Today’s post comes from Gretchen (who made excellent use of our complaint form.) She works in the customer service department at a furniture company and was savvy enough to spot the scam and save her business thousands of dollars in cash and merchandise.
This isn’t a complaint, because no money has changed hands, but I think I’ve discovered a new twist on the Nigerian scam, aimed at manufacturers.
I work for a furniture manufacturer and wholesaler, and part of my job as customer service is to monitor the sales and support emails. The other day, we got the following (our company name removed for privacy reasons):
date Sun, Feb 7, 2010 at 9:00 AM
subject:Mail Order ……
Hello Sales i would like to order some product from your store to mine in australia .so let me know if can ship down to australia so that i can email you the product i am interested in.also Payment will be done via credit card details if you do accept that let me know so that i can place my order and the Items will be picked Up by my shipping Company at you store,please Get back to me so that i can email you the items i am interested .address:21/49 Norcal Road Nunawading, Victoria Australia 3131 Phone (+61 ) 9873 7677 Fax (+61 ) 9873 7655 Thanks luda Johnson
73 7655 Thanks luda Johnson”
First red flag: why is this copied to herself, at a different email?? Our company doesn’t have an overseas carrier, so I reply to her saying that we can only ship to the coast, and that she’ll have to hire someone to move the freight forward from there. I also give her our toll-free number and payment options. Her reply came from a third email, firstname.lastname@example.org, asking for pricing. I answer that we’re only able to sell to retailers, which usually stops these guys dead in their tracks (this isn’t the first time we’ve gotten these), but she immediately replies with the following:
“Tue, Feb 9, 2010 at 8:59 AM
Here is the Information you requested for
Company Name :Luda Brother Limited
Address 1035 B QUEEN STREET BRISBANE QLD 4000 AUSTRALIA.
ph: 07 60630598
await to read from you with the Cost .thanks”
Notice that this is different from the original address she gave me. But as far as I know, it’s a valid company name, so I reply with pricing of the furniture she wants, and attach our price list for good measure. Up to now, other than being out of country, everything sounds normal for our customers. Her next reply:
“Tue, Feb 9, 2010 at 9:26 AM
I’m ready to pay the bills send me an invoice via mail and i will email you my Credit Card. But i just got a response from my shipping Agent that he cannot receive payment via credit or debit card from me at the moment. So i want you to help me Charge another $1850.00 to a shipping agent who is going to pick up my ordered items from you and Some of Our Items Order in Canada.
The $1850.00 that will be sent to the shipping agent is for the shipping of my order plus other items i ordered from different countries which will be deduct from my credit card.Also,I’m compensating you with the sum of $250.00 for the transfer fee and for your efforts.. Please note that i should have given the shipping agency my credit card for him to deduct the shipping funds but he told me that he doesn’t have the facilities to charge or debit credit card,so that’s why i bring my vote of confidence in you and i don’t want you to betray the vote of confidence i put in you, so i want you to transfer the funds to him after you have make the charges and the money charged from my credit card is in your account,then you can now make the transfer to the agent via western union.i will have love to do this my self but there no western union here around me,So the charges you’ll make on my credit card will be:
Order Fee ($4345.00)
Agent fee with shipping fare ( $1850.00 )
Transfer Fee plus Your Compensation ( $250.00 )
Note that my credit card will be charged for the amounts above.Please do get back to me if you are in the office right now so that i can forward my credit card details to you , then you can charge full amount and transfer the agent funds to him via western union or money gramm.await to read from you if you can assist me .
Red flags are going off all over the place now. If the credit card is ok for us to run, why not the shipping agent? Any reputable company should be perfectly capable of running a credit card. Fortunately, this is something our company won’t do, so I replied nicely telling her that. So far I haven’t heard back, but I expect to get at least two more emails pleading with me to run the charge anyway.
If this isn’t big enough for an investigation, I totally understand… but our company gets these at least once a week, and we’re not that big. I shudder to think if a scammer managed to hook another company… and then bilked them for thousands, possibly hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Luckily for Gretchen, she knew how to spot the scam and thus avoided a major headache. Posts like these make me wonder how many people fall victim to these kinds of scams on a daily basis.
You know, there’s one thing I don’t get when it comes to the scammers and that’s Western Union’s involvement. They have to know by now that their services are used by scammers the world over. Why is it that they can’t put a stop to it? Perhaps ask some preemptive questions to make sure their customers aren’t going to lose money. I don’t think it’s a lot to ask. What do you think?