Selling Successfully Your One-Stop Resource for Setting Up, Managing and Marketing

Avoiding Online Scammers

We want to alert shops that we have seen many reports of visitors posing as buyers who are actually professional scam artists. While we all know what a great place the World Wide Web can be, unfortunately, this is one of the few down sides. Shops have forwarded us an alarming number of fraudulent purchase requests. Unfortunately, some shops have fallen for them.

The examples below are actual scam emails received through our site. At first, many of these scammers appeared to be from Nigeria, but the trend has now evolved far beyond. And they often focus on newer shops (though not always), hoping they will be less savvy to the ploy.

We understand how exciting it can be to receive an order or an inquiry from a potential buyer, but if it sounds too good to be true, it just may be. If you receive a buyer inquiry that sounds at all like any of those below, or if you simply feel that a transaction may be fraudulent, do not respond to the inquiry. If approached again by the buyer, we recommend simply stating that you will not be able to complete the transaction.

Here's how fraudulent purchases often unfold:

  • They send communication written in poor English, or whatever language they use to contact you
  • The buyer tells you a story about themselves, a family member or associate having a large amount of money and wanting to run it through your bank
  • Buyer offers to pay with a check or money order for much more than the price of an item, and requests a check for the difference when you send them the item
  • Buyer requests your bank account information in order to wire funds (often more than the price of the item) into your bank account, and requests a check for the difference.

Buyers From Nigeria and Other Remote Areas

For years Nigeria has been a haven for scam artists. With the onset of the Internet and sellers becoming better informed about Nigeria, scammers are now coming from a wide array of remote areas around the world, with ISPs specifically designed to mask their true location. Usually the buyer offers to purchase an item with a cashier's check, which is phony. Or, they will want to pay you with a check for more than the price of the item, requesting that you send them back the difference when you send the item. Your bank initially accepts the check, but later determines that the check was phony, and debits you. Or, the buyer will request to wire payment directly into your account, and will require the details of your bank account information. Don't give out your bank account information for any reason.

PayPal

Due to the recent increase in scams, many Ruby Lane shop owners are choosing to accept foreign payment via PayPal only, and only from verified buyers that are on PayPal's list of approved countries.

Phony Cashier's and Regular Checks

The common thinking is that a cashier's check is the safest form of payment. But scam artists are becoming increasingly skilled at producing cashier's checks, regular checks and money orders that will fool even a bank, initially. However, banks can and will come back to you days or even months later, once they determine it was fraudulent.

We recommend against accepting checks not drawn on a U.S. bank or if any aspect of the transaction appears suspicious. Many shops require a 7-10 business day wait for a check to clear before sending an item, even on U.S.-drawn checks.

See the end of this article for typical physical characteristics to look for that may indicate fraud. If you're not sure about a transaction or payment type, talk with your bank before accepting such a payment.

Steps You Can Take To Protect Yourself:

  • Understand that it is highly likely that you will encounter such a transaction sooner or later
  • Do not accept payments via bank wire or give out your bank account information for any reason
  • Do not accept payment of any type for more than the cost of the sales transaction
  • Do not accept checks of any type not drawn on a bank within the country where you do business. Develop a policy to hold any check for up to 7-10 business days.
  • For international buyers, consider accepting only PayPal as payment, and only if they are a verified PayPal buyer from a country that is approved by PayPal.
  • Many shops who do choose to accept non-PayPal payments, prefer international money orders and/or international postal money orders. Contact your bank for specific details in advance of accepting these payments.
  • Don't participate in transactions that require bank-related steps on your part that seem out of the ordinary. Giving people the benefit of the doubt in the online world is simply asking for trouble. Buyers who have unusual requests are hoping to find someone who will sympathize with them, and follow their instructions into the scam.
  • Follow your intuition. If a transaction seems unusual or too good to be true, it probably is.

If you feel that a transaction may be fraudulent, simply let the buyer know that you will not be able to complete the transaction. Do not continue communication.

