Are Terrorists Buying UPS Uniforms on eBay?

Netlore Archive

UPS driver enters truck
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images News/Getty Images

Email rumor circulating since 2003 claims Muslim terrorists may be buying UPS uniforms on eBay.

Description: Email rumor
Circulating since: Feb. 2003
Status: Mostly false / Outdated


Example #1:
Email text contributed by P. Roper, Feb. 20, 2003:

From the Illinois State Police:

Intelligence information has been received indicating the possible impersonation of UPS and FedEx delivery personnel. Though the particular incident concerns UPS, other individuals may attempt to use similar delivery companies to gain entry into facilities. Security officers and others responsible for screening delivery personnel or accepting deliveries should be especially vigilant with people and vehicles making deliveries. Delivery personnel should have proper identification, and any deviation from normal delivery procedures should be handled with caution. In a related case reported by Michigan State Police, A concerned citizen called to advise that an individual has purchased $32,000 worth of UPS uniforms over the past 30 days on E-Bay. Items bought in single lots. He paid $350 for one UPS shirt, $650 for an UPS jacket.


Example #2:
Email text contributed by W. Little, June 19, 2003:

Subject: Fwd: UPS ALERT

Government regarding purchase of UPS uniforms: BE ALERT!!!!

There has been a huge purchase, $32,000 worth, of United Parcel Service (UPS) uniforms on eBay over the last 30 days. This could represent a serious threat as bogus drivers can drop off anything to anyone with deadly consequences!

If you have ANY questions when a UPS driver appears at your door, they should be able to furnish VALID I.D..

Additionally, if someone in a UPS uniform comes to make a drop off or pick up, make absolutely sure they are driving a UPS truck. UPS doesn't make deliveries or pickups in anything except a company vehicle. If you have a problem, IMMEDIATELY call your local law enforcement agency right away!

TAKE THIS SERIOUSLY! Tell everyone in your office, family, friends, etc.

Make people aware so that we can prepare and/or avoid terrorist attacks on our people! Thank you for your time in reviewing this and PLEASE send to EVERYONE on your list, even if they are friend or foe. We should all be aware!

Kimberly Bush-Carr
Management Program Specialist
U.S. Department of Homeland Security
Bureau Customs and Border Protection


Analysis: As you can see above, versions of this online rumor have been cropping up at irregular intervals ever since February 2003. I've received forwarded email copies of it as recently as April 2011; as of November 2015 it was circulating heavily via social media.

When I queried eBay spokesman Chris Donnelly about supposed large purchases of UPS uniforms after the chatter first started in 2003, he said: "We are aware of the rumor, but as far as we can tell it's just that — a rumor." Donnelly added that he wasn't aware of any government investigation of the claims (which doesn't necessarily mean one didn't take place).

Likewise, a United Parcel Service spokesman quoted in the March 2, 2003 edition of the Louisville, Kentucky Courier-Journal didn't grant the rumor any credence: "Call it urban legend or call it hoax, there's nothing to it," he said. The spokesman was skeptical of the notion that UPS personnel, who drive regular routes and are typically well known to their commercial customers, would be targeted for impersonation by terrorists.

Articles of UPS Clothing Have Turned Up for Sale on eBay

Corporate denials notwithstanding, it is a fact that pieces of UPS uniforms have at times turned up for sale on eBay. I found several examples myself on February 28, 2003, the same day I spoke with eBay's Chris Donnelly, who admitted to being unsure whether UPS uniforms were specifically prohibited for sale on eBay. In any case, the items I saw were administratively deleted within hours of their original posting, which suggests that auctions involving parcel carriers' uniforms may indeed be banned on eBay, or at the very least monitored for propriety.

According to participants in online discussions tracking this rumor, evidence was found in early January 2003 — in the form of eBay search results showing completed transactions involving UPS uniforms — of a few such auctions where the bidding went suspiciously high.

FBI advises "due diligence and verification"

Ultimately, the FBI confirmed that such purchases did take place on eBay and had been thoroughly investigated by the agency. The transactions were found not — I repeat, not — to be terrorist-related.

Even so, the agency recommends as a matter of course that "due diligence and verification of delivery personnel" be included in the security routine of all buildings and businesses receiving outside deliveries.

Customers concerned about the legitimacy of any UPS delivery can call 1-800-PICK UPS to verify it, says a company spokesman.

Update

Despite the apparent signature of a Department of Homeland Security official named "Kimberly Bush-Carr" on some versions of the rumor circulating since May 2003, this message did not originate from the U.S. government.

The signature is a hoax.

Sources and updates:

It's Amazing What You Can Find Online
KOMO-TV News (Seattle), 27 Feb 2003

UPS Rumors Are Uniformly Wrong
Washington Post, 8 April 2003

'Brown' eBay Rumor Squelched
Star-Tribune, 13 August 2003

Terrorism Hoaxes Still Plaguing Law Agencies
USA Today, 18 January 2007