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Fake parcel delivery scam targets online shoppers

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has issued a warning this week about a fake parcel delivery scam targeting thousands of Australians.

The scam involves sending fake emails from Australia Post or FedEx asking consumers to open an attachment, click a link, or download a file in order to retrieve a parcel.

In doing so, consumers end up downloading a ransomware virus which freezes their computer, and the scammers demand payment to unlock it.

Over 4300 complaints about the scam have been made to the ACCC so far this year, more than triple the number of similar complaints made in 2015.

The watchdog group says 350 people reported providing their personal information to scammers, including bank account details.

“Unfortunately this scam is particularly effective during the holiday season with so many Australians going online to buy Christmas presents,” ACCC deputy chair Delia Rickard said.

For many people, the fake parcel delivery scam is their worst nightmare come true. Surveys consistently show that security is one of consumers’ biggest concerns when shopping online.

This is bad news for online retailers, since delivery is an integral part of the business. Any negative feelings associated with delivery providers, could impact their own relationship with customers.

Co-founder of men’s apparel company Kent & Lime Will Rogers said he avoids this problem by keeping delivery in-house and communicating directly with customers about online orders.

“We make sure the customer receives an email directly from us. That way we avoid any fraud and it guarantees a level of customer service too,” Rogers told Internet Retailing.

That strategy may not be suitable for e-commerce companies processing much larger volumes of orders. In that case, it could be a good idea to share the ACCC’s tips for online protection with customers:

  • Australia Post will put a notice in your letter box if a package was undeliverable. Delete any email claiming to be from Australia Post about an undelivered package.
  • Do not click on links or download files in emails you receive out of the blue – especially if they are executable (.exe) files or zip (.zip) files. These files are likely to contain malware or ransomware viruses.
  • If you are suspicious about a ‘missed’ parcel delivery email, call the company directly to verify that the correspondence is genuine. Independently source the contact details through an internet search or phone book – do not rely on numbers provided in the suspicious email.
  • Regularly back up your computer’s data on a separate hard drive. If your computer is infected by malware or ransomware you can restore the factory settings and easily re-install all of your software and data
  • Buy yourself (or your business) a standalone hard drive for Christmas. These have become relatively inexpensive and can save you a lot if your computer is infected by malware or ransomware.
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