by Edgar Sandoval and Samuel Goldsmith
November 15, 2010
Lawmakers are warning New Yorkers about a shipping scam that targets Hispanic immigrants who send Christmas presents to their families back home.
Instead of delivering the goods, scammers take the presents - and the money they charge for shipping - and split.
"It's a terrible scam that's been happening for years," said state Sen. José Peralta, who represents several Queens neighborhoods hit by shipping crooks.
"You pay the fees, and your items never get there," he said.
Customers who fall prey to the scammers have no recourse .
Queens resident Edison Santos, 28, sent boxes of clothes and canned food to family members in the Dominican Republic last Christmas.
"They call us and say, 'Send us something, we're hungry here,'" Santos told the Daily News. "We sent them brand-name cereals, like Kellogg's and good canned food, not the cheap 99-cent brands."
Santos took the gifts to a shipping company on Roosevelt Ave. in Corona. Between shipping costs and the price of the presents, he said he spent about $3,000.
The packages never arrived.
"We tried everything. We complained to 311, the city. We'd be happy to get half the money back," he said. "Our family there needs the food and clothes we send them.
"You are taking food out of their mouths," he said.
Peralta wants to pass legislation in Albany that would require shipping companies to register with the state so that customers can check which businesses are legitimate.
As it stands, shipping companies are regulated by the Federal Maritime Commission, which this year started tracking scams similar to those seen in Queens.
Peralta and officials at the Maritime Commission suggest using reputable shipping companies and always obtaining a detailed receipt that includes a tracking number and estimated delivery date.
But Antonio Bourdier, 43 - who says he got ripped off by a shipping company in Corona last Christmas -is planning to take gifts to his mother in the Dominican Republic when he visits rather than to ship.
"These people don't care that they are hurting people who need our help over there," he said.