Online shopping delivery scam

A scam targeted at consumers, shopping online, during the festive season.

A large number of people are reporting that they been defrauded when attempting to purchase items via online shopping and auction websites. Criminals are increasingly exploiting people's readiness to sign for deliveries without checking the contents. This can cause difficulties when they later find the package to be empty or contain an item that they did not order and attempt to dispute the transaction.

How it is happening

  • You find a desirable item online and assume the seller to be legitimate.
  • You make payment for the item, in many cases using a reputable payment protection service.
  • A few days later, you or someone on your behalf signs for a recorded delivery, which you then find to be empty or contain an item that you did not order.
  • When the ordered item does not arrive, you attempt to track the package online and discover that the package signed for had the same tracking number as the ordered item, at this point realising that you have been scammed.
  • This causes the problems when you subsequently dispute the transaction with the auction site, as the tracking information confirms that an item has been successfully delivered to your address.

Prevention Advice

  • Always check seller feedback when buying online – if the seller has a lot of recent negative feedback, do not buy from them. It is not unknown for fraudsters to hack legitimate accounts or trick legitimate sellers into allowing them to use their account for fraudulent purposes, so focus on the most recent feedback.
  • Consider keeping a list of the items you and the people you live with are expecting to be delivered, as it can be difficult to keep track when you have a large number of items on the way, which is often the case in the run up to Christmas.
  • If you are asked to sign for a package and are in any doubt as to what it is, consider opening and verifying it before signing for the item.
  • If you, or anyone you know, has been affected by this fraud or any other scam, report it to Action Fraud by calling 0300 123 2040 or visiting Action Fraud.


Crime Reduction Officer
Devon & Cornwall Police, Crime Reduction Dept
Police Headquarters
Middlemoor, Exeter

Non Emergency Directory (NED)

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