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Scam watch: would you smell a rat if you had an unexpected delivery?

Scam delivery

If a brand new and fairly expensive mobile phone unexpectedly appeared on your doorstep one day, what would you do? One Which? member sensed this was a scam and contacted us for advice…

Which? member Ed Cole told us:

‘I recently received a package from BT containing an expensive new mobile phone. As I hadn’t ordered anything, I contacted BT and discovered the order had been placed the previous week.

‘A deposit had been paid into my account and a contract initiated. BT advised that this was a scam whereby the scammers attempt to intercept the delivery on the doorstep. They then claim it was not delivered and ask for their deposit back, so they end up with the phone for no cost.

‘While I had noticed emails advising of a potential delivery, I assumed they were spam as I wasn’t expecting anything.

‘Thankfully, I was present when the phone was delivered, otherwise the whole scam could have occurred before the first monthly payment was taken.

‘I feel lucky to have intercepted this scam before it got going.’

Scam deliveries

Scammers ordering and attempting to intercept high-value packages is a fairly common scam. This usually happens when criminals manage to get hold of your personal details to place the order.

If they fail to intercept the delivery in the street, they will often pose as a courier and try to collect the ‘wrongly delivered’ item from your house.

Smelling something dodgy and contacting the sender, which was BT in this case, as quickly as possible and ultimately sending the package back was absolutely the right thing to do. By doing so you should protect yourself if any direct debits were set up in your name.

If a courier comes to collect an item at your home, always ask them for ID before handing anything over. It’s also important to contact the police and Action Fraud, too.

The sad matter is that identity fraud is on the rise in the UK – according to anti-fraud body Cifas there were 173,000 cases last year.

Scammers can get your personal details from a number of sources, whether it’s visible on your social media accounts or even on the open electoral register.

We’ve created a fraud risk quiz to help you understand how at risk you could be, and guide you through the steps to help protect yourself from such scams.

Have you ever received an unexpected delivery like this? How did you react? Was it difficult to resolve the situation?


Delivery e. mails would be enough to cause alarm and the need to phone the supplier directly. If the package was stolen from the doorstep or the courier before delivery, it might be some time before the victim realised that this had happened. The fake courier arriving to collect the parcel (in your introduction) could be an un-nerving experience, if he/she was aggressive. I would probably also refuse delivery of any parcel that I had not ordered. The delivery company would have to return it to the supplier. There’s lots of ifs and buts here, but danger signals would probably manifest themselves in time to do something about the problem. If all this occurred when away from the house, on holiday, it, again, might be some time before it was possible to put things right, but an illegal debit from the bank account ought to be reversible when the truth is known.

Max says:
24 April 2017

I get 10 or so emails a day (all spam) claiming to be from companies I have no dealings with, detailing some sort of delivery issue. Either with a link to click to track a parcel or some other attempt to get malware onto my PC. Delivery emails don’t cause alarm, they go to my spam folder and get deleted without reading. Unless I’m expecting them.


I dont do Internet banking nor internet money transactions but that isnt the only way scammers can get your bank details. Head to the “home of scamming ” the USA where its an art form , so much so that serious economic+government websites in the USA try to help the US public. Scam #1- check over-payment fraud-fraudulent buyer pays with a non-cash payment for more than the amount owed >seller asked to pay immediate deposit and wire difference to buyer , check will bounce -#2- charity fraud -landline-call for donations to a charity > caller elicits info on your bank details .#3- cashing a cheque for a stranger-dont . #4- work-at-home jobs scam >job offer call to you requiring your bank info to transfer funds through their personal accounts by offering “a commission ” . #5- award scams-you “win £1million ” >asked to pay government taxes , your banking info required , there is more and some of this wont apply to UK citizens but it is rife in the US and goes to show many scammers should be working in a different industry ( maybe the advertising industry ? ) ( just kidding ) . Although this is an Australian government website I recommend it to posters to read : https://www.scamwatch.gov.au/get-help/protect-yourself-from-scams

Chris Jopp says:
23 April 2017

What happens if the fraudsters don’t manage to intercept the parcel and it ends up getting delivered? I’ve often wondered where people would stand if they decided to keep the item rather than contact the company concerned, what if there’s no paperwork inside the parcel for instance and no payments have been taken from your bank or credit card account? Does make you wonder if people are always honest enough to contact the company and if not could they be deemed to have been in receipt of stolen goods?


If you keep the item, even though you didn’t order it in person, you’ll be expected to pay up the bill comes for it. If you refused, you might be liable for prosecution on the basis of “theft by finding”.

Joan says:
23 April 2017

This happened to me. Phone from talk talk. Ended up having to contact solicitor as ended up with poor credit score and debt collector. Fortunately had emails I’d sent to talk talk saying I’d had delivery of phone neither ordered or wanted. Took a long time to sort.


My brother was also involved in a similar scam. He received a final demand for payment from a well known mail order company for items he had neither ordered nor received.

He was able to argue that none of this was doing or his fault, and the company eventually withdrew the bill.

At the time, I thought the catalogue company was largely to blame. In its greed for sales and profits, it seemed to have next to nothing in the way of identity or credit checks when receiving requests for new credit accounts and orders under them for goods.

Bishbut says:
24 April 2017

Scams,scams scams a new one every day You have to have your wits about you to live in this “modern”world yet some people will always fall for the simplest and well published scam .They will not read ,listen to any advice they are given Not everyone reads Which either

debbyb007 says:
13 September 2018

Mobile phone from O2 delivered today but not ordered by any of our family, a letter arrived first the parcel a few hours later. Both had the same name but not our family name. the letter was sent unopened back to sender. the parcel was also sent back to o2 and we refused to sign for it. the delivery driver told us we could keep it !!!! I saw some advice about this scam and alarm bells started to ring loud and clear. WE have called o2 to let them know about this scam. I am now sat waiting to see if the 2nd delivery imposter turns up to collect this parcel. Not sure if we should also let the police know ?