Published on December 15th, 2013 | by Tom Wake0
Watch out for this ‘Royal Mail’ scam
This is the latest in a long line of online scams and is from ‘Royal Mail’. Here’s what it looks like and why you should avoid it
I wish these didn’t come up so frequently but alas this kind of thing seems to be on the increase.
The reason I put Royal Mail in quotation marks is because (surprise, surprise) this scam doesn’t originate from Royal Mail, but rather a band of scammy pretenders.
(I try not be one of those people who puts random ‘quotation marks’ on everything).
The most successful scams are those which tag onto a trusted brand and attempt to trick you (when you’re off guard) into giving away your details.
This one does just that. Here’s what the email looks like:
In case that’s tricky to read here’s a transcript of what it says:
Mail – Lost / Missing package – UK Customs and Border Protection
Royal Mail has detained your package for some reason (for example, lack of a proper invoice, bill of sale, or other documentation, a possible trademark violation, or if the package requires a formal entry) the RM International Mail Branch holding it will notify you of the reason for detention (in writing) and how you can get it released.
Please fulfil the documents attached.
This is a scam.
If Royal Mail are detaining a package for you for some reason they will physically post one of those little red cards through your letter box.
They won’t email or phone to alert you. To retrieve your package, pay customs or excess you have to follow the instructions on the card which they deliver to you. It’s then up to you to log onto their website or phone them to arrange redelivery.
Now this one is particularly well timed (no coincidence) because Christmas is almost upon us and many of us will have shopped online for gifts and are waiting for packages to arrive.
The scammers hope that you’ll see this, panic and download the attached zip file.
Don’t do it!
Even if this download doesn’t add ‘spy ware’ to your computer (a bit of software that allows scammers to monitor your online activity or even grab some of your personal details) it will attempt to trick you into parting with your hard earned cash.
If you see an email like this – ignore it!
Whatever you do, do not download the zip file, click on any links or respond to it. Click the spam button and then delete it.
There are some other clues as to how to spot these types of scams which include:
1) Look out for any typos and/or odd turns of phrase
In this case the language is odd. It says that “Royal Mail has detained your package for some reason”. This isn’t the kind of language Royal Mail would use – they wouldn’t say “for some reason” – it’s oddly flippant.
They also wouldn’t say: “Please fulfil the documents attached”. Again it’s odd phrasing. When was the last time you were asked to “fulfil documents”?
In this case they’ve used the same ‘from’ address as Royal Mail (it’s easy for scammers to do this) but often this won’t match on scams like this – so keep an eye out.
2) If the content is generic and isn’t instantly verifiable, it’s a scam
In a bid to combat scammers when companies genuinely contact you about an issue by email they will include details relating to you and the order.
They would certainly know your name and would also include another verifiable reference – such as the last 4 digits of the card you paid on, or the company you had ordered from, or an order number.
3) If they don’t normally contact you in this way, it’s probably not them
Remember Royal Mail are unlikely to have your email address – they have your postal address – so they wouldn’t be contacting you via email in the first place.
If you’re ever in doubt contact them direct and ask them.
Readers outside of the UK – this applies to you too!
The exact same scam is being used for different couriers and delivery services. Instead of Royal Mail it could be UPS or FedEx for example.
If you found this article helpful or have anything else to add please leave a comment below.