Harassment By Package Delivery

People harassing women by delivering anonymous packages purchased from Amazon.

On the one hand, there is nothing new here. This could have happened decades ago, pre-Internet. But the Internet makes this easier, and the article points out that using prepaid gift cards makes this anonymous. I am curious how much these differences make a difference in kind, and what can be done about it.

Posted on February 22, 2018 at 6:04 AM • 53 Comments


MVFebruary 22, 2018 6:19 AM

You're absolutely right, this IS old news - in fact years ago people used to order free FedEx boxes en masse to peoples' addresses, order hookers from Craigslist to their front door, unwanted pizza deliveries to their addresses, things like that. The modus operandi has barely changed.

Mace MonetaFebruary 22, 2018 6:37 AM

Three times now, I've had items on my Amazon wishlist sent to me (male) by people anonymously. I've gotten a hole-saw kit, a solar water fountain, and a cat heating pad. My solution to the problem has been to insure that my wishlist is kept stocked with an assortment of items at various price points.

The way I look at it, people sometimes just want to say thanks - you may not even realize what you did for them, and they may not want to explain it. Gifting anonymously doesn't have to have ominous overtones.

echoFebruary 22, 2018 7:35 AM

I don't know what to say about this article. It does puzzle me that none of the agencies have got together to design a solution. I don't believe a solution is impossible either. The fact law enforcement is also casually sexist is an unfortunate persistent issue too.

In the UK there is an equivalent. There have been big failures in local government to implement joined up working and the police are similarly achingly slow to get "intersectional" issues and have a silverback gorilla culture. Both internal reports and public inquiries and auditing have revealed this throughout the past decade yet it seems nobody is still able to propose a thorough vision to change this.

All my Amazon wishlists are set to private.

VinnyGFebruary 22, 2018 7:38 AM

I saw a recent article on a similar series of incidents involving low-priced items, and there was (imo plausible) speculation that vendor did this for the purpose of astroturfing positive reviews for his own merchandise. I also recall indicents from a few years ago where this ploy was used for distribution of illegal drugs (ship the drugs to an innocent party who is not at home during the day, then filch the packages after reconnoitering to make sure the gendarmes aren't watching.) Regardless, there always have been, and always will be, ways to explit anonymity for nefarious purposes. There are ways to exploit virtually anything and everything for nefarious purposes. The worst response would be to advocate for further curbs on privacy and anonymity in some purported "public interest" or other...

P.S., Amazon and other on-line vendors have programs allowing customers to register to receive free merchandise in exchange for a review of same. It would be interesting if the article had explored the possibility that these deliveries were in some way the result or unintended side-effect of such a program.

GeorgeFebruary 22, 2018 7:38 AM

There is a difference between pranks (pizza, FedEx boxes), anonymous friends (items on your public wishlist) and this: "She and three other women who contacted me received sex toys. Two others got lingerie."

Jim KFebruary 22, 2018 7:38 AM

We used to fill in request forms for hearing aids from the Sunday papers on people’s behalf.

We didn’t get out much.

Sheilagh WongFebruary 22, 2018 8:04 AM

In the 1970s magazine subscriptions were much more fun. If a students had a teacher they didn't like fun could be had by mailing in subscription cards that came in magazines. Pornographic magazines would arrive at the teachers house and the magazine companies would harass them for payment. Totally free and totally untraceable.

CallMeLateForSupperFebruary 22, 2018 8:21 AM

My hinky mind just imagined a business modus. Perhaps someone else is applying it here.

You "sign up"[1] with a dark-web-based site for a subscription to their "anonymous gifts" service. You choose the level of service you desire - one-time; or M gifts over N days - pay the proscribed fee and supply the address of your target. Done.

Here's hoping that powers-that-be don't legislate a mails equivalent of the Do Not Call Registry!

[1] or sign *down*; I never sign any way other than *sideways*. ;-) (I abhor the term "sign up".)

Rick LobrechtFebruary 22, 2018 8:31 AM

Apple requires a credit card to be on file for iTunes accounts, even if all purchases are made using pre-paid gift cards. Amazon could reduce (although not eliminate) this behavior by having a similar policy. Although, I'm not sure what incentive Amazon would have to institute such a policy, until the publicity gets bad enough.

BobcatFebruary 22, 2018 9:13 AM

This sounds like a variation of "Bobcat in a box" - which does indeed offer a variant of shipping to a 3rd party. In that case, you get random low cost items. I can't imagine this crossing into harassment, unless the recipient was rather high strung.

