On Your Side: These are the scams to be aware of while holiday shopping


KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — The pandemic is shifting buying habits for the holidays, with many shoppers spending more time online than in stores.

Many love the convenience of making purchases online and having them shipped straight to their doorstep. But con artists and thieves have developed many ways to steal from shoppers.

Phishing messages

One of the scams to be aware of are phishing messages, where the con artist is hoping you’ll take the bait.

  • The messages look legitimate, containing official logos and using professional language, sometimes. However, if you take the bait, things get suspicious quickly.
  • The caller will ask you to verify personal information or to give them your credit card information to reschedule the delivery.

Delivery phishing scams

Millions of packages are shipped during the holidays and a lot more will be shipped this season because of the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, law enforcement groups say delivery scams and theft are on the rise.

  • Scammers are hoping you are busy or distracted and will act without thinking.
  • The first scam to look out for are phishing texts or emails. For example, one looks like an official notice from FedEx.

But it’s not.

“Yes, we are seeing all kinds of things — emails or text messages saying there may be a problem with your delivery, click here to resolve this issue or some verbiage along those lines,” Tony Binkley, president of Better Business Bureau of Greater East Tennessee, said. “They make them look really good.

“That’s what you don’t ever want to do it click on the link. What you should do is contact the shipper that you ordered it from and see what is going on with them. Contact them directly.”

The real FedEx has issued this warning stating it “does not send unsolicited texts or emails requesting personal information or money.”

Package theft

Another issue shoppers face is package theft. Many consumers have had their packages stolen before they arrive home from work. Thieves snatch packages from doorsteps or lobbies of apartment or condo complexes.

“So, if you are not home during the day; you know there are packages coming. There are a couple of things,” Binkley said. “Some of them have lockers where you can have it shipped to a locker locally.

“If you can’t do that, if you have a neighbor close by or a friend that you trust and is going to be around — have it shipped to their house.”

So, how do you avoid delivery scams?

  • Take precautions to ensure a safe delivery.
  • Purchase shipping insurance if you have a valuable item delivered to your home.  
  • Keep track of what you’ve ordered so you have a better idea of what is coming and when.
  • Don’t click on any links; go to the delivery carrier’s website directly.
  • Beware of fake “missed delivery” notes where scammers place a note on your door that claiming your package can’t be delivered.

“They’ll leave a note and say call this phone number. Of course, the phone number is not who it is supposed to be. But they’ll answer the phone and you think you are calling the right place,” Binkley said. “All they’re looking for is your personal information. You give it away, they got what they need, and they move on to the next one.”

Many companies now give you official tracking numbers and regularly update you on the progress of your delivery. That makes it difficult for scammers to fool you with the claim of a fake package delivery.

OK, so let’s say you do click on the link in one of those phishing messages:

The caller will likely be friendly; however, if they ask for information that you believe they should already have, hang up!

Then, look up the official customer service number and directly contact the company to confirm if there are any issues.

Just some things to be aware of as you continue your holiday shopping safely amid a pandemic.


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