Courier Fraud: Don’t be scammed

The thought of receiving a handsome amount of free money clouded her judgment so she corresponded with the stranger agreeing to receive the “life-changing” package.

From the email, Mary was promised gift items plus money worth over USD 50,000 in a “parcel” that would be delivered through Entebbe International Airport in 2-3 days.

Who wouldn’t align all their ancestors to bless this miracle? Mary didn’t disappoint.

Two days later, she received a call from an alleged “agent” that her package had arrived but was held at the airport on grounds of unpaid taxes. The caller accused URA officials at the airport of being jealous of Mary’s life-changing package. Mary had to find UGX 10m to clear the “taxes” so that her dreamy future can be delivered to her.

The dream of a transformed life after receiving the said money forced Mary to send shillings 3m to the agent to clear taxes. However, prolonged stories around clearance and release of the miracle gift developed, one after another, each tale more entangled than before to the point of sharing some images of alleged difficult URA officials. All correspondences were on phone and email, including pictures of the said gift.

Frustrated, Mary reached out to a friend who works with URA Customs to understand why URA was standing in the way of her future. Asked for the parcel tracking number, Mary had none. It is then that she found out she had been scammed. She refused to believe the bad news referring to the parcel images from the sender, which images were low copy downloads from Google.

Fake parcel delivery emails are a common online scam that some individuals have lost over shillings 50m to. How do you know you have a legit parcel delivery?

First, you must have ordered a parcel from one of the recognised online traders like Amazon, Ali Express, Alibaba, to mention but a few. If it’s gift being sent through courier, you should also have prior certified information about that parcel that will be sent to you by someone you know who lives abroad.

After ordering your goods, the company you bought from has to consolidate yours and other clients’ purchases that are destined to Uganda and prepare a manifest for all those goods. Through that tracking number, you can follow the movement of your parcel from purchase to delivery.

The online trader, through their private arrangement, will sub-contract a consolidator like a courier company such as DHL, Posta Uganda, and FedEx or individual agents to receive these goods upon arrival at Entebbe. Online purchased Parcels have an average delivery period of 5-7 days.

The East Africa Community Customs Management Regulation 119 (2) notes that where goods are exported through a registered courier, a declaration from the sender regarding the description of the contents of the package and the value of the goods shall be affixed to the courier article and shall be deemed to be the entry required under the Act.

The same regulation 119(4) says that a licensed courier shall present all the imported goods to a proper officer for examination and assessment of duty.

The goods arrive in a manifest assigned to the names of the licensed contracted agent/courier who then contacts you with the valuation of the taxes due, where applicable.

Like for consolidated cargo, the licensed contracted agent or registered courier, collects money for the taxes from the different clients in the manifest, pays through their preferred payment platform as per what URA accepts, presents their payment receipts and proceed to clear the packages with URA, this is the person known to URA. For parcels sent through established courier companies such as DHL, the courier company will communicate to the client directly usually through mail with the tax assessment which they use to make payments through the various payment platforms. The Client does not need to send money to anyone. For consolidated parcels that are delivered through the agent, the shipper/agent pays the tax and deliver the items to the owner because the taxes are included in the price of the item.

Parcels are subjected to customs goods clearance processes and upon payment of taxes due, the parcel is granted an exit order and the agent or courier company picks up the goods and distributes them to the final owners.

“Clients should never send mobile money to the random callers. URA services are online and taxpayers are free to pay through a preferred platform. Always ask for a tax assessment and insist to pay taxes yourself. This way, you flag off any fraud because banks cannot accept payment to a forged payment reference Number,” noted Simon Esunget, the Ag. Manager Entebbe Customs. He also advises clients to always call the URA toll free lines, in case of doubt, to help you with the correct details about alleged parcels.

URA urges the public to remain vigilant and not fall prey to online scammers. Also ensure you are following up parcels/gifts/goods that you either bought, or are expecting from someone you know. Taxpayers are also advised to ensure that they engage licensed agents/couriers to handle their trade transactions with URA. Don’t be scammed by email fraudsters.

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