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Two days ago I received a text message from DHL with a link to a DHL track parcel page. I can confirm that it is the official website. I even took the tracking code, and manually went onto the DHL website and entered in the code - and everything lines up. It did not ask for any additional information (so not a phishing scam?).

The package appeared to be only one item being shipped from Hong Kong. Most personal details were there, however, the address being delivered to was a workplace (business) address.

The package eventually arrived, and was signed by front reception. Inside the package was a receipt and a box. The receipt was for a $200 lithium-ion battery. The inside box was way too light to be battery, so I decided not to open it, and simply left it to be returned to sender.

I haven't made any online orders to my knowledge - especially for a $200 battery

Is this some new scam?

  • 8
    Check your credit reports and credit card/debit cards for unusual activity. If someone has stolen your credit card number they may simply be testing it and using your address as a shipping address so as to not alert your bank to the fraud. – dwizum Jul 3 at 12:36
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    See this story from NPR. It's all about getting fake positive reviews: npr.org/2018/02/11/584519403/… – Chris J. Zähller Jul 4 at 0:52
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    @Ben10 that's because DHL don't care whether you ordered anything, they just deliver what they have been contracted to deliver. I'm not sure even telling them you don't expect a package would change that, as people get unexpected packages all the time. Refusing to accept would force them to RTS is. – jwenting Jul 4 at 8:21
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    I guess for DHL, "calling to confirm delivery" really means "calling to confirm you exist so we don't waste time driving out to an address the proves to be an empty field." – Steve-O Jul 4 at 12:53
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    I'm a bit surprised DHL is willing to ship a big Li-ion battery overseas by air. Did the bill of lading list the product description? Was it verified to actually be DHL ( I guess the tracking proves that). I wonder if a big "customs clearance" invoice (including 25% import tax (aka "tariff") and various surcharges) might arrive in short order! This could actually be a new form of scam (maybe to steal your CC information or get a Western Union payment). – Spehro Pefhany Jul 4 at 13:01

10 Answers 10

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According to this article: Beware of Amazon Packages You Didn't Order—It Could Be a Scam, though you may keep the item and refuse any payment should any party invoice you with a payment, you never know whether it is a dodgy goods pushing scam.

As pointed out by the article, your personal details are leaking out to unknown party, i.e. your phone number. Just in case of anybody calling you to claim the package or asking for payment with a threatening tone, you should report to the police to save yourself from potential hassle and harassment.


(Update) Why would a merchant practice brushing, doesn't it cost them something? A $200 battery stated inside a receipt may sound a lot. In reality, due to excess supply, it only costs the manufacturer the shipping cost. Or even better, they are simply sending cheapskate stuff with a bloated value receipt. In addition, one may consider brushing is some sort of bending the rule cheapskate marketing.

Nevertheless, the recipient must also be aware of the danger of a potential blackmail.

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    I think that this is the most likely reason. Shoppers have grown wary of the average review (on yelp, google, amazon, etc.) because we know that lots of people are just entering straight up lies there. In response, Amazon flags reviews from 'verified purchasers' to try to highlight actual people who actually bought the item. So, what is the next step? Have the items be 'bought' -- in this case shipped to a random person -- and then be able to put in their fake review now with a verified tag. – R. Hamilton Jul 3 at 19:38
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    @R.Hamilton I suppose it is possible that the amazon merchant is actually the perpetrator with sending an empty package they aren't out the cost of the $200 item. In that case they are technically only out the cost of the shipping (if any). I think returning the package was the right thing to do. – Phil M Jul 3 at 20:46
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    Also, in most places I'm aware of, you do not need to admit to any caller that you received or use the package. "I'm not answering any questions." is your best friend. Use it! I mean, normally I'm not a big fan of taking things that I didn't pay for. But somehow I don't mind setting back someone whose entire job is to scam and bully people. – corsiKa Jul 4 at 19:43
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    It's still better than the alternative : businessinsider.de/… Destroying perfectly fine products just because it would be too expensive to leave them in Amazon warehouses. – Eric Duminil Jul 6 at 17:27
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It could be a case of brushing. The brusher poses as you in a digital marketplace like Alibaba, places an order and sends a package to your address. Then they leave a positive review for the battery (or the empty battery box) you received. Their company and product ratings go up in the marketplace and attract more real customers.

Brushing is illegal and devalues the e-commerce marketplace, so the brushers have to follow through all the way including sending the package to a real address to a real person to make it look as legit as possible.

It's annoying, especially if you keep getting the packages (like this woman), but otherwise it should be harmless to you.

