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Coronavirus

New scam spreading online: Grocery orders stolen before being delivered

It’s been a rough few weeks, but the fruits of our social distancing efforts are finally starting to pay off. The spread of the virus seems to have slowed significantly, and early death projections are being revised in favor of much smaller ones.

This is mostly thanks to people’s willingness to stay at home, as well as our impressive amount of delivery services and industries around the country. Tap or click here to find out how to keep your Amazon packages clean.

As with any service, though, more moving parts means more chances for things to go wrong. And now, people waiting on grocery deliveries have encountered scammers who make off with their food and money without ever bringing it. If you plan on ordering groceries, here’s what you need to do to protect yourself.

From happy to hungry in seconds flat

In the halcyon days of early 2020, grocery delivery was seen as a convenience rather than a necessity. It’s a shame, really, since many of the services like Amazon Pantry were quick to deliver and full of delicious options for meals.

But flash forward just a few months and companies that handle grocery delivery are overwhelmed by demand. In light of COVID-19, Amazon is now no longer accepting new grocery delivery customers — instead, putting them on a waiting list so they can prioritize existing orders.

This comes after an apparent 60% surge in demand, which has now snarled grocery deliveries to the point where they take several days to arrive. Tap or click here to see the proper way to disinfect the food you order.

And when business booms, scammers also look for opportunities to sneak in and make a quick buck. Customers for companies like Instacart are also experiencing slowdowns in their deliveries, but that’s not the only thing going wrong. Some have also reported scam-shoppers that buy their groceries and disappear without a trace.

On The Kim Komando Show, Kim spoke with her friend Jackie, who experienced this exact scam. While communicating with the shopper during checkout, the person mysteriously vanished. During her communications with him, he seemed strangely quiet and mentioned that certain items were “out of stock” despite Jackie knowing better.

Jackie waited hours for her food to arrive, but the person never came by with her delivery. It seems, somehow, he made off with her order and disappeared. After that, she spent more than an hour on hold with Instacart support to get her order rectified.

Needless to say, Jackie isn’t alone. The Better Business Bureau has seen numerous scam reports and complaints from dissatisfied customers, with a big spike from mid-March through April.

When times turn desperate, it’s not uncommon for theft to spike. And with food shortages happening across several cities, one can expect this kind of scam to keep happening.

Pay safe, stay safe

If your delivery order suddenly vanishes on you, you don’t have to be a victim. Here are some steps you can take to protect yourself and your money:

  • Avoid paying for Instacart directly with your credit card. Instead, choose Paypal as your preferred way to pay, since Paypal can help you resolve any money issues much faster than Instacart’s customer service. Tap or click here to find out more about Paypal and other safe ways to pay online.
  • Stay in communication with your delivery person throughout the experience, and write down their name. You may be asked to provide it in the event of a dispute.
  • Try to keep your orders simple, and avoid vague measurements and quantities that could confuse the delivery person (or give them an opportunity to steal). As an example, ask for a pre-filled bag of potatoes rather than potatoes by the pound, since it’d be much easier for them to “skim off the top” and take some without you noticing.
  • In spite of everything, be courteous to your delivery-person. They’re facing significant dangers by venturing outdoors in public spaces and risking viral exposure. The work they’re doing is helping people like us flatten the curve and maintain social distancing.

If delivery doesn’t feel worth the risk to you, there’s always the option to go shopping yourself. You’re increasing your chance for viral exposure, as stated above, but with protective gear and some basic precautions, you can reduce your risk considerably:

We all need food, and delivery is as good an option as ever. Just keep your eyes peeled and prepare for the unexpected. What happens in quarantine stays in quarantine.

The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have regarding a medical condition, advice, or health objectives.

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