For more than two and half centuries, the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) has contributed to the success of American society and culture. This agency has continuously shape-shifted and morphed to become one of the most trusted institutions in our nation.
But as with many other good things, bad actors, seeking to exploit people, have found ways to exploit and misuse the solid USPS’s reputation.
Fake USPS tracking numbers is one common scheme. If you have ever received an unsolicited SMS with an unfamiliar or strange USPS web link, then you might have been a target for the fake USPS tracking number scam.
How Do the Fake USPS Tracking Number Scams Work?
USPS scams work like many other phishing scams but mostly work via SMS, which is why they are commonly known as USPS smishing (SMS phishing).
Just like spear phishing attacks, Medicare Scams, Publishers House Clearing scams, PayPal scams, and even social media scams, USPS smishing uses social engineering tactics to persuade you to click on fake links.
Scammers prey on individuals expecting deliveries by generating false USPS tracking numbers.
They then contact you via messages claiming to be from the USPS to dupe you into believing you have a missed delivery either because of an incorrect address, insufficient postage, or nobody was home to receive it.
They’ll provide a legit-looking link to confirm your address, reschedule delivery, or pay extra postage. Unfortunately, this link takes you to a fraudulent website, often with the logo of the delivery service, but isn’t the real U.S. Postal Service.
Once you fall for the ruse and enter the fake tracking number into the fake USPS website, you might receive a message stating that the package is in transit or delayed.
The scammers then use this false confirmation to request personal information, payment for supposed customs fees, or a small “redelivery fee,” or redirect you to a phishing site designed to steal sensitive data.
In most cases, these scammers often exploit the urgency and excitement surrounding anticipated deliveries, causing victims to overlook obvious red flags.
The emotional aspect of expecting a package, especially if it’s eagerly awaited, can cloud your judgment and make you more susceptible to these fraudulent tactics.
How to Spot a USPS Tracking Number Scam
Spotting a USPS tracking number scam requires vigilance and recognizing certain signs that might indicate fraudulent activity specifically targeting you.
Scammers often exploit the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) guise to deceive individuals into providing personal information or making payments.
Here are several indicators to help you identify a USPS tracking number scam:
Fake tracking numbers and suspicious links – Scammers might provide fake tracking numbers and links to counterfeit tracking pages. These fake pages often display false information about a package’s status to deceive victims.
Avoid clicking on any links or downloading attachments within the message. These could lead to fake websites mimicking USPS or contain harmful malware designed to steal your personal information.
Unsolicited communication with urgency and threats – If you receive unexpected emails, SMS, or phone calls claiming to be from USPS regarding a package delivery, and you haven’t recently made a purchase or arranged a delivery, it could be a red flag.
You should also be cautious if the message creates a sense of urgency or uses threatening language, pressuring you to take immediate action. Scammers often claim that failure to respond will result in a missed delivery or additional charges.
Legitimate USPS communications usually don’t use such language or demand immediate action.
Incorrect grammar or spelling – Watch out for spelling errors, grammatical mistakes, or awkward phrasing in the message. Legitimate communications from USPS are typically well-written and professional.
They also usually contain specific details about the package, such as sender information, package weight, or expected delivery date. If the message lacks these specifics or provides vague information, it might be a scam.
Requests for personal information or payment – Be skeptical if the message asks for sensitive personal information like Social Security numbers and bank details or demands payments for unexpected fees supposedly related to package delivery.
USPS does not usually request personal information or payment details via email or text.
Does the USPS Send Text Messages?
Yes! If you have enrolled in USPS Text Tracking, the postal service indeed sends text messages to provide updates about your package’s status.
Authentic USPS text messages possess specific characteristics that distinguish them from fraudulent communications.
A legitimate USPS text message always includes a tracking number for your package. This tracking number is verifiable on the official USPS website (usps.com) or through their mobile app.
You can cross-check the tracking number provided in the text with the one on the official USPS platform to confirm the accuracy of the information.
Genuine USPS texts typically come from a verified shortcode or a clearly identifiable sender that includes “USPS” or “United States Postal Service” in the sender’s name. The sender information in the text header usually aligns with official USPS contacts.
The text message content provides concise and accurate information about the status of your package. This might include updates such as “out for delivery,” “delivered,” “in transit,” or any other relevant status. These updates coincide with the information available on the USPS official tracking system.