The following are real examples of actual correspondence conducted with Ruby Lane shops by fraudulent buyers. We have done no editing, to allow you to recognize the warning signs:

Example 1:I am David Michael purchasing manager of pannapinautors from Colony,TX and using this medium to contact you on behalf of Client to purchase this item and it will be send to UK Store. Would you please email me with the final asking price of the item for immediate purchase?
1. Do you accept a ( Cashier Check/Money Order ) as a mode of payment?
2. What is the final asking prize you can go at last?
3 Will you let our shipping company to come to you house for the pick up of the item cos we don't want you to worry yourself about the shipping of the item.
4. You are to send your NAME,ADDRESS,CITY,POSTAL CODE AND TEL # to mail out the payment today.
5. Will you be able to send the excess fund back to the shipping company via western union money transfer same day you receive and cash the check for the arrangement of the pick up of the item.

Example 2:

I am using this medium to notify you of my interest in purchasing your Item on behalf of my client. My client has specifically given me a quote and placed an order for your particular Item. I will like to ask you some few Question 1, Do you accept a Cashier Check/money order as a mode of payment ? 2 What the acting price of the Item? 3, What old is it? 4, Will you let our shipping company to come to you house for the pick up of the Item cos we don't want you to worry yourself about the shipping of the Item?

Example 3:

hi,my name is micheal gardner and i'm an agent one of my client is very much inetrested in buying your item and so i will like to know the last asking price of the item.can i know your status of your payment, but will you accept money order and you dont have to worry about the shippment of the item because it will be handle by a private shipping company whcih they will come for the pick-up as soon as we conclude on this purchase.hope to hear from you.

Example 4:

"HELLO I WILL WANT TO BUY THE TWO ABOVE NAME ITEM AND I WILL LIKE TO KNOW IF YOU CAN SHIP TO NIGERIA THROUGH FEDEX COURIER SERVICES IF YOU CAN SHIP PLEASE SEND TO ME THE TOTAL COST OF PURCHASE AND THE COURIER SERVICE CHARGENB.MY MODE OF PAYMENT IS $USD CASHIER CHECKEMMA UKALA"

Example 5:

Hello,Thanks for the mail,i have being trying to call your number but i was unable to get through.I am lexically trying to call you so that i can explain some certain issues to you.Like,letting you know that the cheque has being mailled out to you.And there has being some changes in the procedures.I implore my client to mail a cheque to you and another to the shipping company(that will be coming for the pick up). Instead, he issue the whole sums to you and telling me that he can't issue a cheque to anyone out the 52 States of US,since it is a US cheque that he issuing.Therefore,I will like to know if you will try recieve the payment and send the excess funds to them(Shipping Company)as soon as you recieve the payment.For further information you can contact the shipping company at BWShipping@myway.com Please,do get back to me as soon as possible

Example 6:

Name: moniis_moni2000@dcemail.com Madam Moni Kabila Tel:225 07 13 64 92 Introduction. My Dear, It is my pleasure to contact you for a business venture which I and my Son Mack,intend to establish in your country. Though I have not met with you before but I believe, one has to risk confiding in succeed sometimes in life. There is this huge amount of Eigtheen million U.S dollars($18,000,000.00) which my late Husband kept for us with a Security Company in Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire before he was assasinated by unknown persons.Now I and my son decided to invest these money in your country or anywhere safe enough outside Africa for security and political reasons. We want you to help us claim and retrieve these fund from the Security Company and transfer it into your personal account in your country for investment purposes on these areas: 1). Telecommunication 2). the transport industry 3). Five star hotel If you can be of an assistance to us we will be pleased to offer to you 10% Of the total fund. I await your soonest response. Respectfully yours, Mrs. Moni Kabila.

Example 7:

hello,Omo Khefe is the name,i am located in the UAE {dubai}.i own a art shop,where i purchase and sell as well as design antiques and other art works.i saw your your work and might be interested in buying it,if you are will to sell this item:: Long Handle Pickle Fork i will appreciate it if you can send a clearer picture.i accept it for the asking price i.e $1,500. for shipping of this item,i can arrange for that.payment could be made through bank wire transfer.if all this arrangements are okay by you,reply now. awaiting your prompt response.thank you.Omo.

Example 8:

Name: dgolomy name is denis maxwell,a dealer in antiques based in the netherlands,i have interest in buying your item i.e the Spectacular Coral Cameo, Cultured Pearls, Italian, 14KG - Diamonds,so i want you to give me the full details of this item,also send me some pictures.i will take it for your asking price($3200), for payment i will pay with a bank wire transfer,i will arrange for the item to be shipped.will be waiting for yourquick response. here is my email address:denissgolo1@yahoo.co.uk let me have yours? thanks. Mr Denis.

