’s a legitimate address to which you are returning the item.
• If there’s an invoice in the package or a charge appears on your credit card, that’s a different situation, and one that calls for action.
• Notify the company that you didn’t order the merchandise and intend to return it. Then notify your credit card company, which might help you resolve the situation.
• What’s more, if you see a charge and don’t dispute it, the company that sent you the unordered merchandise might be able to argue that you authorized the purchase.
• Sign up for free email alerts from your bank and help you protect your accounts.
• If you can’t resolve the problem, the FTC recommends that you try to get help from your state or local consumer protection agency or the local Postal Service. If the delivery is a scam rather than a misunderstanding, and the items arrive by U.S. mail, the company could be guilty of a federal crime. Companies that ship unordered merchandise with knowledge that it’s unlawful can be subject to civil penalties of up to $16,000 per violation, according to the FTC website. It might seem easier not to bother about items of seemingly little value but ignoring an unexpected package might not be smart.
Heed warnings from the Federal Trade Commission, the Better Business Bureau, delivery companies themselves like FedEx and UPS, and other consumer advisors.
The Better Business Bureau shared this advice in a news release warning: “Scam Alert: Don’t Be Fooled by a Fake Package Delivery Scam.” The BBB explains how some of the package scams works as follows:
• You receive a call or an email from someone claiming to be your mail carrier or a parcel delivery service saying that they were unable to deliver a package to your home. If you don’t remember ordering anything that needs to be delivered, the caller may try to convince you the package is a gift from a friend or relative. The caller may sound friendly and professional, making the scam harder to spot. The email messages also look legitimate—containing official logos and using professional language.
• However, things get suspicious quickly. The caller will ask you to verify personal information or give them your credit card information to reschedule the delivery. Email messages may ask you to click on a tracking link for your mystery package. When you click, you may download malware onto your computer that gives con artists access to any personal information and passwords. No matter the method of contact, the package doesn’t exist. Sharing your personal information puts you at risk for identity theft.
So, what should you do?
• Be wary of unsolicited communications. Package delivery companies will never contact you unasked with a telephone call. Instead, if a package cannot be delivered, they usually will leave a note on your door. They may follow up with an email, but most official communications will be within your secure online account.
• Track your packages. Always keep track of your online purchases and expected deliveries.
Request tracking numbers so you will know when each package is due to arrive. When you know what you are expecting, it will be harder for a scammer to fool you with the claim of a fake package delivery.
• Never give your personal information to strangers. Even when the caller is friendly, always use caution when asked for personal information. You can always hang up, look up the official customer service number, and directly contact the company to confirm their request. Whenever possible, use the customer service contact information or chat function within your account at the company.
• Never click on links in unsolicited emails. Links in emails can download malware onto your computer. Don’t click links in emails from people you don’t know or from companies who you have not asked to be contacted by. Be wary of official-looking email; popular brands can easily be spoofed.
For more Information, see FedEx’s website and UPS’s online resource center. For more tips on how to protect yourself from scams, go to BBB.org. Stay one step ahead of scammers by subscribing to BBB’s weekly scam alert emails. Also go to the Federal Trade Commission’s consumer division through the website ftc.gov.
Bottomline: Treat any packages that just show up without notice with suspicion. It could be like the Trojan Horse the Greeks built to fool the citizens of Troy. After besieging the walls of Troy for ten years, the Greeks built a huge, hollow wooden horse, secretly filled it with armed warriors, and presented it to the Trojans as a gift for the goddess Athena, and the Trojans took the horse inside the city’s walls. That night, the armed Greeks swarmed out and captured and burned the city. A Trojan horse is thus anything that looks innocent but, once accepted, has power to harm.
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