The FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center has issued a warning about individuals or companies that reference alleged "newly enacted" COVID-19 shipping laws, regulations, or insurance requirements with the purpose of charging additional fees before the delivery of a product. Examples of this criminal activity include demanding fraudulent COVID-19 insurance fees after the purchase for the delivery of live pets from online U.S. websites. There are also reports of criminal actors fraudulently collecting "refundable" maritime insurance fees, citing fake COVID-19 laws.
The following are indicators of possible scams or fraudulent activity:
- The reference to "new" laws or regulations resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic and refusal to provide additional information;
- Requiring additional charges or fees before delivery of a product;
- Repeatedly providing excuses for delivery delays, including citing COVID-19 laws, regulations, or requirements;
- Requesting money be paid to an unknown third party (e.g., warehouse, insurance company, or shipping company);
- Stating that any required fees, payments, or deposits will be refunded or reimbursed later; and
- Inability to make direct contact with shipper or manufacturer by phone or email (disconnected lines, lack of response, etc.).
Here’s how to protect yourself:
- Never give out personal or financial information to a person or company you do not know and trust;
- Always verify the information of manufacturers, shipping companies, and service providers before making payments;
- Be wary of unsolicited messages claiming that a delivery is being held until payment is received, especially if you or your business have not placed any orders or expect to receive any deliveries; and
- Research and verify that any laws or shipping requirements related to COVID-19 are legitimate before sending payment.
If you believe you are the victim of an Internet scam or cybercrime, or to report suspicious activity, please visit the FBI's Internet Crime Complaint Center at www.ic3.gov or call your local FBI office.