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Intercepted Mobile Phone Delivery Scam Warning

Summary:
Email describes a potential scam in which a fraudster intercepts and signs for a package containing a mobile phone just before it is delivered to the address on the postage label (Full commentary below).



Status:
Such an incident was reported in Sheffield, UK

Example:(Submitted, July 2007)
Hi All

I'm writing to let you know about a potential crime that happened to me personally this morning.

We heard the parcel delivery postman pull up outside the house first thing this morning, so we ran downstairs to meet him. Instead of coming to the door, he was intercepted by a guy standing at our gate: they were talking and then the guy signed for the delivery. I said 'hang on a minute, what's going on?' The guy said the delivery was for him, and the name on the delivery was 'John MacDonald'. I asked what the address was, and the postman confirmed it was our address. I confirmed that there was no-one of that name living at our address. The guy said he lived round here, and I confirmed to the postman that I knew all our neighbours, and this guy wasn't one of them. The postman took the parcel off him and the guy walked off.

I've spoken to our local sorting office who confirmed that there is a mobile phone scam going on in the area. The mobile gets ordered to your home address and the delivery is intercepted and signed for. The bills then come in for a mobile you know nothing about. I have spoken to South Yorkshire police to get the incident logged and they have said they will be following it up.




Commentary:
This email forward describes an incident in which a would-be fraudster attempted to intercept a parcel containing a mobile phone addressed to a nearby resident. According to the message, a man approached a postal delivery driver on the street outside the house to which the package was addressed. He claimed that the package was his and attempted to take delivery. However, the owner of the house intervened and the man left after the postal worker confiscated the package.

The apparent intention of the robber was to procure and use the mobile phone for nothing because subsequent bills would be delivered to the address of a resident who had no prior knowledge of the order.

Research indicates that the incident described really was reported. Sheffield UK newspaper "The Star" published an article about the attempted interception on 20th July 2007. The article notes:
A NEW mobile phone postal scam has raised concerns that a fresh wave of identity theft could be about to hit Sheffield. Jo Clark was waiting for a parcel when she saw a stranger intercept the postman at the garden gate. He spoke to the postie then signed for the delivery.
The incident has also been discussed in a thread on The Sheffield Forums website and includes comments by Jo Clark, the person who made the initial report.

While there is no reason to doubt that the attempted robbery took place as described, it is unclear how often this method is actually used by criminals. So far, I have not located any reports of similar incidents in the Sheffield area. To be effective, the criminal would need to know fairly accurately when the package was likely to be delivered so that he could make the intercept. He would also need to persuade the postal worker to hand over the package in the street, a practise that is clearly against Royal Mail policy.

A problem with emailed warnings such as this is that they tend to travel far afield of the region that they were originally aimed at and are apt to mutate as they travel. Jo Clark notes that she only sent the message out to friends and was very surprised to discover how far and how fast it had spread.

That said, criminals are a canny bunch and are likely to try any ploy they can think of to carry out their nefarious activities. Wherever we live, we should try to remain vigilant about potential criminal activities, even when they involve seemingly mundane events such as parcel deliveries.

References:
Phone scam warning
Address scam going on in Sheffield area

Last updated: 31st July 2007
First published: 31st July 2007

Write-up by Brett M. Christensen

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