Etsy sellers are wondering if they're unwittingly being drawn into package delivery scams, and it appears orders for low-priced items could spell trouble. A reader sent a link to this thread on the Etsy forums
where a seller explained that they became suspicious after receiving 3 orders for inexpensive items where tracking was requested.
The seller was contacted by a recipient of one of the items who said they had never ordered it.
The BBB explains in detail how the scam works. The victim orders an item from a website - "often brand name goods at a significant discount" - and receives a confirmation email with tracking number that eventually shows the package as delivered - but the package never arrives.
The shipping company confirms the package was delivered, "but to the wrong address," and when the victim notifies the website from which they ordered the item, it is unresponsive.
According to Etsy sellers, the scammers acquire legitimate tracking numbers by placing orders for low-priced goods.
Here's the crux of how it works for the scammer, according to the BBB:
"Some scam victims report filing a claim with PayPal because their protection promise says you can open a dispute if your order never arrives. But because the scammer technically shipped the package and the tracking number marked it as delivered, PayPal rejected their claims. One consumer reported to BBB Scam Tracker: "PayPal denied my claim because the seller showed the tracking number as being delivered. I even had UPS send PayPal the proof that I didn't receive my package, but all PayPal required is a tracking number loaded and shows delivered.""
Another seller said they'd seen several similar posts over the past week. They summarized how they believed the scam works:
1) scammer sells expensive item to their customer. They never intend to send it.
2) scammer buys a cheap item from you on Etsy that has tracking and gets it sent as a gift to an address nearby to their customer, in order to harvest the tracking number.
3) scammer can then use your tracking number to "prove" that their item was sent to their customer.
The seller also said they hadn't seen indications that Etsy has been able to help in those cases. "Suggestions were to cancel and refund these suspicious orders, and perhaps to temporarily de-activate the cheap item that you sell with tracking so they move on elsewhere."
The BBB article offers tips for the victim, but not for legitimate sellers. The seller who provided the link to the BBB article had the following suggestions:
"The defense is to recognize the warning signs and not get involved. All of these criteria must be met.
- low-priced items bought as gifts going to different addresses
- customer states they must have tracking
- customer is a guest buyer"
Note that if scammers are exploiting sellers to carry out their scheme, it's likely they are turning to other platforms as well. Do you have any suggestions on how sellers, online marketplaces, and PayPal can thwart the scammers?