Counterfeit vans: A little-known online grocery scam

Careful - they want to get into your fridge

Warning: slippery road

Upscale online supermarket Ocado has alerted its customers to the hitherto unknown threat of fake delivery vans and drivers. Its "security-conscious customers", says the company in an email, can now arrange to be sent the registration number of the van and the name of the driver a few hours before the deliver is due.

Fake or stolen security vans and fake drivers, fake (or even) stolen police cars and fake (but probably not stolen) police we can grasp. And then you've got fake meter readers, council inspectors, genuine (in an insincere sort of way) sales reps who steal your electricity account and put it somewhere else... All of these scams we can conceive of, but fake Ocado vans and drivers? It looks like a hell of a lot of effort for no better return than you'd achieve as a fake meter reader - quite possibly a worse one.

After respraying your van in Ocado livery you show up at just the right time, cart a plausible-looking pile of fake groceries into the kitchen and cunningly gain access to... The fridge? Hell, given that the mug punter is expecting a delivery, it's not even likely to be full...

One could however consider the possibility that, aside from calming the fears of the small percentage of customers who are certifiably paranoid, Ocado is keen on collecting the mobile phone numbers of a rather larger number of customers, and giving them sufficient in the way of inducements (the delivery alert, and early warning of missing items) to persuade them to enable their accounts for text messaging.

And what would they be planning to do with the numbers? This free service, it says, will only be used to send you delivery alerts. "The service will not be used to send any marketing messages or messages from third parties." So as we understand it that means the delivery alert service will only be used to send you delivery alerts, and won't have any ads in it. Which does seem to leave the phone and more general SMS informationals available for use, depending on your general account privacy settings. And you barely noticed them doing it, too. Class... ®

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