54

My boyfriend's little brother received 2 packages today. One from Eastbay and the other from Office Depot. They were addressed to him but never ordered by him.

We called both companies and they gave us the last 4 of the card number used (both ordered were made with different card numbers) which didn't belong to anyone in the house. He's 17 years old so he doesn't have credit cards and doesn't have a bank account of his own. The billing address belonged to someone in New Jersey. We live in Ohio. Obviously returning the packages tomorrow, or Monday if we can't do it tomorrow with it being a Saturday.

I'm just curious to see if this is a common problem? Should the authorities be contacted? The companies didn't give any advice on what to do. Lol typical. I've read some forums but they haven't given me anything useful as these weren't ordered from Amazon.

  • 2
    What carrier was used to deliver each package (e.g. USPS, UPS, FedEx, etc.)? – Makyen Sep 21 at 15:31
  • 15
    See this link about a scam that works like this: mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/… – DJClayworth Sep 21 at 15:39
  • 2
    @DJClayworth Interesting link, but I don't understand who has to pay for the phone, or why they should. – Eric Duminil Sep 21 at 20:21
  • Did they open the packages? What did they contain? An answer that makes sense for an unexpected delivery of an expensive new smartphone might be less plausible if you were just sent a stapler and some pens. – Joe Lee-Moyet Sep 23 at 9:13
  • 2
    Should be obvious, but if you haven't yet: contact the credit bureaus, check his credit history, and freeze his credit. – dwizum Sep 23 at 12:55
78

If you didn't order it, it's free

Ohio -- like most states, the US Federal government and the UK -- has a law like this one:

Ohio Revised Code 1333.60
Voluntary delivery of unordered goods constitutes unconditional gift.

Where any merchandise is offered for sale by means of its voluntary delivery to an offeree who has neither ordered nor requested it, the delivery of such merchandise constitutes an unconditional gift to the recipient.

This law is because, before the Internet, shady businesses would target small business (by cold call or visit), get someone's name, and figure something they can use (inkjet cartridges, light bulbs). They ship those items unsolicited. Then they send an invoice under that person's name, wildly overpriced. This law breaks the scam by letting businesses argue "We didn't order it".

It could be a failed interception

The package is for them, and they planned to snatch it off your stoop, but you got there first.

A common scam is perpetrated not against you, but against the seller. It is not identity theft of you, but of some other poor sap. They were merely borrowing your shipping address.

Very likely it's a solitary perp operating in your neighborhood, who has obtained a list of stolen credit cards off the dark web. He specified a faraway "bill to" address possibly so it would match credit card data. He obviously didn't use his own house as a ship-to, because that would lead police right to him. So he used yours, since he goes right by this every day after school or work.

He already noticed your house has little activity, and he doesn't have a Ring or Hello camera-doorbell, packages sit for awhile undisturbed, and they're infrequent. (Too often means he'd confuse your packages with "his").

And this one was a miss; you got there first. He will simply order again from a different vendor, probably shipping to a different address. It costs him nothing to try, he has many credit card numbers and many online stores. This may have even been a test to see if you're a suitable destination for more valuable packages.

This isn't a huge security exposure for you because he only has two aspects of data: the physical street address of the property (gotten off street signs and house numbers), and a name associated with the property (homeowner name from online tax-roll data, your Welcome mat, mailbox, or a package that he saw on your stoop). Since anyone can already obtain A name associated with any street address, this doesn't add any significant amount of risk for you.

One aspect of this is that unlike brushing, the packages will be fairly valuable. Since he could steal anything why not steal something good? Also the plan may be to resell this, and a highly resellable item would be preferred.

It might be Brushing

I doubt it in this case, but it's worth mentioning.

Brushing is shipping a product to random people so they can write a fake review. They don't care who the person is, or about the fate of the product.

