Consumer Handbook: How A New Tracking Code Trick Is Costing Online Holiday Shoppers

Dec 18, 2019


This holiday season, BBB Scam Tracker has received many reports of a new trick scammers are using to steal from online shoppers. Con artists are exploiting a PayPal policy and deceiving shoppers into paying for goods that don’t exist. 

How the scam works: you’re shopping online and find a site with amazing deals, often brand name goods at a significant discount. The website and products look legitimate, so you decide to take a chance and make a purchase. The site instructs you to pay through PayPal, which should provide extra security. 

After checkout, you get a confirmation email that contains a tracking number from UPS, FedEx, or another shipping service. After a few days, you log onto the site and see that your package has been delivered. That’s funny, because no box ever arrived! You call the shipping company, and they confirm that the package was delivered… but to the wrong address. 

When you try to correct the mistake, you find that the ecommerce site is either unresponsive or unhelpful. In some cases, the site doesn’t provide contact information; in others, they simply don’t respond to your emails or calls. 

Some scam victims report filing a claim with PayPal because their protection promise says you can open a dispute if your order never arrives. But because the scammer technically shipped the package and the tracking number marked it as delivered, PayPal rejected their claims. 

Before shopping online, know your rights and responsibilities. Scammers often take advantage of what consumers don’t know when it comes to processing payments. Confirm the site has real contact information. Be wary if the item is selling for significantly lower than what you've seen elsewhere; if the price seems too good to be true, there's probably something wrong.