Using middlemen in any industry or in private deals always has two sides. One is the benefits the parties get from using a mediator, the other is risk. When it comes to using middlemen in online trade, the risks are even higher. Even though package forwarding is not an exception and the risk of being scammed in this industry exists, there are a few recommendations on how to ensure your package forwarding company is legit and trustworthy.
What is package forwarding?
Package forwarding, also referred to as parcel forwarding, postal forwarding or re-shipping, is an international service offered by companies or individuals to shoppers who need help with shipping from overseas stores.
Package forwarding order example:
James, USA, found Nintendo Classic Mini at Italian Amazon. The store ships to addresses within Italy only. To get the item, James uses help of an Italian package forwarder, who gives him an Italian address for shopping, receives his package at that address and re-ships the package to his US address.
Package forwarding is becoming more and more popular among cross-border shoppers these days for a number of reasons:
Extensive growth of ecommerce and marketing reach through social media.
Shipping limitations of many online stores, when foreign customers can’t get the desired goods shipped to their country.
Transit safety and insurance options offered by some providers.
The price difference between original stores and local ones.
Growing income per capita and increasing interest in exclusive and unique goods in many developed countries.
The service is provided by package forwarders to help consumers get rid of the problems with shipping, payment, and language barrier. The service can be provided by either companies or private individuals through person-to-person (peer-to-peer, p2p) platforms. In this article we’ll focus mainly on package forwarding communities and how to ensure a safe experience if you deal with them.
Is package forwarding safe for re-shippers?
If you Google ‘package forwarding scam’, you will find lots of stories of how private re-shippers got scammed by companies, offering jobs at home and easy money for re-packaging and re-shipping goods internationally. Those who applied for such jobs and accepted the offers, were either left without pay or, what is much worse, became involved in money laundering or stolen credit card schemes.
If you accept the job and the company is a fraud, you’ll risk receiving packages containing one of three things:
Merchandise bought with stolen credit cards - the scammer needs your help to smuggle the goods out of the country.
Counterfeit postal money orders - the scammer wants your help to distribute them to other scammers.
Unknown contents and a ‘Return to sender’ label on the box. If you receive a package with a ‘Return to Sender’ label on it affixed by Postal Inspectors, and you didn’t mail the package, you may be the victim of an illegal credit card scheme. Postal Inspectors suggest you check your account with your credit card issuer or bank.
How to avoid this type of re-shipping scam
According to the United States Postal Inspection Service, the ultimate advice here is to forget about re-shipping as a home job at all. There are many other legitimate and safe ways to earn money without the risk of ending up in jail. But it would be hasty to blame every package forwarding service for commiting fraud.
Package forwarding is safe when you re-ship packages to a person who actually bought those goods or if you act as a buyer on their behalf. At Parcl, for example, forwarders help real people ship goods from real stores, which means that the forwarder has full control of the shipment: they know what they will receive, from what store, who the shopper is.
What helps package forwarders at such communities feel safe and protected is that all payments are processed through PayPal. The transactions are transparent, forwarders always know whom they are receiving payments from.
Another tip to those who are passionate about forwarding packages as a home-based job is to try to collect as much information about the potential employer as possible. No matter how trustworthy their website might look, they could be using private re-shippers for fraudulent activities. Use the following patterns when searching for information online:
Next, email them regarding the job and call their representative. Find out how they are going to pay you, who will be the sender and recipient of the items. But even if they interviewed you by phone, it doesn’t mean they are legit. For example, in 2012 a victim of package forwarding scam was interviewed by a person called ‘Terry Miller’. ‘Terry’ had a heavy arabic accent, but the person took the job and became an unwitting accomplice in a stolen credit card scheme. The company involved in this case was USAforwarding.com, which is now closed for obvious reasons.
If you believe you’re a victim of one of these scams, we strongly recommend that you consult with a lawyer regarding your further actions first, and then contact police.
Is package forwarding safe for shoppers?
In most cases ‘package forwarding scam’ stories are related to people who took re-shipping jobs for scam companies. But if we are talking about a person-to-person service where packages are shipped from an individual in country A to an individual in country B, shoppers can be at risk as well.
The biggest risk here is paying a forwarder for shipping, purchasing goods from a store using their address, and not receiving goods at all without a chance of getting a refund. This is how it works:
1 - Shopper requests delivery of valuable items.
2 - Fraudulent forwarder makes a super attractive shipping offer with the price much lower than competitors’ quotes.
3 - Shopper accepts the offer and uses the forwarder’s address when purchasing items at a foreign store.
4 - Forwarder receives the package and disappears.
5 - Shopper requests a full refund, but they can only get a small shipping fee refunded. The price of the items purchased can’t be refunded, because the store’s tracking records show that the package was delivered.
This is what we recommend shoppers in order to minimize the risk of this type of fraud:
If you’re using a package forwarding service for the first time, do not buy valuable things. It’s better to test if the forwarder is reliable with a smaller amount.
Request the ‘Purchase assistance’ service. This way you will be able to get a full refund via PayPal even if the forwarder disappears with your items.
Do not accept offers where shipping is considerably cheaper compared to competitors. You can also go to the postal service website and make a quick postage calculation to get an idea of what it might cost to ship your buys from the store’s country to your address.
Use PayPal for transactions, do not accept any off-site payment method offered by a forwarder. In most cases it is a sign of fraud.
Whether you are looking for a work-from-home opportunity, or a way to get goods shipped from a foreign store, do your research and select a safe package forwarding service based on the information you collect.