In the thick of the holiday rush, an official-looking e-mail with a return address of “First-Class Mail Service <firstname.lastname@example.org>” pretends to be from the FedEx delivery company. The document requests that the recipient download a receipt and proceed to the nearest office to receive their parcel. It also includes phony order and tracking numbers.
The bogus notification is signed, “Best Regards, The FedEx Team.”
According to FedEx spokeswoman Joyce (Fed Ex does not allow employees to provide their last names to the media), the scam is affecting thousands of people nationwide and perhaps hundreds in the Tri-Cities area who use the local FedEx office at 5832 Grand Haven Road in Norton Shores.
It's easy to bite, she said, because almost everyone is receiving packages this time of year.
“They're zoning in on when you know people are ordering things and expecting packages,” the FedEx spokeswoman said. “But people need to know we would not send anything like that, ever. ... The only time an e-mail would go out from us is when someone set up delivery notification.”
FedEx leaves a door hanger with bright red colors and a “sorry I missed you” message if recipients aren't home to receive a package.
A Tribune reporter recently received the e-mail and called FedEx to question its authenticity because of grammatical errors and awkward sentence structure.
“You're right about the grammar,” Joyce said. “That's where a lot of people are catching it.”
The FedEx spokeswoman said the scam has been going on for about three weeks, with variations in wording and dates.
“The original one said 'post rider,'” Joyce said. “That's a foreign term. We don't say 'post rider.' Just the wording is off. One of our managers actually got the e-mail, so we had a chance to see it."
Fortunately, Joyce said she hasn't heard any reports about viruses or computer bugs from the bogus receipt download.
"We've had lots of different scams over the years, but this one is just different because it doesn't seem to do anything,” she said.
Joyce said she's heard of someone who tried to download it and said it was just a bunch of gibberish.
“I don't know why they're doing this unless it's just to aggravate people," she added. "It's very annoying.”
The e-mail states, “Your parcel has arrived at the post office,” leading to further confusion.
Holly Viening, a clerk at the post office in Spring Lake, said at least one local resident brought in a copy of the e-mail.
“When people do come in, we look at it and it usually does look like a scam," Viening said. "This is nothing that the post office would be sending out. We make a copy of it and have the postmaster look at it.”
The FedEx spokeswoman said it's a terrible time of year for scammers to be preying on people. And, in a time when packages should be the top priority, Joyce said FedEx employees are spending much of their time explaining to people who received the e-mail that there is no package to pick up.
“It's prompting hundreds of people to call,” she said. “A lot of them are going to the post office. I almost wish they would call me before going there so they don't waste their time.”
Should you receive such an e-mail, Joyce advises to simply delete it.
“I'm sure this will continue after Christmas,” she added. “Then it will die down and go away until a few months later when some other crazy thing comes along.”
If you believe you've been targeted in a scam or are concerned about correspondence you have received, the Michigan Attorney General's Office asks that you contact:
Consumer Protection Division, P.O. Box 30213, Lansing, MI 48909. Phone toll-free: 877-765-8388. Online complaint form: michigan.gov/ag