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    This seems plausible. Still pretty expensive considering it was a fully tracked parcel. – Ben10 Jul 3 at 23:29
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    Brushing is illegal Citation required. A practice that against ecommerce provider term and condition doesn't mean it is illegal. – mootmoot Jul 4 at 7:43
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    @mootmoot From the Forbes article linked in the answer: kellywarnerlaw.com/fake-review-brushing-jail. Here's a translation of a Chinese news article about arrests and police raids: translate.google.com/… – Moyli Jul 4 at 8:48
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    @mootmoot A broad reading of computer hacking laws says that a practice that is against TOC is illegal: consent to access Amazon/Alibaba/whoever's computer systems is contingent on the TOC, so if you're violating them, you don't have consent, so you're accessing the computer system without consent, which is hacking. Then there's all the fraud charges. And if the fake reviews are posted in the OP's name, that's impersonation. – Acccumulation Jul 4 at 20:00
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    @mootmoot While advertisements are often deceptive, that's different from outright lying. Simply because two things share a property, that doesn't mean they're the same. "Brushing by sending stuff to people free of charge to boost rating, if filed under marketing cost instead of actual sales, is hardly considered as fraud" It wouldn't be fraud against the investors, but it's still fraud against Amazon and buyers. – Acccumulation Jul 5 at 15:19
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It's possible it was a mistake. But it sounds from your post like they knew your phone number, your name, and your business address. If I got a package addressed to someone else at my address, I'd say, maybe they got the address wrong, switched digits in the house number or something. But if they have your correct phone number, name, and business address, by mistake, that would be an extraordinary coincidence.

If you've ever ordered anything from this company before, a mistake becomes more plausible. Maybe they have you on file, they got an order from customer number 1234 and typed in 1243 by mistake and it went to you.

The most obvious scam here is that they ship you merchandise you never ordered, and then bill you for it. If you don't pay, they start threatening to sue you or turn you over to a collection agency. Then they hope that you'll pay them just to avoid the hassle of fighting over it.

I suppose the extreme possibility is that the item in the package is a bomb or contains toxic chemicals or some such. Either from someone who hates you, or someone who thinks its hysterically fun to injure or kill random people for no reason.

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    Or illegal chemicals, from someone who thought they could collect the package themselves or who wants to the the OP in legal trouble. – Bobson Jul 3 at 19:21
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    Option 3: it is actually a harmless practical joke from someone they know. It would be a stupid one for sure, but that doesn't rule out the possibility. – jpmc26 Jul 3 at 22:23
  • @jpmc26 highly unlikely. If it was someone I know then they would of used my personal address – Ben10 Jul 3 at 23:32
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    @Ben10 Unless getting it at work was part of the joke or it was a coworker. You don't have to open the package; I'm just noting another possibility. – jpmc26 Jul 3 at 23:45
  • @jpmc26 It's a pretty professional workplace, so it's highly unlikely it's a co-worker. – Ben10 Jul 3 at 23:51
3

Someone I know had a parcel reception like this in England. She contacted the sender who IIRC said they didn't know about this parcel. She refused the delivery and told the delivery person to return to sender, where it (according to tracking and sender) never arrived. She never heard anything again. At the time we looked up and found a scam that works somewhat like this:

  • Scammer orders parcel to be delivered to an arbitrary address. They can just look this up in the phone book or by looking at lists of names at fronts of apartment blocks.
  • Parcel gets delivered, confused recipient signs for reception "maybe I forgot that I ordered it".
  • Scammer (or their mule) rings at door of recipient, "company sent parcel to wrong address, sob story I really need it, can I have it please".
  • Recipient hands over parcel to scammer/mule.
  • Recipient later received a big bill with requirement to pay for the goods; since he/she has signed to have received it he/she will feel compelled to pay.

That doesn't fully fit with either your or her experience but it does seem one possible form of spam. We never fully figured out what was going on with the mystery parcel from a mystery source.

1

This could also be some kind of invoice fraud.

The seller sends empty boxes and either claims loss to avoid paying taxes or claim some rebate, tax benefit on export orders.

The amount looks small...

1

Can you tell who sent the package? If so, have you bought anything from them in the past? I had something like this happen to me recently, and it was simply an error by the vendor and/or their fulfillment service (their system printed out the wrong packing slip).

