Red Flag Alert: A Product Portfolio that makes Jeff Bezos jealous!
Look at the product portfolio on the supplier's website landing page. They’ve got a snowmobile, Segway, jet skis, bicycles, motorcycles, and even more variety when you look deeper. Come on! Not even Mitsubishi, Sony, General Electric, Philips, and Ericson combined have this type of product portfolio. So something is very fishy here.
Most likely, it’s a scam artist putting products up there that are going to attract the foreign buyers. Another thing that’s really funny is that I’ve seen this girl’s face so many times. You see “Contact me via QQ or Skype”, “Call our phone number”, “Call me now, customer service, let me help you”. Somehow the scam artist must think that this girl’s Asian face attracts foreign buyers because I see her image all the time, and I don’t think this one girl works for a hundred different companies. It’s like the scam artists have a template for what website works to trick foreign buyers, and these are excerpts from that website.
Let’s go to the next page of the website. It’s pretty funny. On their homepage where were Segways and motorcycles, but now you see that they have—and I highlight this, because this list of products goes down and down—from Segways to motorcycles to electronics to computers to water purifiers. They’ve got five pages of product. That’s a huge red flag!
Next, we look at some of the things that are really obvious to me, but weren’t so obvious to a buyer that paid $400 for a vehicle. Okay, look at their factory location, and they listed an address on the website. They also mentioned how many people they have. They have ten production lines with about 5,000 m2 of production space and hundreds of employees. I Googled the address that they wrote; it’s in an apartment building. You’re telling me that there are ten production lines and 500 employees working off an apartment? Come on. A little bit of due diligence usually exposes these scams.
Let’s take a further look at their website. What I noticed is that they didn’t have any Chinese language. For example, usually a legitimate factory, because they want to show off their Chinese employees or their Chinese sub-suppliers, they’ll actually have a lot of the pages of their website in Chinese. The scam artists who are targeting English speaking foreigners don’t even bother with the Chinese part of their website. So that’s absolutely a red flag.
Also, the contact information. It was strange that sometimes they use a cell phone number for an office number; sometimes they said their factory was in one province, yet the contact number had a different area code; the fax area code was different from the office area code. So a lot of strangeness going on.
If you look at their payments page—I really got a kick out of this! They offer two options for transferring funds. One is traditional bank transfer, also known as TT, tele-transfer, and of course they offer Western Union. If you look carefully at their beneficiary name, and the account number and the codes, it’s blank. It’s because the scam artist would perhaps the bribe the bank, I don’t know, once they scammed a certain amount of money, they would just change their bank account name and number. They make it look like “Yes, please transfer your fund to our account at Bank of China, it’s really professional.” But, even though, the bank account is within the Bank of China, it’s often a private account, it’s not a corporate account. Later in the scam series we’ll talk about how to protect yourself when sending money.
It appears they love money transfers! Actually they write directly on their website “We prefer Western Union transfers. It’s very fast. Contact Western Union.” Of course, they love Western Union because once you’ve sent, the money is gone, and you have no recourse to get it back. So, of course, these scam artists love Western Union.
Another red flag in this case where the foreign buyers tried to buy a few hundred dollars worth of vehicles. As I have mentioned previously, if the price is too good to be true, it probably is a scam! But also the quotation is very sloppy.
I asked the buyer to show me the correspondence. When the supplier gave the quotation, it was just an e-mail, and it said something like a vehicle, gray color, 600c.c. and then the price, $200 per unit. A real manufacturer gives more detail. What are the shipping packages, what’s the warranty term, what are the payment terms? A quotation should be a very professional document that has a lot of details.
If you just receive a quote from a factory that says via e-mail “$5.50,” is that with or without tax, is it delivered? If a factory gives a professional quote, that’s a good sign. A sloppy factory will just give you an e-mail. So if the quotation isn’t professional, maybe this “factory” is really a scam artist, or perhaps an unprofessional factory that’s never actually made the produce before.
Product Portfolio Red Flags
So in summation, if the product portfolio rivals that of Amazon, think twice about a quick transaction. If the prices are too good to be true and if their quotations don't seem professional don't ignore the red flags.
As I mentioned in earlier articles, visit supplierblacklist.com if you want to see samples of scams that are going on and how foreign buyers have been tricked. After reading that website a lot, I can give you the most common scams that I hear about, and we'll discuss those in our next article of the scam series.
ABL Blog: Sr. Editor and Primary Content Creator: Michael J. Bellamy
Originally from Upstate New York, Mike moved to Asia in 1993 and is a China business advisor to both Fortune 500 companies and small businesses. Recognized as an expert on doing business in China, he has been interviewed by WSJ, CNBC, FT & Bloomberg.
A featured presenter on China issues at seminars, trade shows and corporate events across the globe.
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