Example 9:

(This one is a less obvious one but it turned out that Hassan asked the question in numerous shops: Name: Hassan Hi, Just wanted to find out if you still have the item for sale, I have a client who would buy it for $3,000. We will arrange for pick up as soon as the transaction is concluded and payment is confirmed. Please get back to me immediately. Thanks Hassan

Example 10:

(This one was also from Hassan): Hello,Thank you for the mail. I have just discussed with my client as regards the payment and he has instructed me to inform you that payment will get to you soon.I want to inform you that I have added $2,450 to the price before sending it over to my client to bring it to a total of $4,150 as may be seen on the check when you receive it.You are required to deduct cost of the work $1,800.The extra $100 will cover for the charges at the transfer office when payment gets to you and send balance $2,350 to the agent via money transfer for him to be able to upset freight charges,transport as well as my commission for my efforts as a broker.Please I will want you to do this for me as this is the only way I can get paid.He has in the past owed me some money and I would not want to be owed again as I now have the responsibilty of taking care of my wife and my newly born twins(two males) through cicero operation and are still in the hospital now and in seriuos pains.After payment has reached you and balance sent back to him, our agent will come pick the work to a prepaid freighter to be freihted to my customer, other necessary documets(if any) will be handed over to the agent when he comes for pick up.Please Re-Confirm this again NAME, ADDRESS, and PHONE number for check payment to be delivered to you ASAPThank youHassan-------

Physical characteristics to examine on checks and money orders

* Money orders that can be purchased from most vendors typically will not be printed for very large dollar amounts. Top amount limits may vary by source, but there will always be a top amount that they will never exceed. The maximum amount for which a money order can be issued will almost always be printed on it somewhere. For instance, if you see "Not Negotiable for any Amount over $500." in small print below the amount line, but the money order has apparently been 'written' for $2500, you have a fake.

* Amounts on most money orders or printed checks will generally vary.

Fraudulent instruments will almost consistently be written in even amounts (i.e. $1,000; $2,500 etc.) and often the figure will exceed the actual amount needed to pay for an item being purchased. The 'buyer' will then request that you refund them the difference when you ship the item. We recommend not accepting payment of any type if it is written for more than the cost of the sales transaction.

* Most official instruments will be written on special paper and they will always employ one or more special fraud prevention devices. You can be find them if you make it a habit to look for them. Look for this on your own personal checks to get some idea ahead of time what to look for. Some of the following elements may be present and some may not.

  • There may be a security feature like a heat sensitive circle that will change color. Apply a finger and this spot may turn from pink to white, for instance, and then return to pink once your finger is removed. Money orders will sometimes have these.

  • Hold a check or money order to the light to look for watermarks.

  • Micro text is a fraud prevention device that will almost always be found on checks issued by a banking institution, and it can also be found on some money orders. This is text that is so small to the human eye it appears to be an unbroken line; but with magnification the line actually can be seen to be printed words, a line of text. If someone has used an ordinary copy machine to make a bogus check, the micro text printed on the original will not be printed as text on the copy. It will come out on the copy the same way your unaided eye sees it - as a drawn line. So if you can't see micro text where it's supposed to be, have your financial institution exam the check or money order before depositing it in your account.

  • A lock icon with, "Security Features Included - Details on back" would direct you to the back of a check for instructions on what features to look for. Take out a loupe or magnifying glass to check where those instructions tell you to look for the micro text. You might be surprised to find the signature line that you've been signing all these years on your own checks isn't really a drawn line, at all, but the tiny words, "Authorized Signature" written again and again.

Being without one of these identifying characteristics doesn't necessarily mean a payment form is fraudulent, but if you have any suspicions, take it to the bank or vendor who issued it or take it to your own bank. Inform them of your suspicions, and ask them to verify the instrument for you.

With the proliferation of these scams worldwide, it is not a question of if you will be approached, but when.

Scam artists typically scour online sites looking for the newest, and least experienced shops. Be informed and stay safe! Many Ruby Lane shop owners simply have a policy not to do business with anyone from countries with which they are unfamiliar.

Don't be fooled! Be alert!

Article Last Update: September 29, 2013