BobFebruary 22, 2018 9:20 AM

Good sex toys aren't cheap. I kinda gotta wonder what they got, and more importantly, how I can get on that mailing list.

KayFebruary 22, 2018 9:40 AM

Legit a little surprised and discouraged that some of the responses can be summed up as "why are you complaining about free stuff." This is creepy ass stalking behaviour; the sort that invariably ends in a dead body.

Impossibly StupidFebruary 22, 2018 9:48 AM

Frankly, I'm surprised a company like Amazon wouldn't have some sorts of processes in place to notify a recipient when an order is placed. That way, if it was unwanted, it could be canceled before it was sent and the person could buy something they really wanted instead.

But the real question is what can/should be done about the senders, because even trying to send someone sex toys (or other kinds of intimate/embarrassing products) is a form of harassment. The thing is, these people can be identified if the level of abuse reaches a sufficiently high criminal level. Because, no matter how hard you try to cover your tracks, there are server logs and video cameras and other bread crumbs that you don't control. Even if nobody cares in the short term, it's all a body of evidence that is building up against you.

Hold The DoorFebruary 22, 2018 10:41 AM


The problem is that it may be stalking behavior it may be not. Some people are socially awkward, some people are well-intentioned but clueless, and some people--a tiny minority--mean harm. My own view is that if the worst that has happened is that one got some unexpected items in the mail that is not a cause for a freak out. Laugh it off. As a society we should be tougher. If someone is following one around with a gun that is one thing, an insensitive package in the mail---pffft.

Denton ScratchFebruary 22, 2018 10:45 AM

@Kay "the sort that invariably ends in a dead body."

Rilly? Invariably?

I agree it seems pretty creepy.

AnonFebruary 22, 2018 10:48 AM

"told me she has been on edge for months"

I don't understand why people lack basic resiliency skills to shrug off harmless annoyances. Why won't anybody think of basic risk assessment?

KFebruary 22, 2018 11:10 AM

"The way I look at it, people sometimes just want to say thanks [...]. Gifting anonymously doesn't have to have ominous overtones."
"I can't imagine this crossing into harassment, unless the recipient was rather high strung."
"Some people are socially awkward, some people are well-intentioned but clueless..."

I can only assume that none of you read the article. It is about women who repeatedly received sex toys, lubricant, and other items that were apparently not fit to print their description, to their personal address.

That is sexual harassment. It conveys an implicit threat to the recipient's safety. It is NOT something that can be excused by saying that perhaps the sender was 'well-intentioned but clueless'. It says to the recipient: I know where you live, and I am determined to achieve sexual satisfaction at your expense, without regard for your consent.

One way Amazon could address the review inflation bot problem is by not allowing the buyer to review a product if they haven't received it. Print a verification code on the package or its physical receipt, and require it when the user wants to post a review.

markFebruary 22, 2018 11:28 AM

My reaction would be do get a lawyer, file an action against Amazon, and a John Doe, and under discovery, find out the IP, and then contact the USP that provides that IP, and use *that* information to file either a harrassment lawsuit, and/or a restraining order on the user of the computer on the IP.

BearFebruary 22, 2018 11:29 AM

The possibilities are the simple will to do something nice for somebody, socially miscued or clueless attempts at flirtation, and the will to make someone afraid.

But "Something nice" probably wouldn't be "something suggestive" unless also socially miscued.

A clueless attempt at flirtation - well, can't rule it out but there are a lot of clueless attempts at flirtation and this particular example would be in the extreme minority.

The will to make someone afraid, however - This kind of prank is evergreen for that purpose. Something sexually suggestive in the context of an unknown person brings to mind the idea of sex with someone not of one's own choosing. Or to put it a different way, this is a not-very-subtle implied threat of rape, and very likely from some person among the set of people she sees every day. So from now on she gets to stir that into her morning coffee every time she gets up and gets ready to go out and face that same set of people, never knowing which of them made the threat.

It's not something somebody laughs off very easily, and because a threat from someone among the people you have in your life is something desperately wrong _about_the_people_ rather than just an incident, from that moment onward those people are associated with the implied threat. She'll remain on edge for as long as she's got the same set of people in her life.

RikFebruary 22, 2018 11:50 AM

It’s interesting to watch Amazon take no responsibility for this. It doesn’t matter how the requests for parcel are getting into the system and processed. It could be internal - even something written into their ordering software by an employee, choosing people at random, we don’t know.

The shipping of unwanted, harassing parcels to a person is something that Amazon is wholly responsible for. They should deal with that immediately and without the victim having to take any further action.

