The Covid-19 pandemic completely changed how many people communicate and do business online. With more transactions moving to digital platforms like online shopping and remote work, it’s created new opportunities for scammers. One scam on the rise is fake messages impersonating the US Postal Service (USPS) on WhatsApp.
Like text message scams before them, these USPS WhatsApp scams are becoming increasingly common and sophisticated. Scammers are exploiting people’s expectations of privacy and trust on platforms like WhatsApp to steal personal details and money. If not addressed, they could end up scamming many unsuspecting users.
In this in-depth guide, I’ll break down everything you need to know about the emerging threat of USPS WhatsApp scams. By understanding how they work and what to watch out for, you’ll be fully equipped to spot and avoid them. You’ll also learn proactive steps to take to protect yourself and help raise awareness.
Let’s get started!
How USPS WhatsApp Scams Work
USPS WhatsApp scams follow a similar pattern to text message variants. Scammers send messages impersonating the postal service and containing a link to a malicious website or phone number. Their goal is to steal personal information like account passwords, credit card details or bank login credentials.
Specifically, here are the typical stages of a USPS WhatsApp scam attempt:
1. Initial contact message – The scammer will send a WhatsApp message claiming to be from USPS. It’ll say something is needed to complete a package delivery, such as contact details or payment info.
2. Link or phone number provided – The message includes a link to a fake USPS website or a phone number to call. Both are controlled by the scammers. The original USPS website is and will always end with usps.com or xxx.usps.com or usps.com/xxx
3. Phishing site or call – If the link or number is engaged with, the victim is taken to a phishing site designed to steal login credentials. Or in a call, they’ll be pressured for sensitive financial details.
4. Personal details compromised – Any information disclosed like passwords or banking info allows scammers to access accounts, make fraudulent purchases or commit identity theft.
5. Repeat targeting of contacts – The scammers now have access to your WhatsApp contacts, empowering them to target your friends and family with similar scam messages.
What makes USPS WhatsApp scams effective is they masquerade as a trusted brand on a personal messaging platform people let their guard down on. By understanding how they operate, it helps identify the warning signs to avoid falling victim.
Variations on the USPS WhatsApp Scam Theme
While following the same overall formula, scammers are getting increasingly creative with their USPS WhatsApp scams. Here are some common variations I’ve seen cropping up:
Package delivery confirmation – Messages saying a package was unable to be delivered and requesting delivery details be provided via the link.
Missing/incorrect address on package – Claims the recipient address was missing or incorrect, so details must be confirmed.
Unpaid customs/shipping fees – States there are unpaid taxes/fees to release an international package delivery.
Covid-19 screening form – Requests completing an online “health questionnaire” via link for “contactless delivery”.
“Urgent” package return – States a package needs to be returned immediately and provides a number to arrange pickup.
Button links instead of URLs – Links designed to appear more native to WhatsApp like logos or button clicks.
Fake USPS support numbers – Numbers that connect victims to chatbots posing as customer service for info harvesting.
Spoofed contact names – The sender is spoofed to appear as a contact rather than “USPS” to seem more genuine.
It’s clear scammers are getting craftier in their attempts. Staying aware of new variants helps avoid being deceived by increasingly sophisticated ploys.
Common USPS WhatsApp Scam Red Flags
While scammers try hard to seem legitimate, there are always tells that reveal a message is fraudulent if you know what to look for. Here are some key red flags to watch out for in potential USPS WhatsApp scams:
- Unsolicited/unexpected message about a package
- Requests for sensitive info like banking or ID documents
- Includes links or numbers instead of official contact options
- Poor spelling, grammar, or unusual message formatting
- Requests for immediate action without verifying details
- Threats of legal action or package return if no response
- Messages from unknown/unsaved contacts instead of USPS
- Requests to contact numbers outside US or normal business hours
- Spoofed images, logos, or branding not consistent with USPS
- Sender name/number can’t be verified on official USPS website
Paying close attention to irregularities in messages will help you discern potentially fraudulent behavior from the real deal. Scammers often slip up and reveal themselves through sloppy deception tactics if one looks closely.
Reporting & Blocking USPS WhatsApp Scam Messages
If you receive a questionable USPS message on WhatsApp, don’t take any actions within the message itself like clicking links. Instead, take steps to report and block it:
1. Screenshot the message – For evidence and to share with authorities later if needed.
2. Block the sender – Go to the individual chat, tap the three dot menu, choose “Block” to prevent further contact.
3. Report to WhatsApp – In the chat, tap the three dot menu and select “Report” to flag spam/scams to WhatsApp.
4. Report to authorities – You can report scam texts/calls to the US Postal Inspection Service at 877-876-2455 or submit a report online.
5. Warn your contacts – Share awareness of the scam with your friends/family on WhatsApp to help protect others too.
Taking quick action to report and block scam messages aids in stamping them out. Your reports help build dataset profiles to help platforms and law enforcement tackle such fraudulent operations.
Additional USPS WhatsApp Scam Prevention Tips
Beyond simply spotting scams as they come, there are proactive steps you can take to better defend against them on WhatsApp:
- Enable two-step verification for added account security
- Be wary of clicking links or providing info without verifying requests
- Avoid revealing too much personal details publicly online
- Regularly back up your phone to external storage as a precaution
- Use strong, unique passwords for email/financial accounts
- Monitor statements closely for suspicious activity/charges
- Educate elderly relatives who may be more easily targeted
- Consider setting WhatsApp to only allow contacts vs everyone
Adopting safer online behaviors and security best practices makes it far less likely scammers can successfully target or compromise you in the first place. Ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!
Conclusion – Staying Ahead of Scammers in the Ongoing “Arms Race”
On the whole, this should serve as the go-to resource on understanding and counteracting the growing threat of USPS WhatsApp scams. By fully exposing their techniques and equipping readers, it aims to help many avoid falling prey. But the challenge remains an ongoing “arms race” as scammers evolve new deceptions.
So what is the key takeaway? Remaining proactively vigilant through awareness and cautious online behavior is paramount. While technology and law enforcement play important roles, individual defense is the front line against scams.
FAQ about USPS WhatsApp scams
Q: What personal details do scammers want most from these scams?
A: The most valuable info for scammers is financial credentials like banking login and payment card details. However, they’ll often settle for less to re-sell personal profiles. Common asks include full name, address, email, phone number and date of birth.
Q: How could scammers access my WhatsApp if I don’t click links or give info?
A: It’s rare but possible if your phone is already compromised, such as through a separate malware or phishing attack. The best prevention is keeping devices and apps updated while practicing caution interacting with unknown contacts and links.
Q: What is spoofing and how do scammers do it on WhatsApp?
A: Spoofing means disguising the identity of the sender. On WhatsApp, scammers can spoof their sender display name or number profile picture to masquerade as contacts or brands like USPS. They achieve this through hacking tools and stolen identity credential databases.
Q: Are WhatsApp Business accounts also targeted by these scams?
A: Yes, business WhatsApp accounts are absolutely vulnerable too. Scammers do not discriminate, so companies must practice the same level of vigilance as individuals when interacting with unknown messages on the platform.
Q: Can scammers access my WhatsApp without any action from me?
A: No, accessing someone’s WhatsApp account directly without any interaction would require an advanced hack. Scammers rely on social engineering through deceptive messages to trick victims into willingly providing access to their accounts or personal details. Staying aware thwarts these attempts.
Q: What other carriers or brands have been impersonated in similar scams?
A: Common brand impersonations besides USPS include FedEx, UPS, DHL, Amazon and Apple. Financial firms like banks and PayPal have also been spoofed. Essentially any trusted household name represents an opportunity for scammers to pose as.
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