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Beware phishing emails about Christmas package deliveries

With the holiday season in the home stretch, many people are awaiting delivery of items purchased on the internet. The Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) warns consumers to be on the lookout for fraudulent package delivery and “order status” emails and to avoid clicking links or opening attachments in these emails.

“This is prime time for package deliveries, and criminals are taking advantage of it,” said Sandy Chalmers, Division Administrator for Trade and Consumer Protection. “Look out for emails or texts that warn you about a problem with a delivery, that ask for account information for security purposes, or that ask you to open an attached ‘shipment label’ in order to claim a package from a local office.”

These spam emails are an attempt to expose consumers to malware or to gain access to a victim’s personal and banking information. Scammers often use the names, logos and color schemes of major shipping companies and retailers to add legitimacy to their messages, and they may also spoof the company’s web address (URL) in the sender’s email address.

If you question whether an email link is legitimate, hover the mouse over the link (but don’t click it!). At the bottom of your browser, you can view the URL where the link will take you.

Look out for the following red flags in your inbox this holiday season:

  • Poor grammar and spelling errors in emails that claim to come from major organizations. If the message is sloppy, it likely did not come from a legitimate business.

  • Sender addresses that don’t match the URL for the company that supposedly sent the email. For example, the "From:" line in a recent fake FedEx email read:

  •  "From: FedEx Express Saver (support@myfasthair.com)"

  • Shipment emails that lack specifics about the sender or the package’s supposed contents.

  • Messages claiming that there is a “problem” with a shipment or your account. These emails will ask you to provide personal or banking information or to complete a form on a linked page in order to fix the supposed problem. Do not reply or click any links in the email!

  • Emails containing threats that a package will be returned to the sender and you will be charged a fee for not responding to the message.

In actuality, there is no product waiting for delivery, and the alarming language in these emails is intended to make recipients act quickly without considering consequences. By clicking on any of the links in the email, a recipient risks downloading malware or handing over personal information to the scammers. If you receive a similar email, delete it and do not click any of the links contained anywhere in the message.

If you are expecting a shipment that may be delayed, contact the shipper directly to inquire. Some e-commerce companies offer package tracking features right on their website. If you made an online purchase, log into your account on the site and see if these options are available.

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