Call-Tag Scam and Re-Shippers
Although most new scams are simply variants on old ones, the Internet age and global communication has brought fresh ideas to crime. In 2005 the call-tag scam began to emerge again after a period lying fallow.
Six of the top online retailers have been victims, and in America it's reached such a level that the Merchant Risk Council has been working with retailers to combat it. A variant on the call-tag is the re-shipper scam that has been working for a few years.
How They WorkWith the call-tag scam, criminals use stolen credit card information and purchase goods online to be sent to the legitimate cardholder. When the criminal receives the tracking information via email, he calls the cardholder, identifying himself as the merchant that shipped the goods. He claims the item was shipped in error, and asks permission to pick it up upon receipt. Then the criminal arranges for a different courier to pickup with a "call tag" - a step called "skipping" carriers, to avoid suspicion, and often using a stolen corporate account. The second courier is an innocent party, dispatching the goods to the criminal. Nothing comes to light until the cardholder sees an unauthorised charge in his card and complains to his credit card company.
Re-shippers exploit innocent parties to ship goods abroad using stolen credit cards. They recruit their victims via dating sites (the "Nigerian" version), job postings (the "Russian" version) or e-mail spam (the "Chinese" version). Items are bought online with the stolen cards and shipped to the victim. The criminal then sends address labels to re-ship the goods to his home address via a courier. Once they've gone, the criminal ends all communication. Often the victim discovers that the re-shipping account has been started in their name, and they face a huge bill.
How To Prevent The ScamWith a call-tag scam, the first notification a victim has is when the criminal calls, claiming to be a merchant who's sent the goods in error. And since all the information is credible and verifiable, it's usually impossible to stop before it happens. However, you can help to eliminate it:
- Ask for a phone number to call the "merchant" back. Check it to make sure it's real.
- Don't agree to have the item picked up by a courier. Inform them you will deliver it to the courier office yourself, and ask for their account number. A legitimate company will supply it.
- Scrutinize your credit card statement carefully, and challenge any suspicious charges.
- Be wary of any online offers, be they romantic, employment or business.
- If you receive a request to ship goods, refuse.
- Don't allow yourself to be pressured into agreement.
- If you should agree to re-ship, be absolutely certain who is responsible for the bill first. Contact the courier and make sure.
- If you're suspicious, contact the police.
What To Do If You're ScammedThe losers with call-tag scams are merchants. Given the sharp rise in this type of crime, they've been taking steps to actively track down the perpetrators. When they contact you, give your full co-operation. It's in the interests of merchants, couriers and consumers to track down the criminals.
If you're the victim of a re-shipper, you can try contacting the courier, supplying all the documentation you have. Sadly, if the account was opened in your name, you might still have to pay shipping charges. But some shippers are willing to work with you if you can prove you've been scammed, especially if you can provide information that helps them catch the perpetrator.