It’s also interesting that the police are trying to make light of it, perhaps because they’re sure that they are utterly powerless against Amazon.

AnonFebruary 22, 2018 12:07 PM

"That is sexual harassment. It conveys an implicit threat to the recipient's safety."

What makes this act into sexual harassment and what is the implicit threat?

Using the same logic, is sending someone a box of adult diapers also a sexual harassment?

Using the same logic, is sending someone a knife a death threat?

Using the same logic, is sending someone a bottle of hard liquor an assault with noxious substance?

AnonFebruary 22, 2018 12:17 PM

"Or to put it a different way, this is a not-very-subtle implied threat of rape, and very likely from some person among the set of people she sees every day."

This is absurd and a massive overreaction. First, we can't know "among the set of people she sees every day". It could easily be someone random over internet.

Second, for this to be a threat of rape there has to be an actor, clear intent, and plausible means to carry it out. On my way to work I drive past a billboard advertising adult store. I suspect they are selling dildos there. Using your logic, are all commuters driving past this store getting daily threats of rape?

Bob Bob BobbinFebruary 22, 2018 12:24 PM

Contact the shippers, especially if the USPS is involved. The USPS has its own investigators and they have a good record. Report it to the local DA as stalking and name Amazon as complicit. Repeatedly used public computers can be monitored.
Get a restraining order against Amazon. It may be inconvenient, but it will make the front page and tank their stock, at least for a little while. that should get some traction.

Gerard van VoorenFebruary 22, 2018 12:25 PM

Bruce: On the one hand, there is nothing new here.

No, ofc there is nothing new. The problem, and they will sooner or later realize, is that it is coming from Amazon.

About how to deal with it, I don't know, but it *will* start to get into troubles.

And let's get honest around here, it's Amazon, they are big guys, now Amazon let's deal with it.

hmmFebruary 22, 2018 12:35 PM


"Using the same logic, is sending someone a knife a death threat?"

If you convince a jury that in the context this was meant as a death threat, absolutely yes.
By itself no. The same goes for all harassment or where it's a grey area.

If you don't know who is doing it it's impossible to prove the case so it's unattributed.
If you then find out who it is and the context fits harassment, then it could be again.

It's all about what convinces a jury under the statute. But you have to bring a case and not have it thrown right out of court of course. The first thing any defense lawyer will ask is for a dismissal.

jgri95kfs7February 22, 2018 12:50 PM

Amazon, and all retailers who ship pkgs, need a way for the recipient to pre-refuse all unexpected deliveries. It doesn't need to be the default for anyone, just like not requiring a signature at the door isn't required.

mrfoxFebruary 22, 2018 1:25 PM

An old, long-abandoned Amazon account of my wife, tied to an email address that no longer exists, was recently hijacked for this sort of thing.

A number of packages, paid for with gift cards, has been sent to several of the addresses stored in the account (we wised up to it when friends started asking us if we sent them gifts). In this case, innocuous stuff - USB chargers, phone cases, that sort of thing, likely in an attempt to boost seller ratings with fake reviews.

Despite several calls to Amazon (which confirmed that my wife's old account was used to send the packages) and my wife's insistence that the account is fraudulent, Amazon has yet to take any action. Methinks they should be more interested in preventing this type of activity.

AtAMallFebruary 22, 2018 2:41 PM

@Rick Lobrecht

"Apple requires a credit card to be on file for iTunes accounts, even if all purchases are made using pre-paid gift cards."

AFAIK new apple ids can be set up w/o a credit card and credit cards can be removed from existing apple ids. I don't know, however, if this pertains to what you said about iTunes accounts.

AtAMallFebruary 22, 2018 3:09 PM


"My reaction would be do get a lawyer, file an action against Amazon, and a John Doe, and under discovery, find out the IP, and then contact the USP that provides that IP, and use *that* information to file either a harassment lawsuit, and/or a restraining order on the user of the computer on the IP."

Any idea how much the above might cost when hiring a lawyer, diy, or hybrid? What mi8ght be the odds of success (finding a useful IP from the ISP) be? Could one do this with NOLO books and small claims court?

JamesFebruary 22, 2018 7:07 PM

I'm not entirely sure what people expect LEOs to do here. This is clearly not any form of harassment that can be prosecuted.

Back in the day we couldn't get the Hare Krishna folks out of airports, off sidewalks, and out of other public places. They would all but chase you down and force you to take a flower followed by asking for a donation.

