12/02/09 - Article No: 39

Online Shipping/Reshipping Scams

Article about shipping and reshipping scams that involve victims sending on parcels for the scammer.

Sometimes these shipping and reshipping schemes are mixed in with check fraud, but often they are a scam within their own right, and a rather clever scam at that. They are often referred to as a variant of a money mule scam, but dealing with stolen merchandise, as opposed to stolen money.

Shipping and Reshipping scams are always intrinsically linked with other types of fraud. They are nearly always associated with identity theft and check cashing scams, and are often employed by scammers as a result of earlier scams, like scams that rip off customers on auction sites.

There are different versions of this scam, and we’ll detail the most common variants here, and steps on how to avoid them, but in a nutshell, these scams involve the victim receiving and sending stolen goods with stolen details. The victim however is under the impression it is all above board.

Fake Job Variant
We have a whole section dedicated to various fake job offers here. How the scam is initiated can vary, but like most job offer scams, it nearly always starts with an email sent to the victim by a scammer. The email could be a result of the scammer finding the victims address and CV on a job site like CareerBuilder, or the email could be completely unsolicited – i.e. guessed or from a mailing list. The email will offer a job, likely under the title of regional distributor or something similar. The job will involve receiving packages and sending them on elsewhere. The wage will always be more than the victim asked for, and the hours will less than the victim expects – nearly always advertised as a part time job.

The victim will usually have to fill in various application forms like you would have to do with any job. This is for a few reasons – to make the scam more believable, and this also gives the scammer a chance to obtain the victims personal identification, like banking details and often copies of a photo ID. (these details, especially the ID, will go to future scams) This is typical of all fake job offers.

The first step is the victim receives the packages. The scammer will get the packages to the victim via three different methods.
- Rarely, they will pay for this first delivery themselves
- They will set up a fake account with the victims details so the victim receives a hefty freight bill after the packages have been sent on
- Most commonly, they will use fake banking details obtained through other scams

The scammer then provides the victim with a forwarding address. They may tell the victim via email or phone what the address is or provide the victim with pre-printed labels.
If the scammer just gives the victim the forwarding details, then the victim will be told to pay for the delivery themselves out of the check they received from the scammer. The check, like with all check fraud, is fake, or based on stolen details. If the victim was given pre-printed labels, it is likely that the scammer has created a fake account with the courier company (using someone else’s details or the victims) When the victim forwards the packages to the scammer, their usefulness has come to an end, and the scammer will end communication with the victim, safe in the knowledge that all traces of the scams they have been committing will fall squarely on the victims doorstep.
The victim can be in a lot of trouble.
Point 1: If the checks were fake or based on a stolen account, the victim can be in trouble for check fraud.
Point 2: If the packages were initially sent to the victim and paid for by stolen details, then the shipping address would have been changed to the victims address, meaning when the crime is reported by the owner of the stolen bank details, the altered shipping address is going to belong to the victim, meaning the victim will be trouble again!
Point 3: If the scammer used the victims details (they obtained in the first part of the scam) to create the courier account, then the victim will end up with all the shipping costs after they sent the packages.
Point 4: The package themselves are often goods stolen from people selling on auction sites like EBay and CraigsList. When the seller reports the crime, guess who will be the prime suspect – the person living at the address the package was first sent to – the victim!

As you can see this type of fraud can be extremely dangerous for the victim. Never accept jobs through email, and never accept jobs that involve simply receiving packages and forwarding them on. These jobs don’t exist in the real world, and are just a way of scammers removing traces leading to them.

Romantic Variant
The technical stuff works very much like the example above, but the bait is different. Instead of the promise of a new well paid job, this variant uses the well used romantic angle, where the singleton victim will be courted online by the scammer, who will often pretend to be an attractive member of the opposite sex looking to come over to the victims country. For those of you familiar with Advanced Fee (419) fraud you may recognise some similarities here with that respective romantic variant, where the scammer simply requests the victim to send over money so the scammer can make it to the victims country. Instead of requests of payment however, the scammer asks the victim to receive packages on their behalf and makes up excuses of the victim to forward them on to the scammers home country. The victim and scammer may even be “engaged” – not only is this variant potentially equally damaging in the monetary sense, this angle has the added impact of significant psychological damage as well. As we said, the technical aspect is the same above, with the victim potentially in trouble with the law for several types of fraud.

The obvious advice here to avoid this variant is to not date anyone you meet on the Internet who lives in a different country. Scammers are incredibly good at lying and have effective powers of persuasion. Future victims of this scam may be reading this article still thinking that the person they are seeing on the Internet is different and legitimate, when they are not at all. If you do meet someone on the Internet and venture onto a relationship, do not hand over any money – do not give out personal details, and do not receive any packages on behalf of them.

There are slight variants and mixtures of the above examples, but the basic premise remains the same – victim receives and forwards packages they receive. The fake job offer variant is mostly used in conjunction with check fraud as the “employee” receives fake checks or bogus money orders along with the packages. The romantic variant may be used simultaneously with advanced fee fraud, where not only is the victim receiving packages for their online partner, but giving them money as well. These scams often exist as a way of getting stolen packages to the scammer without the scammer risking being caught, so these scams usually exist because of other scams, like Ebay scams. These scams also can cause the victim to be a victim of identity theft and fraud.

Like all scams of this nature, they are typically initiated in non-English speaking countries like Nigeria, China and Russia, so our favourite piece of advice of watching for bad spelling and grammar still stands in this case.

Simple advice – don’t receive and forward packages for people you meet online.

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