It’s no secret that the pandemic increased the number of people who shop online. Before 2020, a bulk shipment of toilet paper on the porch may have hauled neighbors’ eyebrows skyward, but empty paper aisles have made such sights commonplace. Unfortunately, criminals have also been paying close attention.
The Federal Trade Commission warns that another new phishing scam is burbling up from the methane-seeping vents of the underworld. Fraudsters are more than happy to use the pandemic to steal your personally identifiable information (PII) and money. If you get a text message about a package you don’t remember ordering, be careful. It could be a scam.
What is the “waiting package” phishing scam?
The FTC says criminals are sending unsolicited text messages that contain some variation of this message: “We came across a parcel from March pending for you. Kindly claim ownership and schedule for deliver here: [link].” Just like in phishing emails, the embedded link might install malware on your device or direct you to a site created by the scammers.
The agency also notes that one variation targets college students, “sometimes claiming [the package has] been waiting since last spring, when many students had to go home from campus quickly.” That means clients who are attending college or have college-age dependents have one more thing to worry about.
If your texts look anything like mine, you receive more messages from Amazon and Walmart that your family. (Remember the pallet of toilet paper from earlier? Yeah.) Since retailers have created a Pavlovian response to their convenient text alerts, this scam could prove to be particularly effective if we’re not vigilant.
What should I do if I get a text about a package I don’t remember ordering?
The FTC recommends you handle the “waiting package” scam the same way you would any other phishing scam. “If you get an unexpected text message about a package, don’t click on any links,” writes the FTC. “If you think the message could be legit, contact the company using a website or phone number you know is real. But don’t use the information in the text message.”
If it looks like the message is a scam, your next step is to report it to the authorities. While the IRS deals with tax-related phishing scams (firstname.lastname@example.org), the FTC fields a broad range of phishing scams. To report the “waiting package” scam to the FTC, text forward the suspect text message to 7726, then fill out a report with the Federal Trade Commission Complaint Assistant.
Remember, working together is one of the best ways to protect everyone from scammers. Every scam we help identify removes another arrow from their quiver.