Thousands of people in France have been falling victim to an increasingly common parcel delivery text scam. We explain what to watch out for and how to avoid it.
What to expect
Firstly, the victim will receive a text advising them of an issue delivering their parcel. It may be ‘stuck at the depot’ or be subject to ‘customs charges’.
The latter may sound particularly plausible for anyone who has ordered goods from the UK post Brexit.
The text message will contain a link that if clicked on, leads to a website that appears to be for courier services.
Fake sites can be very convincing. They may even provide a fictitious tracking number, or a logo resembling a courier service you may be familiar with.
All of this is done in order to convince the person visiting the site to input their details and potentially pay a fee to release their parcel.
But in reality there is no parcel, and/or no fee (or at least, it will not be communicated by text), and the request for payment is a scam.
It happened to me
One victim of the parcel delivery text scam, Jean-Pierre Gindre, received a text about a delivery issue several days after he ordered a speaker online.
"Votre livraison est retenue dans notre centre de distribution. Veuillez suivre les instructions..." (Your delivery is being held at our distribution centre. Please follow the instructions...) it read.
He was told on the website he needed to pay a small sum to 'unblock' his parcel, which he decided to do.
"There was a link I clicked on (...), there was a logo on the site that looked very much like [large courier firm] UPS so I wasn't suspicious because there was nothing obviously wrong,” he told Franceinfo [editor's note: In fact it said 'IPS']. "And it did after all, also give me an order tracking number."
On this occasion, fraudsters only took €2 from his bank account, but he still had to cancel his card to be on the safe side.
How the scam works
By taking small amounts from victims’ accounts, such payments may go unnoticed initially, but could be followed by larger amounts being taken later on.
In fact, fake texts are often sent out at random.
However, a website you placed an order through could have been hacked, allowing criminals access to certain information that might make their attempt appear more plausible.
They might include your name in the text, for example.
Tips for avoiding delivery text scams
- If you can, avoid clicking on any link in unsolicited texts.
- One Connexion reader has suggested hovering your mouse over a link in a strange email without clicking it. This should allow you to see where the link will take you to, so helping you to determine whether or not it is a scam.
- If you do click on it, pay close attention to the web address of the site you end up on.
- Look out for spelling mistakes in the text or site, which are more common on fraudulent sites.
- The best course of action is to ignore any links, and instead to return to the website that you ordered something from (if this is applicable) and log in to your account, where you should be able to find any delivery updates.
- You can report any suspected scams on this official government website.
This previous article clarifies some of the real requirements to be expected with regard to deliveries from the UK to France.