France warned over Christmas present delivery scams

Online Christmas shoppers in France are being warned against a new scam that asks recipients to pay fake customs fees on their parcels “before they can be delivered”.

15 December 2019
The emails asking for payments for Christmas deliveries may appear legitimate, but many are likely to be a scam
By Connexion journalist

The new “phishing” (or “hameçonnage” in French) scam sends emails to victims’ inboxes, saying that their Christmas parcels are on their way, but that the recipient must first pay customs duty, fees or extra taxes before delivery can be made.

The emails may initially appear to come from official email addresses or domains, such as “douane.gouv.fr”, or from shipping companies such as UPS, Colissimo, or DHL.

Sometimes, the emails will contain a link that will take the recipient to a legitimate-looking website, asking for payment by bank card.

But a closer look would reveal the messages and/or website to be fake. Spelling and grammar may be incorrect; or the URL may appear unusual, with symbols or accents instead of normal letters.

In the event of any doubt, recipients are warned to neither click on a link asking for money nor to enter their bank or card details anywhere, as this can lead not only to money being defrauded, but also to your bank details being stolen.

Customers waiting for online shopping parcels to be delivered should ignore any emails asking for further payments, customs charges, extra fees, or delivery costs; and never click on any links asking for payment, unless you are 100% certain that it is legitimate.

Shoppers are instead advised to go to the official website of either the original retailer or postal service, and type in their parcel tracking number (if there is one) to check the status of your delivery. Some parcels may not be trackable - but most retailers will allow you to trace your items, either on their own website, or via a third party delivery service.

Some parcels sent from abroad - such as from the United States or China - may require genuine extra customs fees to be paid, but these will usually have been included or planned for at the point of purchase, and are unlikely to be asked for via a separate email.

If you find that you have fallen victim to a scam, you are advised to contact your bank immediately to dispute the charges. You can also report the incident to crime detection platform Pharos, which seeks to gather information on online scams, and may help you to recoup your stolen money.

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