Scams And How To Avoid Being Caught Out

We’ve all laughed at the email from the wealthy African Prince offering a cut of his millions in return for help to get those millions out of the country. ‘Who an earth would fall for that?’ we snigger as we hit the delete key. Unfortunately that is the easily-spottable tip of a very large iceberg of cons.

Have you ever wondered what would happen next if you responded to one of these scams in the positive? What’s the scammer’s next play? At what point would they try to relieve you of your hard earned dough? It is reported that fraud costs small to medium businesses in the UK around £9.2 Billion in 2013, which is frankly an astounding sum of money and would suggest that the scumbags are getting away with it.

Worryingly, there are a number of scammers out there that seem to be targeting printers in general, and large format printers in particular. Out of interest and for research purposes, we at Venture Banners followed several scams through, and though most are shallow and easily identified, some are quite ingenious…

The Shipping Scam

We received a quotation request for 100 banners with the words ‘Arms to the Poor’ printed in black text on a white background. The broken English contained in the email and the content of the banner (we’re guessing that should have read ‘Alms’) immediately raised suspicions, however we were interested to see what happened next, so we responded with a ludicrously high price, which unsurprisingly was accepted straightaway. The ‘client’ then proceeded to give us his credit card details with instruction to take an additional £1000 which we were to pay to his shipping company, as the banners were going out of the UK and would be picked up by Agorie Shipping. Bank details were of course included for Agorie.

We did some checks. The credit card was genuine and would go through for the full amount including the shipping costs. So what could possibly go wrong?

Well, quite a lot actually. We’d already tracked the IP address of the original email to Ghana, which raised some red flags and basic enquiries found that the credit card being offered belonged to a gentleman who resided in Romford. More red flags.

So what would have happened if we had gone through with the transaction? Well it’s simple really: once the gentleman in Essex discovered his card had been used fraudulently, the monies would be clawed back from us by the card company and we would of course be unable to recover the one thousand pounds paid by us legitimately to the shipping company (which, incidentally further investigations showed didn’t actually exist).

The conmen would have ‘earned’ one thousand pounds for just a couple of emails. Easy and lucrative. We’d followed the scam through, seen what we needed to see, now all that was left to do was inform the poor man in Romford his credit card details were being bandied around the Web by a man in an Internet Café in West Africa.

The funny thing was, we were having lunch with an industry friend just a few short weeks after we had played this out and over lunch he told us of this amazing deal he had put together on a large banner order. It all sounded terribly familiar. His face was ashen as we explained the scam to him. Unfortunately he had paid the shipping company, and predictably, the credit card payment to him was clawed back. No-one ever came to pick up those banners.

The Overpayment Scam

This is brutally simple but very effective, and seems to be organised in this country. Someone requests a quote from you for ten roller banners. They agree to the quote and ask for a pro-forma invoice. You’re paid. In fact with online banking, you can see the money sitting in your account.

Only by mistake they’ve over paid you by £1000. Realising their error they phone you, ‘admin error!’ they say and ask if you wouldn’t mind transferring the thousand pound overpayment back to them. Obviously they’re new customer and they’ve just spent a lot of money with you so your customer service reflex kicks in. ‘Of course’ you say ‘I’ll do it right now’. Wrong!

If you look very closely at your bank account, you’ll notice that even though the customer’s money is showing in your balance, it’s not actually cleared funds.

Guess what happens next……yep you guessed it, the money paid in by the customer is actually a cheque paid in over the counter and is destined to bounce in five days time, giving them ample time to fleece you. You are then left one thousand pounds out of pocket and if you’re really unlucky ten roller banners down as well.

We’ve managed to save several people falling victim to this scam because the scammers are lazy and use the same artwork for the roller banners every time. We were explaining this scam to one of our trade customers who had been targeted and had asked us to produce the roller banners for him but he was convinced it was a genuine order, he had spoken to the customer who was a ‘really nice bloke’ right up until the email came in ‘we’ve overpaid you, would you mind…’ which happened whilst we were actually on the phone to him! He was obviously disappointed to ‘lose’ a lucrative order, but thankful he wasn’t a grand out of pocket.

There are numerous ways these swindlers can try to steal from you so the Met Police and Barclays have produced a booklet outlining how to avoid becoming a victim of the scammers. Download it using the link below and as Shaw Taylor used to say, ‘Keep your eyes peeled’.

The Little Book of Big Scams – Business Edition (2.6MB) – This booklet has been produced by the Metropolitan Police in partnership with Barclays Bank plc.