Likewise in any large-ish city nowadays you find beggars on the sidewalks looking for a handout. I consider this harassment. Unfortunately it is almost impossible to craft a law to prevent this that the ACLU wont take to court as a violation of first amendment rights of the beggar.

If we couldn't stop these folks from physically assaulting you in public I don't see how you can claim that sending someone a free gift in the mail is harassment.

However, I'd be glad to see someone successfully make this illegal. As soon as they do, I'm going to insist that the same standard be applied to all the junk mail that I receive both in my physical and electronic mailboxes. I don't want any of that junk and I find it just as offensive (little blue pills and worse), if not more so, than these ladies do about what they received.

Coyne TibbetsFebruary 22, 2018 11:49 PM

@Hold The Door "The problem is that it may be stalking behavior it may be not."

If it were not for the part about sending her bras in her size, I would agree. But knowing her clothing size suggests a very unhealthy level of attention. How did the sender find that out? Perhaps invasion of her accounts online, or even invasion of her home? Inspection of other packages she received?

Unwanted sex toys is one thing. This situation should give almost anyone the heebie jeebies.


On a separate note, I think Amazon is shirking. This situation warrants a watch on packages sent her address. No matter who is sending them. I agree that Amazon can't prevent the creation of new bogus accounts. But there's a common point of contact, her address, and they should be doing more to help defuse the situation.

Dragan MFebruary 23, 2018 2:16 AM

I doubt there is much more to this than wishful thinking and Amazon trying to speed up drone delivery. As far as II am concerned, legitimate delivery personnel can wear camera,. Drone will....

hmmFebruary 23, 2018 3:44 AM


"I doubt there is much more to this than wishful thinking"

Well I doubt you're really considering the scope of what's possible in a world of weirdos.
There's no question some people ARE being borderline harassed by mail deliveries. Of course.

Your suggestion for video was decent, but to outfit delivery drivers where we can't even fully accomplish that for cops even as mandated by LAW seems unlikely. Not to mention the costs.

But this could be easily solved by having full delivery notification / confirmation :

A person at address 123 is being harassed, sets up "security check" on deliveries to the address.
If a package is sent to that address the details are sent electronically to be verified.

If they don't verify or aren't expecting or don't want it, the delivery is never made and the package is returned to sender/vendor. Maybe it costs $10 a month, some nominal amount, everything is already in place to do this. UPS does similar stuff already.

It'd be a pretty slick advertising segue too, you can already see the commercial.

AmazedFebruary 23, 2018 5:10 AM

You mean if I pretend to be a woman on the Internet people will send me free sex toys?

I gotta get on this before Amazon shuts it down!

YanFebruary 23, 2018 7:30 AM

@mark • February 22, 2018 11:28 AM

This "IP address = this person" is not a valid proof in copyright court, why would it be in this case?

echoFebruary 23, 2018 9:09 AM


Under UK law this could very likely be a breach of the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and Harassment Act. This kind of act does cause alarm and distress and women are especially vulnerable to this kind of unwanted behaviour. The Equality Act also provides for a positive obligation to remove inequalities. It follows that lack of action to prosecute and develop systems to protect against this is a failure of obligations and duties.

While men can be victims of this kind of behaviour it is relatively smaller to the number of women who are affected. Both are equally serious but as most men tend not to be the targets of unwanted sexual attention many men tend not to understand the problem.

My Amazon wishlist is private if for no other reason than I read that the recipients address can (or has) be leaked to the sender. I'm not sure if this is just a problem with Amazon US and not a problem with Amazon UK but I am not prepared to take this risk. The other issue is even if details are accidentally leaked due to a system error and the system is fixed then who is going to take action to ensure my safety or adequately compensate in a timely way for a move if this is deemed necessary?

Anon Coward from PAFebruary 23, 2018 12:12 PM

To those who argue that this is nothing new and the recipient should shrug it off, please grow a heart and read "The Gift of Fear and Other Survival Signals that Protect Us From Violence" by Gavin De Becker.

The common zip code suggests it's intentional. Someone is obsessed. Those aren't gifts, they're either a invitation from someone with poor social skills and a serious lack of empathy...or a threat. De Becker's book categorizes stalkers and common escalation patterns so victims can predict when things will get violent. He argues that most victims don't respond effectively because they've never been stalked before.

I don't think men fully appreciate the differential here. Guys, what's the worst thing you think will ever happen on a date? You drink too much and get a DUI? You decide not to have sex because you suspect your date is unclean? Your wife shows up? One book mentioned that before a first date, most women mentally evaluate the probability of a worst case scenario...violence that ends in pregnancy. My mother's "goodbye, have fun" salutation to the boys was "don't have an accident" and to the girls, "Safety in numbers!" and "don't get slipped a Mickey."

