I do a lot of online shopping: household staples, diapers, books, and, now that Christmas is approaching, plenty of holiday presents. That means I regularly receive e-mails from UPS and FedEx letting me know I have a package on the way. So, the other day, when I saw a message with the subject line “Package delivery failed,” I clicked with concern.
It was soon apparent, however, that the sender was not really FedEx and that my packages weren’t actually in peril. The message spacing was odd, and the wording a shade off. I double-checked the sender’s e-mail, and, as I expected, it wasn’t an official FedEx address. Fortunately, I did not open the file attached to the message.
As online holiday shopping picks up, so will the number of scam e-mails sent using the names of the major shipping companies. One of the most common ploys is a message like the one I received: a notification that a delivery has been delayed, accompanied by a file — almost certainly infected with a computer virus — and instructions to open and print out the document to claim the missing package. Another frequent fraud involves asking recipients to log in to learn more about the problem. Clicking on the link can cause malware to be downloaded.
Here are some tips to help you quickly determine whether a delivery e-mail is a hoax:
■ Don’t trust the sender’s name as it appears in the inbox. Look more closely at the e-mail header to see the actual address of origination. If the domain name is anything other than fedex.com, ups.com, or the equivalent, you are probably being scammed.
■ Poor grammar, misused punctuation, and misspelled words are a sign that an e-mail is not for real. Many of these missives originate in foreign countries — the would-be scammers’ shaky grasp of English can give them away.
■ If the e-mailer asks you to enter financial information, account numbers, or passwords online — especially if no phone number or alternate method of contact is offered — be highly suspicious. UPS stresses that the company never sends unsolicited e-mails asking for payment, invoices, passwords, or financial or personal information.
If you receive an e-mail you believe to be an attempted fraud, the shipping companies want to know about it. Forward suspicious messages to email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org, and then delete them from your account.
Have a consumer question or complaint? Reach Sarah Shemkus at email@example.com.