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Beware the Holiday Email Shipping Scam

By Lisa M. Schaffer, Esq. on December 17, 2018 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

'Tis the season for gifts and Grinches. Email scammers are guessing that you, and millions of your fellow citizens, will be shopping online this holiday season, and have found another way to try to fool you out of your money. According to the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP), scammers are sending out emails, disguised as shipping confirmations, to try to sneak malware into your computer

To scammers, it's a sheer numbers game. "Fake shipping emails are not exclusive to the holidays, but the volume of shopping-related messages during this season opens opportunities for these scams," said Michelle Reinen, Director of the Bureau of Consumer Protection. "Scammers send these emails randomly to as many addresses as possible, so even consumers who don't shop online need to be on the lookout."

According to Wisconsin DATCP, be wary of emails that inform you of problems with deliveries or that request account information. Also, be careful when opening up any attachments, especially ones that claim to contain shipping or delivery instructions. Scammers have become highly sophisticated, and so the email addresses and email graphics may look very professional and genuine. But this is all part of the scam to lull you into a false sense of security. Be especially suspicious if the email uses unprofessional, alarming language to try to convince you to act immediately. Once you click on a link containing malware, your computer may be immediately scanned by remote users, and vital personal and financial information stolen. Instead of clicking on it, delete it at once.

Elements of a Scam Shipping Email

Consumer watchdogs have noticed a trend among fake shipping emails. If you spot any of these, do not open the attachment. These include:

  • Poor grammar and spelling errors claiming to come from major corporations.
  • Sender addresses that don't match the URL for the company sending the email.
  • Requests to click on links to track the shipping progress of goods ordered online.
  • Generalized shipping emails that don't contain specific information about the sender or the contents of the package.
  • Threats regarding the shipping process, such as a package being returned to sender if an attachment isn't opened.

If you are unsure whether an email contains legitimate, vital information, contact that account directly on that company's website. If you receive a suspicious email, contact your state's Consumer Protection Hotline or a local Consumer Protection attorney.

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