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Be careful of opening unexpected packages — you could end up the victim of a 'reshipping scam'

Posted at 10:37 AM, Dec 04, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-04 12:42:04-05

GRAND ISLAND, N.Y. — On Wednesday, Diedre Rutherford of Grand Island said she received a massive package outside her home. Inside the package were hundreds of smaller packages, all addressed to people in Canada.

"This box was packed full. It was heavy," she said. "It's going to be expensive to ship it back."

Eager to open what she thought might have been a gift from a family member, Rutherford rushed to open the package.

"I opened it up, and I initially thought that this packaging was packaging around whatever was stuck in the middle of this box," she said. "I kept digging, and no, there was nothing in there. Just more of these packages."

When Rutherford realized the package must have been sent by mistake, she tried to return it to the post office, but she said it was denied.

"They said the box was addressed to you. You opened, it's yours," Rutherford said.

Now, she's stuck with hundreds of little packages.

"It's like I've been hired to do something," she said.

Melanie McGovern of the Better Business Bureau says Rutherford was likely the victim of a "reshipping scam," where a company will send a package to a random recipient and ask them to send it out to other people.

"A lot of times, you're never going to get reimbursed for the money that you spend shipping. You don't know what's in the packaging. It could be things that are illegal," McGovern said.

McGovern says companies can get a hold of a victim's shipping information when they apply to things like stay at home warehouse jobs or online Secret Santa sign-ups.

"A lot of people fall for this scam, especially during the pandemic," she said. "We did see a little bit of an increase in this, especially in the beginning of the year."

McGovern says anyone who receives a package that's been addressed to them that they didn't order should hold off on opening it right away.

"Check that return address. Look it up. See if it's a legitimate company or not," she said. "You don't want to end up on some weird mailing list like it sounds like she did in this situation. So keep track of that stuff."

From now on, Rutherford said she's going to be extra careful when it comes to opening packages.

"I would warn people to do the same thing," she said. "Look at the return address on the box before you open it to see if it looks like it's from a company that has a name and that it sounds like it's from someplace instead of just a random warehouse in New Jersey."

Raymond Williams, an inspector at the United States Postal Office, says anyone who receives a miscellaneous package should call the 24-7 USPS hotline at 1-877-876-2455. Callers should ask to speak to law enforcement and operators will direct them to the proper official.

This story was originally published by Jeddy Johnson on WKBW in Buffalo.