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Everyone loves a surprise package, and scammers are taking the excitement out of that experience by using bogus packages as a cover for a scam that tricks victims into sharing their personal information — and their money.

Here’s all you need to know about the pending package text scam:

How the package scam plays out

In this scam, the victim receives a text message from someone representing a mail carrier or a package-delivery service. The contact tells the victim they were unable to deliver a package to the victim’s home. The message might claim the package is a gift from a friend or relative, making the scam difficult to spot.

They will then ask the victim to reply to the message to confirm their identity. However, as soon as they reply to the scammer, they will ask the victim to share their personal information or credit card details to schedule delivery. This, of course, places the victim at risk for identity theft.

In other variations of the scam, they will reach the victim by e-mail or phone. Each time, the scam plays out in a similar manner, with the victim convinced there’s a package waiting for them, and willingly sharing sensitive data with a criminal.

Some scammers take it a step further by sending the victim a text message or an e-mail containing an embedded link. The text message instructs the victim to click on the link to track the package or change their delivery preferences. Unfortunately, clicking on the link will download malware onto the victim’s device or connects the victim to a form asking for their personal information, which the victim often shares willingly.

Package scam red flags

There are two primary red flags that can serve to warn you about the pending package scam.

First, the original text, e-mail, or phone call, will generally not tell the victim the identity of the company they represent. The scammer will only claim to be an employee of a mail or package delivery service, but will not verify if they work for UPS, FedEx, or another legitimate organization.

Second, the scammers don’t always check if the victim actually has a package in transit. They’ll either assume the victim has recently ordered something online or they’ll claim a friend or family has sent a surprise gift. If you know that neither of these is true, then you can be on the alert for a possible scam.

Don’t get scammed!

If you take these precautions, then you can avoid being the next victim of a pending package scam:

  • Be wary of unsolicited communications. Your mail carrier and package-delivery services will never contact you via text message or phone call.
  • Be wary of “professional” e-mails from addresses that are not secure. The USPS or a mail delivery agency will send online communications from their own secure domain.
  • Track all incoming packages. After placing an order for an item, record the tracking number for the package so you can easily verify its whereabouts. This way, you can quickly confirm the authenticity of any suspicious texts, e-mails, or phone calls about your package.
  • Never share personal information with an unverified contact. If you suspect fraud, end the conversation immediately and do not engage further.
  • Never click on links in unsolicited e-mails. Links in e-mails can download malware onto your computer or device. Don’t click links in e-mails from people you don’t know or from companies you have not asked to contact you. Be wary of official-looking e-mail, because popular brands are easy to spoof.

If you’ve been targeted

If you believe you’ve been targeted by a pending package scam, then it’s important not to engage with the scammer. Delete any suspicious text messages and block the number of the contact. Similarly, delete suspicious emails and mark them as spam. In addition, report the scam to local authorities and to the Federal Trade Commission. Finally, it’s a good idea to warn your friends and family members about the circulating scam.

Your Turn: How do you determine if you’ve been targeted by a pending package scam? Tell us about it in the comments.

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