Authentic USPS texts are well-written, use proper grammar, and maintain a professional tone. They avoid vague language or threatening messages that create a sense of urgency.
Legitimate USPS texts also don’t ask for sensitive personal information, such as financial details, passwords, or Social Security numbers. They solely focus on providing tracking updates for your package.
Genuine USPS text messages often include information on how to opt out or unsubscribe from further text updates if you no longer wish to receive them. This option ensures that individuals have control over their subscription preferences.
It’s important to note that while USPS does send text messages for package tracking updates to users who have opted into their Text Tracking service, they do not request sensitive personal information or payments via text messages.
Any text message requesting such information should be treated with caution and reported as potential fraudulent activity.
How To Avoid USPS Scams
Protecting yourself from USPS scams and other online threats involves adopting various proactive measures and staying vigilant.
Here are detailed strategies to safeguard against such scams:
Block spam texts – Most smartphones have blocking features that allow you to blacklist specific phone numbers or text senders.
If you receive suspicious or unsolicited texts claiming to be from USPS or any other entity asking for personal information or payment, block the sender immediately. This prevents further communication from that source and minimizes the risk of falling victim to scams.
Shop at reputable stores – When making online purchases, especially if expecting deliveries, ensure you shop from reputable stores or directly from the retailer’s official website.
Avoid clicking on links from unsolicited messages or emails claiming to be from USPS offering unexpected deals or deliveries. Stick to established and trusted retailers to minimize the chances of being targeted by fraudulent schemes.
Flag suspicious texts – Many mobile service providers and messaging apps have options to report and flag suspicious texts. If you receive a text that seems suspicious, you can report it to your mobile carrier or directly through the messaging app.
By doing so, you contribute to identifying and mitigating potential scams for other users.
Verify communication sources – Confirm the legitimacy of any messages, especially those claiming to be from USPS, by cross-referencing the information provided.
Use the official USPS website or mobile app to verify tracking numbers or delivery statuses instead of clicking on links in text messages or emails. Genuine USPS communications usually don’t request personal information or payments via text or email.
What if You Fall Victim to a USPS Scam?
If you find yourself a victim of a USPS text scam, taking immediate steps to mitigate potential damage and protect yourself from further harm is essential.
Cease all communication with the sender immediately. Do not respond to any further messages or provide additional personal information or payment details.
Take note of the details of the scam, including the phone number or contact details of the sender, the content of the messages, and any other pertinent information that might be useful for reporting or further investigation.
Report the scam to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) by visiting their website or calling their hotline. You can also report it to USPS directly by forwarding the suspicious text to their official email for scam reporting: [email protected].
If you have provided any financial information, such as credit card details or bank account numbers, to the scammer, contact your bank or credit card company immediately.
Inform them about the potential risk and follow their guidance on securing your accounts or preventing unauthorized transactions. Ensure that you monitor your bank statements, credit reports, and other financial accounts regularly for any unauthorized activity.
Report any suspicious transactions to your financial institution immediately.
Contact your mobile carrier and inform them about the scam. They might have measures in place to block or filter similar scam messages for you and other customers.
Change passwords and review security settings on your accounts, especially if you’ve shared any login credentials or sensitive information with the scammer. Enable two-factor authentication where available to add an extra layer of security.
The U.S. Postal Service (USPS) has been a cornerstone of American society, fostering connections and delivering essentials for over two centuries.
However, amidst its trusted reputation, the emergence of the Fake USPS Tracking Number Scam serves as a reminder of the challenges posed by online fraud.
As technology evolves, so do the tactics of scammers aiming to exploit the goodwill associated with USPS. Recognizing the signs of these scams empowers us to protect ourselves from falling victim to fraudulent schemes.
While USPS takes measures to educate and alert the public about these scams, we must all remain vigilant.
How? Verify the authenticity of USPS communications using official channels, report suspicious activities, and stay informed about evolving scamming methods. These are vital steps in fortifying personal cybersecurity.
Ultimately, combating the Fake USPS Tracking Number Scam requires a collective effort. By raising awareness, reporting incidents, and sharing knowledge within our communities, we can effectively thwart scammers’ efforts and contribute to a safer online environment for everyone.