Scam has finally struck my own small business TYPENU Co, but don’t worry; I didn’t fall for it. Happy ending and lessons ahead.
The typical Shipping Company Scams
If you’re not yet aware, I run a small business appropriately called The TYPENU Collective and you’ve probably seen in around the blog – we carry delicate and minimal jewelry with an aesthetic ranging from cute to sleek.
I’d like to think I’m a pretty savvy person when it comes to the internet; growing up in the 90s when the internet was so new, I’ve always had a knack for sniffing out suspicious emails asking for my passwords and such – the funky grammar, the slightly off and pixelated logos, and just general awareness of “why the hell would you need that from me, oh interwebs stranger??”.
Last week I received an innocuous looking message from the contact forms (a feature that’s standard for hosting with the merchant service Shopify) asking if I ship internationally, and if I accept credit cards.
2 things: you would know that I do if you read my Shippings page, and Shopify conveniently places credit card logos along the bottom of your store so show that yes, credit cards are accepted. But you know what, that’s okay. People can be busy and don’t have time to read. So patiently, I respond.
Only over the next several days, I get the same message from the same person 3 more times. Mind you, this isn’t just email where you can logically send the same message over and over, this is being manually submitted to me through Shopify’s contact forms. By now I see a tiny red flag waving in the distance. Nonetheless, I prevail:
The spam stops and Ms. Palmer writes back with a sophisticated list that appears she’s taken the time to go through my shop and picked out a few goodies and carefully listed out the quantity she wants. She also asks me to obtain a UPS or DHL shipping quote.
Okay fair enough. Still, in the back of my mind I can’t wrap my head around why she just didn’t add these items to the cart and obtain an order total that way instead of insisting on this list which probably took her longer to craft. And who calls for a quote anymore? Oh well, people can be weird. At this point for my protection I ask her to pay by Paypal only.
I was surprised she agreed. But of course the real reason she did will be revealed later on. I’ll take her seriously, and need her to correct a few things.
Oh those strange grammar errors and a refusal to read. Or maybe she’s a robot? By now it’s getting clear she’s not exactly interested in the products themselves and only cares about one thing: the shipping quote. Why? You’ll see.
And then it gets strange.
When in the world did I give her the time frame 1 to 2 weeks? So now she’s either making stuff up or confusing me with other people she’s scamming. Either way, the red flag is now being waved in my face so hard it’s practically tickling my nose. But if she’s able to pay properly through PayPal and I can verify billing + shipping address matches, it’s no business of mine that she makes no sense.
You can smell her excitement by now. She needs those critical shipping quotes and now she has it! Comes this wall of text:
Oh okay, you dick, you asked me for the quote and then ended up doing it yourself anyway. And proceeded to copy and paste me a bunch of bullshit that I’m sure if I dig into it the information would come up false. What I’m “amazed” at is how your English miraculously improved itself.
This is basically what they call a shipping company scam. Unfortunately I got so mad I shut her down before I could pretend to go along with this scam for a bit longer, but basically what goes down is this:
- They set up a decent looking website of a fake shipping company which you contact and “work stuff out”.
- They ask you to front the shipping charges and other misc weird international crap and promise to reimburse you, which they do but with a stolen or fake credit card.
- Everything will seem fine until a month later when your account gets backcharged and now you’re left trying to yell at Western Union.
Scams on the internet is nothing new. What angers me is that this is specifically targeting small businesses – regular folks who are desperate to make their businesses work and are very vulnerable; they’ll blindly chase the carrot on the stick, that large lucrative order which of course never existed in the first place. Sometimes the scammers even promise the carrier will even come by and pick up the package, which of course no one will show up. They’ve already got your money, nothing else matters. They were never after the products to begin with.
My tips for sniffing out these scams:
- The most important: requesting to use something other than the major carriers: USPS / UPS / DHL / FedEX / EMS. Just don’t bother. Never ever. Resist the promise of gold at the end of the rainbow if you do them this favor by using the one they want you to use.
- Western Union. I actually have no idea why this institution is so involved with scams, but it is what it is. Anyone asking you to wire money or what not using Western Union is full of crap.
- It only takes one red flag to nullify all other elements that seem legit. ONE. A lot of people get taken in because along the way something seemed trust worthy like in this case, Ms Palmer willing to use PayPal, and her detailed list of items.
If you know friends or acquaintances that have their own business, please share this information and help spread the word. Here is another detailed account of this scam on Dan Bailey Photo that contains a wealth of information, and if you’re using Shopify to host your store like me, here is a recent thread of the issue.
On a brighter note, are you ready for Mother’s Day? It’s 20% off your entire order with code: MOTHERSDAY at over at TYPENU Co! Treat her to something pretty and pick yourself up a little something while you’re at it!
Have you ever encountered scam on the internet? Share your thoughts below!
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Linking up with these amazing blogs this week!