Import Export Scams
What to watch out for and how to avoid them!
By Nick Taylor
Owner – Blue Star
The import export business is exciting and has many possibilities of making lots of money. Import Export is by far the biggest money making business on the planet and you can bet that there are a lot of people in the game who are shall we say “Not Honest”.
Yes, scams are rampant in the import export industry and getting more and more ridiculous!
On average I blacklist at least 5-10 emails a day that are scam letters and offers. In this article I will outline the ones I have been approached by so you can avoid them. Hopefully you haven’t fallen for any of them.
Here are the scams I have recently seen.
Nigerian scam letters and offers. Classic.
1. One Nigerian scam letter tells how a relative, friend, prince or king has passed away and has millions of dollars in an account that they want to transfer to your account and then have you transfer it to them keeping a portion for yourself. This is a trick to get your bank account info-Never ever give out your bank account info and completely disregard these letters!
2. Nigerian import export offers- I get them sometimes simply stating “I want by your products”. Inside the message it will typically say- I saw your product listed and want to buy it. Send prices right away. Usually they don’t have any company info, but sometimes they do. I have just made it a point not to do business with Nigerians at all. Sorry guys but too many scams come from there and has ruined it for everyone.
3. Bank wire fee scam, these are very common. Fake banks are set up, typically just a website or not even one at all. The scam artists will tell you they want to buy a high dollar amount of products. Then when it comes to buying the bank will tell you that a fee must be paid first to transfer the funds into your account. Do NOT pay this fake fee! You will never see your money again and you most certainly won’t get an order from them either!
4. Also watch out for forged and fake money orders, fraudulent checks and fake western union payments
E-Check Scams – I got several of these while I was selling high dollar diamond jewelry. The message comes in and says “I want to buy your item, do you mind if I pay with e-check?” An e-check is an electronic check. E-checks typically get transferred from one bank to another. But what the scammers try to do is tell you it’s easy, all you have to do is go to a print shop or office supply store and pay for the printing material and ink. Then the check is printed out and you have a check that you can cash. The problem is, the e-check will be no good. If someone writes me a check for a large amount order, I won’t ship the products until the check completely clears!
COD scams- I got one scam where a guy asked me to ship the product COD and he would pay with a check. The problem is, this guy could have had the package delivered to an anonymous address and wrote a hot check or even a fake check for it. By the time he gets the product, you find your check is fake and it’s too late. They have your product and you have a worthless piece of paper. Watch out for this one. A lot of these scams come through while selling stuff on craigslist.org.
Payment Agent Scams – This one is common in the trade industry and online job post boards. The scammers will say they are hiring payment agents to collect payment from foreign companies they do business with. They want you to collect the money, deposit in into your bank, send them the money and keep 10% for yourself. Sound’s pretty easy but here’s what happens. They have a fake business write a fake check and send it to you. Once you put the fake check in your account, you send them 90% and keep 10% for your duty. What happens is that get the money and cash it, but by the time the fake check is caught by your bank its too late and now you owe the amount that you sent the scammers and of course your nice 10% commission you kept for you work. You can actually go to jail for this considering your bank will think you were in on the scam. So don’t even bother with these offers!
Steps and precautions to avoid these pitfalls!
1. When I get offers for large orders from people or companies the first thing I do is a company back ground check. Here are some places to check a company’s back ground and history– Dun & Bradstreet for credit reports/financial info and www.Hoovers.com.
2. Check to see if they have a website. Most companies who try to place large orders should have a valid website. A few may not. If they don’t, at least ask for their business license info and business registration office address, phone number and website to see if they are licensed to do business in their country.
3. Watch out for people asking you to reply to a personal e-mail address! If I see a message that says reply to my personal e-mail address I won’t even bother. A personal email address will end with @hotmail.com, @yahoo.com, @excite.com, @myway.com etc... To see if it is a personal email address and not a business website email, copy the words after the @ sign and paste them into your browser to see what kind of site it is. If it’s an email provider or web developer, don’t waste your time!
4. Google – I will copy the name of the supposed company and go to www.google.com.
I will type into the search box the name of the company with a comma and then the word “scam”. Here’s an example: johndoe inc, scam. Or if they have a website I will type in www.johndoeinc.com,
scam. This will pull up any scam reports against the company or website. If they don’t have a website or you’re not getting any info on the business name, you can type in the business address or email address they gave you to see what you get from that.
5. E-mail back tracker to find the persons real identity and IP address. I am relentless when it comes to finding information! There are online services you can pay for that will give you all of the information on someone from their email address or website. Here is one URL to use for this method. www.abika.com.
6. Don’t be afraid to ask the company or person for their complete company information before you even consider doing business with them. If they are a legit company they will have no problem giving you their info, especially if they contacted you!
7. Go through government trade sites and forums. Typically scammers will stay away from government sites. That’s of course if they are some what smart.
8. Follow your gut and look for red flags! Some sites and offers will throw up lots of red flags, while others are trickier and more complex.
9. Just because you have been dealing with someone for days or even weeks on a deal and at the last minute they try and pull something that you’re not sure about, DON’T do it! It’s not worth it! Some scammers will do this. They will agree to all of your terms until it comes time to paying. They will say things like ” If we cant do it this way then you are wasting my time. You must not want this deal. Or I will go somewhere else”. Let them go somewhere else!
10. If you post in trade forums it won’t hurt to put in your company description warnings for scammers. Some ideas for description warnings – 1. Before you solicit us or request a price list have all of your company information ready to submit including business license number, reseller’s tax number and county or country business registration office information where you obtained your business license. Other wise, we will not respond. 2. Scammers beware, don’t waste your time. We will track your IP address and report you to the proper authorities!
Here are some web links to look at for common scam letters, e-mails, job offers, work at home, bank and investment money scams.
www.scambusters.com, www.419eater.com, www.Dont-Get-Scammed-Again.com, www.FraudPolice.com, www.scamorama.com, www.scam.com
I hope this information has been of great help and will prevent you from losing any money or assets to scammers!
Remember, the due diligence and research is more than worth the effort!
Blue Star International Brokerage
Austin, Texas USA
Blue Star International Brokerage is a distributor of brand name laptops, PDA’s, high end PC cases and thousands of computer components. We are also wholesale Product finders. What ever you are looking for, we can find it.
Blue Star International Brokerage
Austin, Texas USA
05 June 2006
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