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Gabrielle Settles
By Gabrielle Settles April 26, 2021

No, that fake USPS text message isn’t tied to sex trafficking

If Your Time is short

  • A claim that sex traffickers are sending out scam USPS text messages to track people’s locations has been making rounds on social media.

  • Experts say that the texts are fake, but it’s a scam to induce people to provide their identity or financial information. There’s no evidence this is linked to sex trafficking.

It’s good to be on your guard anytime you receive an unfamiliar text, but one social media claim about a United States Postal Service scam text seems rather far-fetched.

In a TikTok video that was reposted to Facebook, a woman points to a text message claiming to be from USPS. The screenshot of the text reads, "USPS: the arranged delivery for the package 1z50672 got changed. Please confirm here," and then includes a link. 

"By clicking on that link you are actually sending your precise location to sex traffickers in your local area, so they can swoop in and come pick your ass up," the woman tells viewers. 

Featured Fact-check

(Screenshot from Facebook)
 
This post was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.)
 
Claims like this one have been circulating for some months now, and we have debunked it before. While the spam text messages are most definitely scams, there is no evidence they are from sex traffickers.
 
OnlineThreatAlerts.com, an anti-cybercrime community website, in August identified the fake USPS texts as a scam that was being sent by online spammers and scammers. The site advised recipients to delete the messages without clicking on any links.
 
The Polaris Project, a national anti-trafficking group, says on its website that these texts are not from sex traffickers but "may be part of a ‘smishing’ (SMH phishing) scam and there is no evidence that they are connected to sex trafficking."
 
When we reached out to Polaris about a similar false claim last year, the group said in a statement: "Polaris always encourages the public to educate themselves and others on the issues of sex and labor trafficking. However, we strongly caution against spreading stories with potentially misleading information about human trafficking recruitment tactics as they may ultimately cause more harm than good."
 
The U.S. Postal Inspection Service, which provides law enforcement for criminal matters involving the USPS, told PolitiFact that they actively warn consumers about fake emails and text messages that pretend to be from USPS. The postal service doesn’t notify customers of package delivery attempts or request personal information by email or text message, they stated.
 
The agency provided tips on how to stay safe if these texts are received: examine the message closely to identify any grammar or spelling errors, and verify the identity of the sender.
 
It also suggests keeping security software and applications up to date, and reporting any concerns to [email protected] along with a screenshot of the message and any relevant details.
 
Our ruling

A TikTok video reposted to Facebook claims that by clicking on a link from a fake USPS text message, "you are sending your precise location to sex traffickers in your local area" so they can kidnap you.

The text messages are scams, but there is no evidence they are linked to sex trafficking. 

We rate this claim False.

Our Sources

Facebook post, April 19, 2021

PolitiFact, These texts are suspicious, but not tied to sex trafficking, August 26, 2020

Lead Stories, Fact Check: A Text Message Saying There's An Unclaimed Package Waiting Is NOT A Sex Trafficking Tool -- But It Is A Scam

Email interview with Ayan Ahmed, Communications Specialist for the Polaris Project, April 26, 2021

Polaris Project, Polaris Stement Regarding Rumors About Unclaimed Package Text Messages and Sex Trafficking Scheme, August 27, 2020

Polaris Project, Human Trafficking Rumors, accessed April 26, 2021

Email interview with the United States Postal Inspection Service, April 26, 2021

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More by Gabrielle Settles

No, that fake USPS text message isn’t tied to sex trafficking

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