Empty Package Scalping

Empty package scalping is an e-commerce scheme where an online business will inflate successful package delivery statistics on popular e-commerce platforms by mailing and then tracking successful delivery of fake or empty packages. This e-commerce fraud was first discovered when used by several popular online shops in China where the merchants worked with established shipping and delivery service providers to inflate positive shipping records.

How the Scheme Works

In this scheme the victims have personal information, including their name and mailing address leaked to the unscrupulous e-commerce store owners who then ship lightweight “junk” packages or empty padded envelopes to the international address.

An investigative report by The Beijing News (2016) revealed that several online shop owners had inflated sales statistics though fake package deliveries by using “empty package” service websites and delivery services. In some cases the shop owner would provide a known statement on the package, such as “Already Inspected” and the carrier would know to dispose of the package and mark it as delivered. Other times, victims with leaked personal information would receive a package, often scraps of paper, pieces of cloth, tissue and other useless items. To date, the victims of empty package scalping scheme has not been linked to other types of fraud.

empty package fraud

Image Description: This Imgur Facebook post claims to show an unexpected parcel mailed from China, an example of package scalping.

Better Numbers Boost Confidence

The goal, for the e-commerce merchant, is to inflate online sales and store ratings in order to give potential shoppers the confidence to make a purchase. When a customer notes a high rate of successfully shipped items they put more trust in the online shop and are willing to do business with the merchant. While there has been little media and legal coverage on the topic of empty package scalping, people who receive these packages have taken to social media and picture sharing sites to display images of the contents of the fraudulent packages.

Package Scalping is Not Brushing

Empty package scalping is similar to, but not the same as brushing, another type of e-commerce fraud where merchants arrange in advance to send empty boxes to “brushers” who make purchases on the e-commerce website or platform. In brushing, the buyer agrees to write positive reviews of the transaction in exchange for the return of the purchase price and an additional brushing fee.

Vangie Beal
Vangie Beal
Vangie Beal is a freelance business and technology writer covering Internet technologies and online business since the late '90s.

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