This is stalking by proxy and Amazon could implement 2FA tied to the recipient address to stop it. If they won't, one could always recruit a celebrity to start a cancelPrime campaign on twitter. Amazon's a software company that sells stuff. They'd have a fix in a week, maybe two.

In the meantime, the victim should edit her shipping name/address on Amazon to mark her orders (maybe add Apt #1) and stop opening Trojan Horses that look like Amazon boxes.

Anon Coward from MOFebruary 23, 2018 3:23 PM

+1 to Anon Coward from PA for empathy and George for pointing out the difference between teenage pranks and something *easily* considered more serious.

To twist the story a bit: What if you received a package of four valve-stem caps and noticed them missing from your tires? How about a broom handle and with a note claiming to be from Inmate 5309? What would the discussion be if your spouse received one of these anonymous packages? What would the discussion be if *you* received one? What would the discussion be in that house down the street where you regularly hear loud arguments?

This is may be harmless, but the odds of this being dangerous are not ZER0.

thurmanFebruary 23, 2018 6:58 PM

What if you received a package of four valve-stem caps and noticed them missing from your tires?
That's (minor) theft and maybe trespass, a bit different.
How about a broom handle and with a note claiming to be from Inmate 5309?
I don't understand how's a broom handle threatening?

I'd find all those things strange and worrying but not obviously enough harrassment to involve courts/police.

The recipients might try to get a prohibitory postal order Amazon, which would make future mail deliveries criminal. Or Amazon should offer to block deliveries except for those from whitelisted accounts or from a wishlist.

obligFebruary 23, 2018 7:09 PM

"I don't understand how's a broom handle threatening?"


"I'd find all those things strange and worrying but not obviously enough harrassment to involve courts/police."

Why would it be your call how someone else under different circumstances would react to that?
What if they know better than you "in the end"? (broomstick joke, you wouldn't get it.)

Anon Y. MouseFebruary 23, 2018 7:27 PM

>I don't understand how's a broom handle threatening?

Do you want to find out the easy way or the hard way?


I had a similar thought. Surely somewhere within the Amazon "machine"
there is a point after which payment has been verified that a shipping
request is generated to be fulfilled by the appropriate agency (increasingly
Amazon as they take over that service from vendors). If someone,
either a rogue insider or an external hacker, could tap into that point,
potentially untraceable anonymous package deliveries might be created.
That would explain why Amazon hasn't been more forthcoming in response
to these stories about people receiving anonymous "gifts."

How much Amazon customer information, such as delivery address and wish
lists, is public? Is it available to anyone, or anyone with an Amazon
account, or any vendor on Amazon? Are wish lists updated automatically
and items removed when they've been purchased for the wish list owner,
and if yes, how soon does that update occur? All that information could
be used to note when and where specific items will be delivered -- and
targeted for theft.

ClipperFebruary 24, 2018 11:23 PM

This is just paranoid. People complaining that someone sends them free stuff from their public wish list. You can always set it to private and be done with it. Otherwise show some gratitude for the gift and go on with your life.

BrononymousFebruary 25, 2018 12:04 PM

I mean, how hard would it be to get a subpeona for the IP from amazon, then subpeona the ISP that owns that IP for details about the subscriber IP? Even if it's someone stealing WiFi from there, you wouldn't have much further to go to catch the offender. Usually about 60 feet.

If it's someone in the same zip code, it's most likely a neighbor. It'd be fun to send them a satellite photo of their house in return.

UK readerFebruary 26, 2018 6:45 AM

Wow - the commentariat in Bruce's blog has gone downhill a lot in the last year, corresponding with empathy levels.

rino19nyFebruary 26, 2018 11:29 PM

i don't understand the problem. if you received unwanted gifts then sell them! you'll get money in return.

justina colmena February 27, 2018 11:49 AM

It's a prank. Not saying it's OK at all, but that is what certain fellows do.

They order obscene videos and have them delivered by mail to the object of their affection.

They order pizza and have it delivered when you did not want it.

I don't like it. Fellows who pull pranks like that often move on to arranging murder and covering it up.

mrcFebruary 28, 2018 7:48 AM

Correct me if i'm wrong, but unless these items are on a wishlist they won't get shipped.
With the volumes that Amazon moves there Could be a lot of mislabeled items which could lead to this happening.

When I first heard the story I thought it could possibly be a bot, Mining bitcoin and converting to $ then looking for open wishlists of low value items to purchase.

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