Amazon and some other companies open their website to third parties selling their goods. I'll talk mainly about Amazon, but it applies to others as well. On Amazon the product may say "Ships from and Sold By Some_name_not_Amazon", or may say "Sold by Some_name_not_Amazon and Fulfilled by Amazon". (The latter means the seller has paid extra for it to be in Amazon's warehouses and ship with Prime). The third party items are blended into standard search results, ranked partly based on user reviews.

Many new sellers (especially of cheap Cheese junk) can't get good reviews, so they set up a bunch of "sockpuppet" accounts, and write fake reviews. Amazon (or other platform) is onto this trick! It's devolved into an "arms race" between fake reviewers and highly competent engineers. The upshot is, for cheaters, the winning play (given how ridiculously cheap these items are) is to ship actual items to real random people all over.

Which doesn't matter to them since the items are very, very cheap. An item I've seen recently competed with quality $37 items at a $30 price point. The manufacturer sells it for $1.06 in quantity on Alibaba. They don't want the product back. It did its job, it let their sockpuppet write a review.

The brushers don't care about your identity; all they need is for the package not to bounce back to Amazon. All they need is a name/address pair. The address can be generated randomly using demographic data (middle-class ZIP codes) and picking a random street and USPS-validatable random street number. The name can be pulled out of a Register of Deeds tax roll database. This is not a security risk, per se, because they have very little, you can't protect that data (short of forming an LLC to own your house), and their intent is not nefarious to you particularly.

The "You received it, you must pay for it" scam

This is the scam mentioned at the top of the post. I doubt it will happen here, but if it does, you can say "NO" with confidence.

  • 10
    Bank error in your favor, collect a plus one. – Mazura Sep 22 at 21:13
  • 4
    You've got a good list of the possibilities. Another potential version - it's a stolen or fraudulent gift card, and the person made the orders to establish an address history (some gift cards aren't valid for some transaction types unless there is an address on file). Often this scam eventually involves paypal or other services that attempt to validate shipping and billing addresses. The danger is that the OP's friend's address is now linked to someone else's card, which lets that person carry out other scams without a trail linking it to themselves. – dwizum Sep 23 at 12:54
  • 2
    Are minors listed in some publicly available location such as the Register of Deeds? Seems like a pretty key detail that suggests it's someone known. Reinforces the "perp operating in your neighborhood" theory. Also, the BF's brother is 17. It's possible they are the one who failed to intercept on an order they wouldn't normally be allowed to make (18y.o. friend with a card, who they paid cash, etc). Probably not likely that a 17 year old actually ordered from Office Depot though! – Mars Sep 24 at 0:38
  • 1
    @Mars Good point. If you were merely searching public DBs for a name associated with an address, you wouldn't get a minor. I agree, this sounds like someone who knows the brother lives here, e.g. some random person from school. Might be the brother himself or a friend. Teens can be dumb. – Harper Sep 24 at 0:50
  • 1
    @DanM. just an attempt at an inclusive list, since another poster pointed out the UK works the same. – Harper Sep 24 at 0:51
45

Most likely a "courier" will show up to collect them.

Sending them back to the company before that, or at least telling the courier that you have already sent them if you can’t get to the post office for a few days, is probably the best strategy.

*The "courier" being someone involved in the scam coming to collect the parcels anonymously, that way the person behind the fraudulent purchases is never known and you could be stuck answering some sticky questions as to where the packages are if the police get involved.

  • 5
    What would the purpose of that „courier“ be? How would the scam work? – Stefan Kögl Sep 21 at 17:56
  • 57
    Someone buys goods on a stolen/cloned card, has them delivered to some address or other, then comes along pretending to be a courier and collects the goods. The scammer's address is never used, his name is never known; practically untraceable. – Andrew Leach Sep 21 at 17:58
  • 8
    Don't stop there -- tell us how it can/should play out. Presumably the authorities don't have time to stake out the recipient's house and question/arrest the courier. But should the recipient get a high-res door cam and would authorities be interested in a close-up of the courier? Also, would the courier likely phone first before showing up? Would tracing the call be useful? Should the recipient tell the courier "already sent back package" on the phone, or lead them on to get them on camera? – nanoman Sep 21 at 21:30
  • 2
    @nanoman A smart fraudster would've already checked the address out to make sure you don't have Ring and aren't home during delivery hours. Thus the typical version of this scam usually involves outright theft of the package (either robbing the delivery man or just swiping it from your door) and if you are home and got it, they'll either consider it lost or rob the house looking for it. – pboss3010 Sep 23 at 11:30
  • 2
    @nanoman What if the courier was just someone hired off Craigslist for a "transportation job" to even further isolate the criminal from the crime? There could be a lot of levels of obfuscation on the scammers part, since a lot of this could be organized online. – JMac Sep 23 at 15:15
23

