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Is ‘US9514961195221’ a scam?

The United States Postal Inspection Service (USPIS) issued an alert earlier this month, warning people of a smishing scam where users received an SMS seemingly from the United States Postal Service (USPS) saying there was an issue with their package delivery.

To make the message appear legitimate, the SMS sometimes contained a generic or old tracking ID similar to ‘US9514961195221’.

So, ‘Is ‘US9514961195221′ a scam?’ Yes, it is.

The SMS you received is likely a smishing scam if you have not sent or aren’t expecting a parcel from the USPS if you have not opted for their text tracking service, and if the message uses a false sense of urgency, asking for immediate action like clicking on a link.

Also read: What are PayPal text scams?


How to spot a USPS smishing?

Smishing is a type of scam that uses phishing tactics like spoofing or imitating a reputable source or website, in this case, the USPS, to send an SMS asking the user to click on a link and fill in details to help resolve an issue. The issues are usually along the lines of ‘your package is on hold’ or ‘your package cannot be delivered’.

The smishing link leads the user to a website that looks like the source’s official website. The website is designed to collect your personal information or financial details. It could also be a set-up for a drive-by download attack wherein, once the user visits the website, malicious software (malware) is automatically downloaded on the user’s machine.

The end goal of a USPS smishing scam can range from financial fraud to identity theft.

A representation of an SMS postal scam | Photo: mundissima / Shutterstock.com

If you receive an SMS that asks you to click on a link to provide your details or to pay a fee, check for the signs below to know whether it is a smishing attempt:

  • Signs of urgency – Any phishing scam creates urgency with their messaging to persuade users to take immediate action. The ‘account on hold’ email or SMS is a common hook. In the USPS smishing scam, the attackers scare the users into thinking their parcel is at risk.
  • Check the source – If you are subscribed to emails or SMS from the source company, check previous messages or emails to look for signs of anomaly. Check the logo placement, message format, email address or phone number, and other identifiable details.
  • Spelling errors – Although attackers are becoming increasingly meticulous in impersonating well-known companies, phishing messages have been known to have spelling errors and grammatical errors. Make sure to scan the message for such mistakes.
  • Seeking personal information – Smishing scams aim to trick you into sharing your personal information or financial details through a link in their message to steal it for malicious purposes.
  • Link in the message – Smishing messages by themselves can’t cause harm. The real problem is when a user clicks on the malicious link present in the message. Smishing messages will urge you to click on a link to enter your personally identifiable information (PII), like your name, social security number, address, and financial details, or to pay a fee to resolve the claimed issue.
  • Additional fees – If the message asks you to click on the link to enter your bank details to pay additional charges or a fee to resolve the issue immediately, it could be a smishing scam.

Also read: What to do if you click on a phishing link?


4 things to do if the ‘US9514961195221’ scam targeted you

The ‘US9514961195221’ scam is one of the types of messaging used by scammers impersonating the USPS. You may receive other similar messages like ‘Package on Hold’, Package not Delivered’, at times accompanied with a tracking number similar to ‘US9514961195221’.

Look for the signs of smishing mentioned above, even if the SMS you received does not have the same tracking number mentioned here.

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Scammers target people with the USPS smishing scam, knowing that at least a few would have recently sent a package via the postal service. The scam is all the more believable when you have sent a package and would take additional steps, sometimes in haste, to ensure that your package isn’t held up or lost in transit.

Clicking on any links, emailing or calling contacts provided in the suspicious SMS will lead you to scammers impersonating the source company. The best approach is to take a step back and thoroughly cross-check the details and status of your package directly from the official website and the tracking ID you received when sending the package.


Confirm with the USPS

If you didn’t send a package through the USPS or aren’t expecting one and still receive a message, email or phone call from them claiming there’s an issue with your package, it is almost certainly a scam.

  • If you recently did send a package through the USPS or are to receive one, rule out the possibility of receiving any communication regarding the package if you have not manually opted for it. USPS requires you to send them instructions to track your package and send updates via SMS.
  • In case you have opted for their tracking and updating service, go to their official website and enter the tracking number you were provided at the time of sending the parcel to cross-check its status. You can contact customer support from the official USPS website to clarify whether there is an issue with your package. If the message you received has a tracking number, compare it with the one you were provided to check if it matches.

If there is a mismatch between your inquiry and the claims made in the message you received, you can rule it as a scam and promptly report it to the USPS or USPIS.


Report the scam to USPS or USPIS

If you clicked on the link from the smishing scam and entered personal or financial details, take a screenshot of the message, copy the contents of the message, including the number of the sender and any information you divulged and:

  1. Send it to the USPIS email, spam@uspis.gov or the USPS cybersecurity operations centre by email at cybersafe@usps.gov or call at 866-877-7247.
  2. Or forward the smishing message/SMS to 7726 for assistance reporting the scammer’s phone number.

When reporting the scam, USPIS suggests adding details in the email, like whether you clicked on the link, divulged your details, or paid any fees.


Inform your bank

If you clicked on the smishing link and entered your financial details or paid a fee, immediately contact your bank and inform them of the fraud. As a precaution, you can freeze your credit and debit cards to contain further financial losses.


Run a malware scan

There are chances malware has been downloaded onto your laptop if you click on a smishing link. Run a scan with a trusted anti-virus and anti-malware software to delete malicious files or programs from your system.

Also read: Is Primerica a scam?

Vanashree Chowdhury

Vanashree Chowdhury

Being a tech enthusiast, Vanashree enjoys writing about technology and cybersecurity. She is a designer and marketer by profession and is deeply passionate about working on campaigns for social issues. You can contact her here: vanashreec@protonmail.com

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