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Business Consumer Alliance Blog

Kim’s Catch—Commissary Package Scams

Here’s the catch:  Correctional facilities have strict limitations on what outside items are allowed into their facilities. Families of inmates often rely on private vendors, such as Aramark’s iCare, to deliver commissary packages to their incarcerated loved ones.  Sadly, scammers are using phony knockoff websites to exploit and defraud customers.

Many customers have been duped by websites that look legitimate, that mirror major commissary vendor websites, and that even advertise that they serve all correctional facilities in the United States. It isn’t until after they pay and the goods never arrive that they realize there’s a problem. These customers are left trying to track down their package and attempting to get in touch with the company to fix the problem. Usually by that time it is too late and the scammers have moved on to other victims.

Customers may also run into some problems dealing with authorized vendors as well. Typical complaints involve non-delivery of orders, tracking issues, dissatisfaction with the quality of the goods, and difficulty getting refunds. Customer service is also a major issue with many of these businesses. Customers find it hard to reach the company; staff is unresponsive or unable to resolve issues; and in some cases, the customers are ignored altogether. I took a look at Business Consumer Alliance’s report on iCare, Access Securepak, and Union Supply Group, three of the major commissary package suppliers, and found they all had F ratings and a pattern of unanswered complaints.

Kim’s advice:  Before you pay to send a package to your loved one, check with the facility to see if there are specific vendors they accept deliveries from. You also want to get information on what items are allowed and prohibited, how many packages are allowed, and what happens if the inmate is unavailable to receive package.

Before ordering any products, check out the website and the business thoroughly. Start by checking their BCA report for complaints and consumer reviews. Search online using the business name, website address, and the word “complaint” for issues others may have experienced. Read the company’s refund and shipment policies beforehand and ask questions prior to placing your order. Remember to consider delivery time, cost, product availability, and what is done if the package is refused.

Anytime you shop online, it is good practice to use a credit card to pay. This allows you certain protections other payments do not carry. If you experience a problem, such as your order not arriving or you receive something other than what you ordered, you can file a dispute. Avoid paying for items using prepaid gift cards or if you have to wire money to someone you do not know. These are sure signs of a scam. And if you run into a scam, report the crooks right away by filing a complaint.

About Business Consumer Alliance Business Consumer Alliance (BCA) is a non-profit company that started in 1928. The broad purpose of BCA is to promote business self-regulation. BCA's mission is achieved by assisting consumers in resolving complaints with businesses and using that complaint information, along with other relevant information such as customer reviews, to forecast business reliability. With community support, BCA can identify trustworthy and ethical businesses and warn the public to avoid unscrupulous businesses whose purpose is to defraud the marketplace. BCA also helps businesses promote themselves by providing services and tools to protect their business and reach out to their customers. BCA obtains its funding from member businesses who support the mission and purpose of the organization and who agree to abide by high standards of ethical business practices.