Dealing with scams – small business pitfalls

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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.

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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.

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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:

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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And then it gets strange.

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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.

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You can smell her excitement by now.  She needs those critical shipping quotes and now she has it!  Comes this wall of text:

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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.

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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!

If you liked this post, follow me on:  Follow for more!

Linking up with these amazing blogs this week!

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  • Scary stuff!

  • Rachel Vogt (Rachel Vogt Trend
  • That is very annoying!!

    http://www.inmydreams.ca/

  • Thanks Sophie 😉 Sorry I distracted you from studying!! I completely agree, and it’s helped me grow a tougher skin. Just this past weekend I was notified that one of my orders were from a buyer using a fraudulent credit card and I had to refund it + another $15 for the back charge fee; greeeeeaat.

  • Wow I just read this whole thing even though I better should be studying and I am just amazing about how bad humanity has become. I mean wtf?! Me just thinking about the time you have spend negotiating with this person just to end up with a freaking scam makes me super angry… So sorry this happened to you!

    Sophie xx
    http://basicapparel.de

  • Candace

    Wow that’s crazy! So glad you caught her before anything got worse. Thanks for the heads up on this. I’ll definitely be looking out when I start my business.

    http://www.thebeautybeau.com/in-the-trench/

  • ahh so sorry to hear that this happened to you, scammers are the worst. on a better note, love your pieces dear

    xx Melis
    http://fashionmews.com

  • Oh to this extent!!! Sad! Thanks for sharing!
    http://www.thestyletune.com

  • Melisa

    so sorry you got scammed dear! on the other hand, I love all the accessories and wish you all the best for your business in the future<3
    http://www.rebelrebel.co x

  • There’s a lot of issue on that for online shopping.
    I hate when business like this do this to their customers.
    It decreases their credibility.

    Have a great day!

    http://www.thebandwagonchic.com/

  • Thank you Esther! You get used to it after awhile, it’s part of the gig 😉

  • So glad your husband caught it! Yea scammers seem to get more sophisticated everyday, and it’s so frustrating that no paying system is 100% safe when it comes to online!

  • Most of the messages look to be copy and paste, just a few taps on her end and it’s easy money. Ugh!

  • Those earrings are gorgeous!

    ❤︎
    Dakota D.
    http://fannypacksandvisors.com

  • Wow!! This is insane! She was very persistent… Typically I’ve only seen scams that send one or two emails. Glad you caught it!

    http://www.maggiealamode.com

  • Hanna

    This one is so much more advanced than other scams I’ve seen. Sad! –Hanna Lei

    Latest Post: Outfit: 2-D Cartoon Bag after Finals

  • Spammers are so annoying! I get PayPall ones every single day x

    http://thelondonthing.co.uk/

  • Yulia

    Oh, I didn’t know scammers now go this far by setting up fake shipping companies! So glad you could understand what this was all about before processing the order:)
    I only had one similar experience, when I was selling my old camera. I got a text message from a person in another country saying he wants to buy it as a gift for his friend in my area, and send me the money by PayPal. Long story short, it turned out that these guys were involved in some PayPal fraud! I am so lucky to have a husband who has an eye for scammers, lol. Anyway, thanks so much for alerting us, Alice:)

    http://www.yuliannova.com/

  • Congrats girlie! Such gorgeous pieces.

    XO, Jessi
    http://www.mywhiteT.com

  • What a terrible experience! I had no idea you had your own jewellery! Will defo be checking them out!

    Darriyan♡ | http://www.darriyancateland.blogspot.com

  • ohh! that sounds awful especially the way she suggested her own, trusted courier company! ugh
    http://www.kmeetsstyle.com

  • Wow what a horrible experience, I’m so sorry you had to deal with this. Your jewelry is beautiful and I will definitely check out your shop!
    Have a great weekend. 🙂

    https://dajanaerd.wordpress.com

  • I’m glad you are savvy enough to notice scams, although I’m sorry you have to deal with them! PS. Your jewelry is just lovely. 🙂

    Best,
    Christina

    Looks by Lau

  • I didn’t know this existed at all, having to deal with these kind of e-mails must be so annoying!!! But you were so helpful and polite despite how the weird the e-mails were! And I absolutely love your jewelries, they are beautiful!

    xo, Esther

    http://bubblesther.com

  • Carrie @ Curly Crafty Mom

    Oh, wow! I can’t believe you have to spend SO much time dealing with this sort of stuff! Crazy!!!!

    Carrie
    curlycraftymom.com

  • I think instincts is soooo important; people tend to ignore it when there’s a big prize (sale, in this case) at the end of the line and easily fall victim to scams. These scammers are vicious; so disgusting.

  • Thanks Bash! Oh well, it was both a disappointment and a learning experience. At the end of the day no harm was done to me and I learned a valuable lesson, I think that’s as good of an outcome as it could be! ;D

  • Haha! I tried to be patient because you just never know; some people especially in other countries are used to different customs, mannerisms, etc!

  • Oh my god. I’m so sorry you had to go through such terrible ordeal. What a beep beep beeeeeeep. (I intentionally beeped myself out.) Ugh. At least you figured it out sooner than later. On a better note, your jewellery is gorgeous!

    xx Bash |   go say   H E Y   B A S H

  • What a jerk! They tend to act so professional that sometimes its difficult to sniff them out! You did a great job girl!

    Love,

    Nilu Yuleena Thapa

    BIG hair LOUD mouth

  • Wow! People always surprise me on how much work they put into scamming others! I’m so sorry you had to deal with this. On a happy note, your jewelry is beautiful and I need to check out your shop! Have a wonderful weekend!

    Jill
    Doused In Pink

  • Oh man. This is one of the better attempts at a scam I’ve seen. Most of the time they’re poorly thought out and utterly transparent. The shoddy English and bad grammar are usually a giveaway to me (or maybe I’m just a cynical bitch baha), but when the enquiry’s coming from countries where English isn’t their first language, it does make you second guess your judgement – although instinct is usually right. It’s a good thing that you’ve got a good head on your shoulders and could sniff something fishy from the start. It’s so sad to hear of a scam ruining someone’s business/livelihood because they took what was being proposed in good faith, no matter how strange it may have seemed.

    Christie’s Take on Life. x

  • Such a spammer, like really even now days people do this. Anyway your work is really beautiful. love it. 🙂

    http://www.thequirkyminimal.com

  • whoaaaa… that is so elaborate, I can not believe people will do this. I’m sorry you had to go through this girl

    http://www.prettyinleather.net

  • Diana Horsfall

    OMG, this spammers! I watched Ted Talk, there are one dude who actually started to respond spammer and play on their nerves.. I was wondering if I should do it too

    http://www.queenhorsfall.com/

  • OH MY GOD. I’m so glad you sniffed this out- but seriously, how shady are people?! Ugh.

    -Ashley
    Le Stylo Rouge

  • Monique | WritingMonique

    OHMY! I can’t believe scams like this happen, it’s so awful! Thanks so much for sharing this!
    WritingMonique

  • Kay (shoesandglitter)

    Oh my goodness, what?!?! What a horrible experience, I’m glad you dealt with it in such a polite manner, I would have probably just lost my patience really early on, haha. Such an awful scam, and I can’t believe that people actually fall for these things!

    Kay
    http://shoesandglitter.com