Something like this happened to me in Britain. I returned from work to find a card from a courier company saying they had tried to deliver 2 packages, and to phone their depot. I did so the next day. They said "They were delivered to you at 2:30 yesterday - the computer says so!" I argued with that, and said I could prove I was 25 miles away at the time, and what was more, I hadn't ordered anything to be delivered. They checked and it seemed the driver had said that he returned to my house, and knocked again, and a man had walked off the street into my front garden, said he was me, and took the packages. No ID Check done by driver. They were mobile phones. I started getting bills from a phone company. I called them and their security department said it was a common scam. Pick a house where nobody is home during the day, get the occupier's name from the publicly available voters list, use that, intercept the courier at the front door. The phone provider said I would not be involved any more; they could see a number of addresses near me with a similar flag on their system.

A few months later I read that the courier company had been involved in a police investigation, and out of 20 van drivers employed by the depot in my city, 16 had been arrested for involvement in the fraud, together with the criminals who had recruited them. They were, it seems, just leaving the cards, making up the story about the guy in the street, and handing the phones to the gang. These were probably then sold e.g. on eBay, to people who would not have been able to use them anyway, as they would be blocked.

So maybe a "courier" will come back and say he had "made a mistake", and try to take the items.

  • 3
    Wow! If you have an article on this fraud, it would be nice to read, if you don't mind sharing. – Andrew Sep 23 at 13:35
  • It happened in 2007, before my local newspaper went online, but there are lots of stories you can find by Googling "courier fraud", possibly adding "mobile phone". – Michael Harvey Sep 24 at 11:25
15

I can see at least 2 potential explanations:

  1. This is a fraud. The card is stolen and the sender is using your address to avoid pointing the authorities at their own address, someone will come to pick up the packages.
  2. This is a scam. Someone will come and ask for money, one way or another.

First of all, it would have been better to simply refuse delivery. Those are not your packages, not taking possession of them would relieve you of any further issue.

This is not possible if the delivery man simply drops them off, and of course not possible if you already accepted them, so let us focus on fixing the current situation.

Your goal, going forward, should be:

  • Avoid spending money/time: this is not your mistake, there is no reason to spend an inordinate amount of time attempting to fix the issue.
  • Avoid being scammed or being made accomplice of fraud.

Contacting the delivery company was definitely a good first step:

  • You now have records of honesty should the police come to investigate in case of fraud.
  • They should be in position to take those packages out of your hands.

If you can drop off the packages at an arranged point at minimal expense, certainly do so. It solves your problem, and gives you peace of mind.

Otherwise, leave it to the companies where the goods are ordered to either arrange to pick them up or simply leave them off with you -- it may be less costly for them to abandon the items depending on their values, in which case you get a gift.

In case of pick-up, a frauder could show up (early) in place of the normal delivery man. If you suspect such -- for example because it does not match the information provided to you -- you can attempt to rebuff them: telling them you are going to phone the company to double-check is likely to scare them. You do not have to, and certainly should not put yourself at risk to do so, though.

And above all, remain vigilant to the risk of scam. There is no reason for you to part with any money. Ever.

