HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) - We have an important update to a story we first brought you one year ago. It was last March when WHNT News 19's Al Whitaker first uncovered an elaborate reshipping scam that had targeted several victims right here in north Alabama. As a result of the web version of that story, we've found additional victims all across the country. We update the story here and offer some important steps you'll need to take if you become a victim.
If you Google "reshipping scam," our story from a year ago is typically one of the first items listed. It's been viewed thousands of times by people all across the country, and we've heard from quite a few of them.
For example, a woman in San Diego says, “Thanks to finding this article, I was able to save myself from falling into this work from home scam.”
A woman in Colorado wrote us saying she didn't see the story until she realized she had fallen victim to a scam and began her own investigation. She says, “I’m now in the process of trying to figure out how to get the property back to the rightful people and stop the packages from coming.”
U.S. Postal Inspector Tony Robinson, of Birmingham, worked closely with us on the story. “If we could train people to be able to recognize when the scam passes in front of them and not bite, these scammers would move onto something else because they're only going to stay there as long as they're making money,” Robinson explains.
The reshipping scam has been around for quite some time and seems to be growing in popularity. You would be hired to work from home. Your job would be to receive packages in the mail, inspect the contents, and then ship the package to some other address. The only problem is in doing that you have facilitated a theft, you've become an accessory to a crime. You've become the buffer between the business that sells the merchandise and the thief who receives it.
The merchandise is typically ordered with a stolen credit card, and it usually winds up in some other country like Romania or Ukraine. Robinson says they know of no legitimate reshipping job, anywhere.
If you've fallen victim to this type of scam, it's important that you stop communicating with the company that hired you. They are thieves. Do not forward any additional packages you have or will receive. File a police report and get in touch with U.S. Postal Inspectors. They'll give you instructions on what to do next.
From the reporter’s notebook:
What follows is information I’ve compiled from talking at length with Inspector Robinson, as well as FBI agents, state and local police. There are two things you need to know if you’ve fallen victim to this type of scam. First, these thieves are con artists. They’re smart and they continually refine what they do to make it more believable. They’ll create elaborate websites, and offer potential victims employment contracts, tax forms, and even health insurance information. They’ll steal or make-up a company name to use for a few months, then close up shop only to start up again under a completely different name and identity. There is no shame in falling for a scheme such as this as these thieves go to great lengths to make themselves appear to be perfectly legitimate.
However, and this is the second thing, you must understand that to knowingly take part in this type of scam is illegal, and you could face criminal charges if you continue to handle their stolen merchandise. If you fall victim to this scam, you will want to distance yourselves from the thieves and their illegal activities and take steps to protect yourself, both legally and financially. You may find yourself in the position of having to prove you were the victim of an elaborate ruse, and not a willing accomplice. As the reshipper, or “mule” as the scammers will privately refer to you, your job is to receive stolen merchandise, goods that were ordered with stolen credit card information, and send it to a different address. This is where the scheme varies, but only a little. Usually the address where you’ll send the packages is a blind box account with some international shipper. When the package shows up with that person’s name on it, they know exactly where and to whom it is going. Several of the packages we traced were to be sent to Ukraine, others to Romania.
Below is a list of actions you should take to protect yourself:
- Cut off all contact with the scam artists immediately. They'll figure out pretty quick you've caught on and the packages will stop coming.
- Do not forward any additional packages as per the scammer's instructions.
- Contact local postmaster and tell them you've been the victim of a reshipping scam. Insist that they notify postal inspectors.
- Hold any subsequent packages you have or receive for postal inspectors to pick up.
- File a police report. This is crucial to establish the fact you are a victim and not an active participant in the scam.
- If any bank information was provided to the scammers, you should contact your bank immediately and ask that your accounts be protected. It may involve closing an existing account and reopening the account with a new account number. If they are uncooperative, change banks. Many of the scammers ask for this information under the guise of paying you by direct deposit.
- Do not deposit any checks you receive from the scammers, especially if they are for a greater amount than you are owed. Take the check to the bank and have them to make certain the check is not forged or stolen. If your bank is uncooperative, you really should consider changing banks.
- If your social security number was provided to the scammers, as is typically the case when applying for a job, your credit has been compromised. The scammers have everything they need to apply for new credit cards, bank accounts, even purchase a house or property in your name. All three of the credit reporting agencies should be notified immediately to put a scam alert on your file. You will want to check your credit with them every month or so to make sure no loans have been taken out in your name. I’ll add links to them below.
- Most reshipping scams involve using stolen credit card information, or a new credit card drawn on a person, like yourself, who provided the scammers with their personal information. Most of those victims will live within a few miles of where the packages are received. In other words, the merchandise you received to ship to a new address was most likely purchased with stolen credit card information from someone who lives in the same town as you. This is done to keep from arousing the suspicion of the merchant. Often the credit card victim will be able to learn where the merchandise was shipped, meaning they may contact you or, if they file a police report, the police may contact you. This is why it is so important that you file a police report AND notify postal inspectors of what has happened.
- Expect other issues to arise. Your name, banking info, address, Social Security number are subject to be sold to other scammers who will most likely attempt to lure you into another scam down the road or use that information in some other illicit manner.
- Before you accept a work from home job, check with the Better Business Bureau. They can help you avoid getting caught up in a scam.
- Remember, there is no such thing as a legitimate reshipping job. If someone wants you to receive and reship merchandise for them, it is a scam. Period.
If you provided the scammers with your Social Security number, and other personal information, your credit could be at risk. Below are the three primary credit reporting agencies in the United States. Some investigators suggest you contact all three and ask that a “scam alert” be attached to your file. This will flag your account whenever someone tries to open new credit under your name. Be advised this will also create an additional layer of red tape if YOU apply for credit, but that may be a small price to pay to prevent others from obtaining credit cards in your name.
Credit Reporting Agencies
P.O. Box 740241
Atlanta, GA 30374-0241
P.O. Box 2104
Allen, TX 75013-0949
Trans Union (www.transunion.com)
P.O. Box 1000
Chester, PA 19022