Fact Check

'Parcel Delivery Service' Telephone Scam

Notification of attempted delivery cards from a phony 'Parcel Delivery Service' were used as part of a premium rate telephone scam.

Published April 7, 2006

Cards from a "Parcel Delivery Service" notifying recipients of parcels awaiting delivery are part of a premium rate telephone scam.

Although many scams involve the use of telephones to contact or extract information from potential victims, a few varieties of fraud target telephone service itself as a means of obtaining ill-gotten revenue from unsuspecting prey. One common variety of telephone service fraud involves obtaining information or employing trickery that allows the scammer to place long-distance calls and bill them to someone else (as in the #-9-0 scam), and another common variety involves duping consumers into running up hefty fees on their own telephone bills (as in the 809 area code scam).

In December 2005, many UK residents were targets of the latter variety of scam, one that attempted to lure them into placing calls to a premium rate number and keep them on the line for several minutes. (Premium rate or "pay-per-call" numbers typically generate revenue by providing information or entertainment in exchange for a per-minute fee, which is billed to the caller's phone number. Such services are commonly known as "900 numbers" in North America and "090 numbers" in the UK, although other prefixes may be used as well.)

If you receive a card through your door from a company called PDS (Parcel Delivery Service) saying that they have a parcel awaiting delivery instructions and can you contact them on 0906 6611911 DO NOT call the number as this is a mail scam originating from Belize.

If you call the number and you start to hear a recorded message you will already have been billed £15 for the phone call.

If you do receive a card with these details, then please contact Royal Mail Fraud on 02072396655 or ICTIS at https://www.icstis.org.uk or your local trading standards office. This is a genuine scam.

Hi all just received this via a solicitors office so we know it's genuine.

Postal Scam:

Can you circulate this around especially as Xmas is fast approaching - it has been confirmed by Royal Mail. The Trading Standards Office are making people aware of the following scam:

A card is posted through your door from a company called PDS (Parcel Delivery Service) suggesting that they were unable to deliver a parcel and that you need to contact them on 0906 6611911 (a Premium rate number).

DO NOT call this number, as this is a mail scam originating from Belize.

If you call the number and you start to hear a recorded message you will already have been billed £315 for the phone call.

If you do receive a card with these details, then please contact Royal Mail Fraud on 020 7239 6655.

The bait for this scam was the distribution of official-looking postcards bearing the name "Parcel Delivery Services" (PDS) to residences, each card proclaiming that a package was awaiting delivery (usually one said to contain a digital camera) and that the recipient needed to call PDS to obtain a "security confirmation code" to effect delivery of the parcel. What many consumers failed to notice (or heed), however, was the small print on the card informing them that the phone number provided was a premium rate number with a whopping £1.50 per-minute fee. As the BBC Wales X-Ray consumer investigation service found when they placed a call to the PDS number:

When you ring up, the recorded voice promises you will shortly be give the 'security confirmation code' but first you're asked a series of rather personal 'market research' questions about your marital status and how often you drink alcohol. In fact, six tedious minutes pass before you're finally given the code for your camera. It's a classic technique — and it's just cost you £9.00. Expensive call!

Not surprisingly, investigators failed to turn up any complainants who actually received digital cameras from PDS, and PhonePayPlus (formerly the Independent Committee for the Supervision of Standards of Telephone Information, aka ICSTIS), the group that oversees premium rate services in the UK, removed access to the service (which was using up to 20 different phone numbers) on 29 December 2005. (PDS was run through Studio Telecom, a service provider registered in Belize, which had previously been fined and barred by PhonePayPlus for using misleading direct mail promotions to generate calls to their service.)

Because the Internet-circulated warning did not just up and go away in December 2005 once the problem was sreolved, people continued to spread the alert in e-mail, prompting PhonePayPlus to add an explanation to their web site in October 2007 (and again in updated forms in October 2009 and November 2010):


PhonepayPlus, the phone-paid services regulator, is aware that a chain e-mail about an alleged postal scam is being circulated on the internet. The email refers to the Royal Mail, Trading Standards and ICSTIS (PhonepayPlus' former name).

PhonepayPlus appreciates that recipients of the email may want to find out more information about the alleged scam and has therefore issued the following statement:

  • The chain email refers to a service (operating on 0906 6611911) that was shut down by PhonepayPlus (then ICSTIS) in December 2005.
  • PhonepayPlus subsequently fined the company that was operating the service, Studio Telecom (based in Belize), £10,000.
  • The service is NO LONGER running and has NOT been running since December 2005.
  • You do NOT need to contact PhonepayPlus, or the Royal Mail, about this service as it was stopped almost four years ago.
  • If you receive a copy of the email warning you about the alleged scam, please do NOT forward it to others. Instead, please forward this statement from PhonepayPlus.
  • If you receive a delivery card through your letterbox which you do not believe is genuine and which asks you to dial a premium rate number, you can contact PhonepayPlus on 0800 500 212 (Mon-Fri, 8am-6pm) for further guidance.
  • Please go to https://www.phonepayplus.org.uk/output/FAQ.aspx for useful information about how to recognise phone-paid services and understand what they cost, and some simple tips to help you enjoy using services with confidence.
  • For more detailed information about our work, please visit www.phonepayplus.org.uk.

Although the specific warning e-mail reproduced at the head of this page is out of date, it represents a common form of telephone fraud that has been used in the past and will likely be used again, so the public is well advised to be aware of it. UK telephone customers who find unexpected premium rate charges on their phone bills can obtain more information by looking up the associated phone numbers via the number checking facility on the PhonePayPlus web site, and they can file complaints about premium rate services through PhonePayPlus' online complaint form. U.S. residents can file complaints about premium rate services through an online form available on the web site of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).


BBC Wales.   "Parcel Delivery Service."     6 February 2006.

David Mikkelson founded the site now known as snopes.com back in 1994.

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