  • I rarely buy things online. If I do it has been local area, or Amazon. – Ben10 Jul 3 at 23:27
  • The DHL text I received claimed the package was from the sender 'INSPIRING WORLD'. Quite an unusual name for a company sending batteries. – Ben10 Jul 4 at 7:36
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    @Ben10 That's how they all are. On Amazon Marketplace, they are infamous for having brands that sound like items from the IKEA catalog, Benzoo, Llafra, Ketchl, etc. – Harper - Reinstate Monica Jul 4 at 17:27
0

There have been cases where an item is shipped to a place where the criminal can expect to be able to access the box as soon as it is delivered. This is often done with packages that contain drugs. But generally the idea is not to ship it to a business, and certainly don't require a signature, and never link the email of the recipient to the delivery company. The idea is to swoop in get the package before the homeowner knows. It has also been done as a form of swatting where the homeowner is raided before they even open the package.

I always assume that the emails for packages I didn't order are spam, so I never click on the links.

  • I'm not really sure that's common in the country I live in. Plus I live in the outskirts of the city, so it wouldn't be worth waiting for it. – Ben10 Jul 4 at 21:11
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Your primary concern is the Data. Almost certainly a LinkedIn scrape. I say that without even knowing if you are a member. It could have come from Facebook, but Facebook users deserve everything they get. My point is you are not sharing your work address with anybody? Previous deliveries? Does your family use your account, it is pretty easy between eBay and PayPal (shudder) to commit to a default (but undesirable) address.

If it is DHL, and someone signed for it, will it be a problem if your payment bounces? Or they now ask you to pay?

Do you share a similar name with anyone else? The vendor may have had system issues or language issues and lost details. Unlikely though due to the risk.

Around the turn of the Century Amazon lost a whole line from a huge number of delivery addresses during a system migration, and also corrupted the contact numbers. Sadly it was the street address Line and all my packages were delivered to Level 14, Sydney, Australia. (or not, in fact delivered at all).

Lithium Batteries are pretty light, and it may be taped to a wall of the box.

  • The box felt really light for it's size, supposedly with $200 batteries inside. With sharing my name, it's not a common one. If they ask for a payment, I can say I have returned the package to the sender. – Ben10 Jul 4 at 7:34
  • The first few sentences are speculation followed by what reads like a rant. Not sure how they add to this answer. – Trotski94 Jul 4 at 14:01
  • A work address is a keystone identity component. Your employer should know it. Your spouse should know it. Nobody else needs to know, but someone did, or guessed. Or were told, somehow. – mckenzm Jul 5 at 3:35
0

My experience does not quite match yours but I think it is worth describing as a possible explanation.

My wife received an email from DHL saying she owed VAT (Value Added Tax) on a package which was awaiting delivery. She often orders products online so the package was not necessarily unexpected but the need to pay VAT was unexpected and DHL is not one of the regular delivery companies here. The DHL website confirmed the tracking number and the amount but did not identify the source of the package or the content or the reason for the VAT.

It took several emails before DHL released a waybill and a VAT calculation. Although UK law says the customer can demand a VAT invoice, it is apparently not DHL’s policy to issue VAT invoices and company policy overrode local laws.

Before I had received this information from DHL, they delivered the package anyway. It was a product my wife had ordered so it was not a scam of us. However, the product described on the waybill was not the product ordered and delivered. Also the price on the waybill was much less than the actual price. VAT is due on imported products above a certain value and DHL’s calculation was correct for the waybill price.

One possibility is that the supplier was scamming the Chinese government about the products they were selling and the prices being charged. The product (a silk scarf) could be legally imported into the UK but perhaps not to other countries so were they trying to help us import something that might be illegal?

I suggest you ask DHL for a copy of the waybill. It would be interesting to know what they think they were delivering.

  • Cool story bro. It sounds like the seller intentionally mis-described the product for the purpose of helping you pay less VAT. Doesn't cost him anything and makes him memorable to you as a place to buy in the future. – Harper - Reinstate Monica Jul 4 at 17:14
  • @Harper We had to pay the VAT. Under valuing the scarf saved us a little money. Did the seller do so as a favour to us or because it benefited them in some way. We will never know. – Tony Dallimore Jul 4 at 18:00
  • @TonyDallimore For others this would be more plausible, however, I rarely buy things online. If I do I always remember doing so. – Ben10 Jul 4 at 21:08
0

If this is a USB portable battery than it might contain malware, especially if it was sent to a business address. If your company has an IT department, you could pass it to them. If it turns out to be malicious then someone is putting some effort into targeting the company and IT should be on high alert.

  • I never opened the box inside and just returned it to sender - so I guess I'll never know what really was inside. – Ben10 Jul 6 at 8:27

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