  • 17
    "it would have been better to simply refuse delivery" - That's all well and good in theory, but when you live in a house with multiple people, sometimes one person orders something that the other isn't aware of. This even happens between my wife and I. Should I refuse her packages, and she refuse mine? – John Sep 22 at 3:15
  • 5
    @John Certainly this is sometimes the situation, but it does not change that the statement is factual. It would have been easier if the delivery was rejected upon receipt. These kinds of scams tend to work based on people thinking they are in error for accepting a package when it is a very easy mistake to make. – Stian Yttervik Sep 22 at 11:09
  • 5
    @StianYttervik I don't think "factual" is the word you are after there. I would say "... that the advice is valid". Well, technically I myself would not be in any position to say that because my partner would have my guts for garters if I refused any of her very frequent packages, and the reverse is also true. – Harper Sep 22 at 17:12
  • 12
    At least in the US, it is almost completely impossible to refuse delivery unless it's signature required (which itself is rare). They just dump things by your door and run, without even knocking. – Kevin Sep 22 at 18:16
  • 3
    I don't think I've had the opportunity to refuse delivery in about 10 years. – Azor Ahai Sep 23 at 0:06
5

Have you opened the packages? If not, don't open them and "refuse delivery", it will be easier to resolve. I had a similar issue, except the items where charged to an account opened in my name. If you are not financially responsible, you don't have much to worry about.

  • 1
    What is the process of refusing delivery after the package has already been left at your door? – krubo Sep 23 at 19:49
  • @krubo - For UPS, take it to your local UPS store and tell them you want to "refuse delivery". They might also come to your house and pick it up, but then you may not get a receipt. You definitely want a receipt for this issue. Other carriers probably have similar policies. – Mattman944 Sep 23 at 21:03
1

It seems that someone else paid for the items and most likely is waiting for his or her delivery. So this should be treated as "lost goods". The (now deleted) answer how this would be "unsolicited goods" in the UK doesn't even apply in the UK, because nobody wants your boyfriend's little brother to buy the goods or pay for the goods.

You've done your duty by telling the company where their goods are; sending them back is way beyond your duty - you can just ask them to pick up the items from your home.

In some cases companies decide that taking goods like these back is too costly and tell you to just keep them for free. They would just send another package to the real buyer. That's because someone has to handle the package when it comes in, which all costs money, and importantly someone has to admit that they made a mistake sending the package to the wrong person.

  • The rules on unsolicited goods applies in Ohio too: codes.ohio.gov/orc/1333.60 – DJClayworth Sep 21 at 15:47
  • 5
    But it starts with "Where any merchandise is offered for sale..." The merchandise wasn't offered for sale. It was quite clearly already sold - just not to the person receiving it. So the rules on "unsolicited goods" don't apply. If the company that was contacted had said "you received it, you have to pay", then the answer would be "thank you for the present". – gnasher729 Sep 21 at 16:15
1

It may be that sellers are sending these packages randomly so that they are delivered to real addresses allowing the seller to fraudulently boost their seller rating.

Please consider reading this article detailing the process: Americans Are Receiving Unordered Parcels From Chinese E-Criminals -- And Can't Do Anything To Stop Them

1

There are chances that the order is a gift to your brother. And may be sent by someone who is your relative or close friends. You must have to wait before returning the product.

Just remember if there is any occasion that had taken place at your house. Like your brother birthday or any other. So this gift may be related to that.

I just advice that before returning the product. You should wait for someone taking responsibility of gift.

You had received the order from some marketplace. So there might be shipping and billing address. So you can ask them to tell you the billing address. This can give you a hint that how the order is delivered to you.

  • 1
    The negative score on this answer is inappropriate; this answer is correct. I personally have had surprise gifts delivered to people. One example: I had some extra money, wanted to do something nice for a friend, so I had a book he would like delivered to him. I messaged him a few days later about it, and he said he had been wondering who had it sent, and that he was about to wait in a Dr. office waiting room for someone so it was good timing. Exactly as this answer suggests. Also, it was not his birthday or anything like that; I just did it randomly. – Aaron Sep 23 at 22:19

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.