Being a banner printer we are subject to a particular type of scam. I am sure that this scam is not exclusive to us and can be easily adapted to other industries.
The Initial Contact
If you have a website for your business then you are going to place on it some contact information, which will usually take the form of an email address – so they now have a means to contact you.
You may, one day, then receive an email like the following:
My name is Bill and i will like you to print some Banners for me size 3 by 8 foot with Hem and Grommet. I need 50 Pieces of the Banner which i want you to write (WITH GOD ALL THINGS ARE POSSIBLE) in color Blue .I want you to email me back with the pricing including tax and i will handle the freight myself .I will be looking forward to your email. Thank you
The above is an actual email we received. The message may change but are along the lines of God, Bible snippets (such as John 3:13), we have even had ‘arms for the poor’ which I am assuming that they meant ‘alms’ and they didn’t want to give the poor weaponary.
You reply, happily going about your business under the impression that this is a genuine order enquiry, so you give them the price and await their response, which is usually pretty prompt (although scammers reading this may now leave it a little while and not appear too eager).
They will express their interest in placing the order and correspondence will continue. Some will send their credit card details over email (please don’t ever do this – email is not secure) or they may actually call and you get to speak to them. If you do speak you may notice that the person with the very english name, such as Bill York above, has a very strong African accent… hmmmm!
During your emails and phone calls, which will be numerous as they try to make you feel more comfortable, you will receive details of the shipping company that they want to use, but you will have to contact them. Hang on! I thought they wanted to handle the shipping – suspicious yet?
The Shipping Company
The shipping company will change name and generally there will be no reference to them anywhere (we played one along and had Agori Shipping). They will then give you a price.
Once you let your contact know the price they ask you to add it to cost of the banners and then you will have to pay it. When you process the credit card the payment may (or may not) process successfully, if it does you will feel all warm and fuzzy at another successful order. You can then pay the shipping company and print away – but hey, that’s fine you have been paid right?
Beware, this money is not safe in your account.
Basically the scam is they are using a stolen credit card and they want the money from it, not any products. They get the money from it by taking yours! You think you’ve been paid but in fact the credit card company will whip this from under you because it is a fraudulent transaction. You may also be penilised by your bank and prevented from taking card payments because you will have accepted a stolen credit card (which has happened to a friend of mine, also in the print industry – they froze his money so he could not withdraw against it while they checked out every transaction).
In the meantime they’re laughing away at having scammed another Brit for the £500 – £800 it cost for the shipping, as you have paid them and not some shipping company!
The things to watch out for:
- The ‘To’ email address may not be one you recognise
- The above example is actually not too bad, but many of the emails are grammatically wrong and spelling is usually pretty poor
- The biggest indicator is the fact that they will handle the shipping – this is the crux of the scam
- They will be eager to give you their credit card details
- The address registered to the credit card will be somewhere in the UK
- The contact will have a very strong African accent
- They say they are too busy to organise the shipping themselves, and will want you to do it, but they can contact you at any time of day and respond to emails really quickly.
- With some of the emails you can view their ‘message headers’. These can show you the IP address of the originating email and when you look up the IP address through many of the free online IP address locators – we found ours came from Ghana.
Playing With Them
We have had a laugh with a few of them and once we have the card details and address we do inform the real owner that their card has been stolen, of which most of them are aware – we do not process these transactions.
You could try suggesting that you have found another shipping company that is half the price that they are paying, they could save themselves loads. They will always insist that you use their shipping company… because it is them!
If the credit card address is near you, try asking them some questions about the local area, that should get them thinking.
I hope this helps those of you who receive these emails, just remember if they want the banners they will pay for them, you should not have to pay anyone other than your usual suppliers or couriers, do not pay anyone recommended by a stranger.
Be safe kids!