Stories about fake package delivery notifications made headlines last year, coinciding with a sharp rise in phishing scams. Now that many consumers have caught on to the text message scheme, scammers are shifting their approach. In a new spin on the package delivery scheme, scammers are no longer posing as mail carriers. Instead, they’re impersonating U.S. Customs and Border Protection, and they claim to have intercepted a package addressed to the victim.
BBB Scam Tracker has received 26 reports concerning consumer encounters with customs and border patrol imposter scams. Consumers have reported two versions of this scheme impersonating US Customers and Border Protection.
How the scam works
The suspicious package scheme: You receive a call, email or text saying U.S. Customs and Border Patrol has intercepted a suspicious package addressed to you. You’re instructed to respond immediately, or a warrant will be issued for your arrest. When you reach out, you learn they seized the package because it contained drugs, weapons, cash or other contraband. They ask for your personal information in order to “verify your identity,” but it’s just a ruse to steal your identity.
The sweepstakes scheme: In another version of this scam, you’re once again contacted by someone claiming to be associated with U.S. Customs and Border Protection. This time, they don’t threaten you with arrest. Instead, they claim to have intercepted a package containing a massive sweepstakes prize. To receive your winnings, you need to pay a huge fee for special shipping labels.
Whether they sound official or make threats, don’t let them fool you. The person who contacted you is nothing more than a scammer impersonating a U.S. Customs and Border Patrol agent. It’s just a scammer trying to gain access to your personal information and bank accounts.
Following a rise in these scams early this year, U.S. Customs and Border Protection issued a warning to the public recommending anyone who encounters this scam to hang up or ignore the message. Then, report the experience to the FTC.
How to avoid U.S. Customs and Border Protection impostors:
- Beware of unsolicited calls, texts and emails. No matter who they say they are, stay cautious, and don’t give out your personal information.
- Think it’s a government official calling? Think again. Government agencies typically reach out by mail, so they’re unlikely to contact you by phone, email and text.
- Do not trust a name or badge number. Multiple consumers state the scammer provided a name and badge number, but it’s just an attempt to gain your trust.
- You won’t win a sweepstakes you haven’t entered. The sweepstakes angle is just a ploy to get your attention. No matter how convincing they sound, you unfortunately haven’t won anything.
- Spread the word about these scams. When you learn about new scam tactics, tell people, especially those you believe may be susceptible. The more people are aware of these scams, the fewer victims there will be.
For more information, read about the warning signs of a phishing scam.
If you encounter a scam, report it to BBB.org/ScamTracker.