Be wary of unexpected surprise or gift packages

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Wine and roses are wonderful gifts, however, Connecticut Better Business is alerting consumers that they can be very costly if they are delivered by an imposter.

According to one consumer’s account, her trouble began with a phone call from a man who said he worked for “Express Couriers,” and asked to arrange a time tom deliver a package that required a signature.

Within one hour from the telephone call, the caller showed up at her door wearing what looked like a legitimate delivery company uniform and holding a gift basket containing flowers and wine. There was no accompanying card nor information on the identity of the sender.

The imposter then said there was a $3.50 “delivery/verification” charge because the basket contained liquor. The fee was supposedly required to prove that the package was received by an adult of drinking age, instead of being left outside where a minor would have access to it. The consumer wanted to pay with cash, but the delivery man said he could only accept payment by credit card.

The courier swiped the credit card on a mobile terminal and asked that the consumer enter the card’s Personal Identification Number (PIN), and then handed her a receipt for the payment.

Over the course of five days, $4000 was withdrawn from her bank account at several ATMs or charged to the card. It turns out that the criminal used the mobile pin pad to copy the card.

The victim promptly called her bank, which closed the debit/credit account and issued a new card. When she called the local police department, they told her that a number of people in other local households had fallen victim to the same scam.

Connecticut Better Business Bureau has advice for consumers to protect themselves from similar fraud:

Who sent it? – Be wary of any “surprise” gifts or packages, especially if you did not order or expect them. Don’t accept any delivery unless the package identifies the sender or if it comes from someone you don’t know.

A delivery fee is a red flag – Delivery companies do not require payment of fees as a condition of delivery.

Be stingy with information – As a general rule, you should never give out financial or personal information to anyone over the telephone, online or at the front door unless you initiated the transaction.

At the moment there are no statistics on the prevalence nor the geographical distribution of this fraud. To track or report fraud or attempted fraud in your neighborhood and the rest of the country, visit our Scam Tracker page in the “Get Consumer Help” section at bbb.org/connecticut

Howard Schwartz Executive Communications Director CT BBB