How to Handle Fraudulent Purchases Sent to Your Home Address
Scammers get more creative all the time and find new ways to defraud people.
You can keep your credit card and personal information private, sign up for credit alerts, and monitor your bank account.
It doesn’t matter.
These individuals are clever and know how to bypass your defenses. But the more you educate yourself, the easier it is to protect yourself.
It’s now being reported that scammers have taken their schemes to a new level. They’ll not only buy items with your stolen credit card number, they sometimes ship these fraudulent purchases to your house.
As a result, you end up with packages that you didn’t order.
But why would a thief do this?
Why Send a Fraudulent Package to Your Home?
If a thief gets hold of your credit card number, makes a purchase, and then has the item delivered to your actual home address, you might say that you’re dealing with someone who’s not to smart.
Yet, those who go to great lengths to pull off elaborate schemes know exactly what they’re doing. It’s often hard to get into the mindset of a scammer.
But there are plausible explanations on why fraudsters send packages to a victim’s home.
Testing a stolen card
Sometimes, fraudsters do this to test a stolen credit card number to see if it actually works. They know that most victims will overlook inexpensive fraudulent charges on their credit card statement and never file a complaint.
When a package you didn’t order arrives at your home, you might assume it’s a shipping error and return the item to the sender without giving it another thought.
Being able to complete the sale tells a thief that the credit card is valid. They can then use the credit card number for bigger purchases.
Required to ship to billing address
Sometimes, fraudsters have no other choice than to ship items to a victim’s real address.
This is because many online retailers require the same shipping and billing address for orders.
These types of scams take a bit more planning because thieves have to intercept the delivery.
They may attempt to contact the delivery service to redirect the delivery.
Or, the thief is in the area and is watching your home for delivery personnel to arrive -- and to accept the package on your behalf.
If you receive a package you didn’t order, a delivery person stopping by to pick up the package doesn’t seem too suspicious. That is until you check your credit card activity later on and find that you’ve been charged for the package you sent away.
At this point, it becomes clear that you’re involved in an elaborate scam.
What Should You Do?
Your best defense is to recognize this scam early on. Always be suspicious of unexpected packages that arrive at your home.
The first thing you should do is check your credit card and bank activity to see if someone got a hold of your card numbers.
The fact that the package has been delivered with your name and address means that a transaction was approved by the retailer. There should be a record of this transaction on your statement.
If you can confirm fraudulent activity, keep the package in your possession for now. If a delivery person shows and asks for the package, don’t give it to them.
Report the fraud to your credit card
Report or dispute credit card (or debit card) fraud to your credit card company or bank as soon as you discover unauthorized transactions, or else you could be stuck with the charges.
This is a unique situation. Your name, address, and card number are attached to the purchase. So you might have to convince your credit card company or bank that you didn’t authorize the purchase.
Reporting fraudulent activity is also necessary in order to cancel your credit card number and get a new one.
File a police report
Filing a police report if you’re a victim of a credit card scam or identity theft can seem a bit extreme. You might feel that the police won’t give you the time of day, considering how they’re dealing with more serious crime.
But while you shouldn’t expect the police to assign a special team to your case, there are benefits to filing a police report.
For starters, it creates a paper trail and provides proof that you’re a victim. This services to your benefit if you run into problems when disputing charges with a credit card company or the retailer.
Filing a police report also comes in handy if you’re thinking about requesting a credit freeze. This prevents others from opening unauthorized accounts in your name.
If you have a police report, the credit bureaus will freeze your credit file for free. Plus, reporting the incident keeps local law enforcement up-to-date on the latest crimes in the area. This way, they can alert the public of the scam.
Submit a fraud claim
You should also notify the retailer of the scam and file a complaint, sometimes called a fraud claim. Some retailers allow customers to file these claims online.
This is another way to document the crime, which can help when disputing fraudulent charges with your credit card company or bank.
Worst case scenario is that you already gave the package to a delivery driver and the item is no longer in your possession.
The purchase was made with your credit card number, name, and address, and you likely signed for the package.
From the credit card company’s standpoint, it sounds like a legitimate purchase. And unfortunately, they might say that you’re responsible for the charge.
This is why it’s important to have as much documentation as possible. In most cases, the retailer isn’t going to go after the scammer.
But with a fraud claim number, it might be easier to get your credit card company on your side so that they’ll reverse the charges.
Return the item
On the other hand, if you still have the item and discover a fraudulent charge on your credit card, a retailer may suggest sending back the item or returning it to the nearest location.
They’ll then credit funds back to your credit card or debit card. Getting a credit means you’re off the hook for these charges.
Even so, you should still notify your credit card company of fraudulent activity and file a police report.
Appeal the decision
In a perfect world, disputing fraudulent credit card activity will always work in your favor. The credit card company reverses the charges with no problem and you move on with your life.
But given the unique nature of this scam — being that it involves your name, your credit card number, and your address —there’s a possibility that your credit card company will deny your fraud claim or dispute.
Don’t take this lying down. Remember, you did nothing wrong. Therefore, appeal the denial and ask the credit card company to explain their decision.
Some fraud claim denials result from insufficient information or lack of documentation, hence the importance of a police report.
If you skipped this step in the process and didn’t file a police report, now’s the time to get one. Once you have a police report, appeal the decision and wait for their response.
File a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB)
In the event that your credit card company also denies your appeal, the next step is to file a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB).
Make sure you provide as much information about the situation as possible. Explain that a package you didn’t order arrived at your home.
Don’t forget to mention that the purchase was made using your name, credit card, and address.
Also, include whether you returned the package to the store, gave it to a delivery driver, or kept it. State how much money you lost in the scam. Typically, it takes about 30 days to hear back.
If this doesn’t work, you can hire an attorney as a last resort. An attorney might be able to get your credit card company or bank to reverse the charge.
Keep in mind that legal representation is expensive. Rather than hire an attorney, it might be cheaper to count your losses and pay the fraudulent charge.
Being a victim of any type of fraud can make your blood boil. And unfortunately, resolving these issues isn’t a walk in the park.
It’s hard to stay on top of the latest scams, especially since scammers keep modifying their approach. The key is to be alert to anything out of the ordinary, and learn how to recognize suspicious activity.
It also helps to monitor your credit card activity and bank account information daily. Notify your bank the moment you see a pending charge that you didn’t authorize.