Skip to main content

Press Releases

Montgomery County’s Office of Consumer Protection Warns About Increasing Activity of ‘Porch Pirates’ and ‘Mock Mailers’ During the Holidays

For Immediate Release: Thursday, November 7, 2019

The Montgomery County Office of Consumer Protection is warning residents about two scams that increase in volume during the holiday season. One involves “porch pirates” targeting deliveries for theft. The other comes through the Postal Service in the form of “mock mail” that gets holiday-distracted residents concerned about their vehicles or the status of their mortgages.

“Porch pirates really are shoplifters who are moving their thefts from the store to your door,” said Eric Friedman, the County’s Director of the Office of Consumer Protection. “They may be stealing items that you ordered—or they may be stealing items that they ordered in your name by stealing your identity and having items mailed to your home. These criminals sometimes follow UPS, FedEx, and Amazon trucks and scoop up packages as they are dropped off.  But people can take action to help avoid being victims.”
Tips to combat porch pirates:

• Track your packages online so that they can be retrieved quickly.
• Consider shipping packages to your work address.
• Consider in-store pickups where available.
• Install a front-door security camera, spotlight or lockbox—thieves do not like cameras.
• If items are stolen, promptly file a claim with the merchant and shipping vendor.

Another issue at this time of year comes with the increased volume of mail and the feeling that certain things must be addressed before the end of the year. Mock mailers are ready to take advantage of those conditions.

“Consumers likely will be receiving mailings that look important, but that really are designed to fool them,” said OCP Director Friedman. “The letters are skillfully crafted to lead consumers into believing that the mail is from their car manufacturer or their mortgage company. However, they are tricks—and can become very costly ones for those who are not careful.”

One form of mock mail coming from third-party auto warranty companies typically contains bold print saying: “VEHICLE ALERT NOTICE,” “YOUR FACTORY WARRANTY IS ABOUT TO EXPIRE,” or “THIS IS YOUR FINAL NOTICE.”  Consumers are easily fooled because these letters may also contain correct information regarding the make, year, and model of the vehicle owned by the consumers—which is obtainable through certain public searches. The letters are specifically designed to trick the consumer into believing that the correspondence is being sent from the manufacturer of the car. The letter usually contains misleading language like: “If you do not contact us by the deadline, you risk not being able to extend coverage.”

In actuality, the vehicle owner does not need to take any action.

Another form of holiday time mock mail seems like it is coming from mortgage lenders. The letters typically are written in a similar manner in order to mislead homeowners into believing that the letter and the offer it contains are from the homeowners’ current mortgage company.  The letters may also contain correct information about the term and interest rate of the current mortgage.

However, no emergency action is required and no change in mortgage is needed.

Tips to avoid mortgage mail scams:
• Do not automatically assume that a letter is valid because it looks official.
• Carefully first read the small print.
• Shred all mail that contains personal or financial information.

For additional information about this or other scams, and to file complaints, contact the County Office of Consumer Protection via email at ConsumerProtection@MontgomeryCountyMD.gov or by phone at 240-777-3636. 

#   #   #

Release ID: 19-377
Media Contact: Neil H. Greenberger, 240-777-6532