Monday, August 31, 2009

In hard times, watch out for scams

It seems this recession has sent scammers into overdrive. Maybe they hope that companies struggling to stay afloat during the slow economy will be easy targets for scams, perhaps taking business they would avoid during better times. Or maybe the scammers themselves are feeling the economic pinch (not that my heart bleeds for them).

These scammers are stepping up their efforts to steal from legitimate business owners, often using a fake shipping company scam, and companies need to be on the lookout. The recession is hard enough already—don’t make it worse by losing thousands of dollars to these folks.

On average, I receive two emails a week from business owners reporting they have been targeted with fraudulent orders (for the most part, they have identified the scam in time). Jorge Morales, general manager at Dimensional Plastics Corp., Hialeah, Fla., wrote in a recent email, “I get hit by these scammers at least two to three times a day. … Today, one actually called me!”

Rich Yergovich, sales and marketing manager for Kingston Printing, Eudora, Kan., said, “I got two in one day. Both smelled bad from the start, but I responded with a polite estimate. When I got a response with a request to contact Mobo Shipping in order for my product to be shipped to Singapore, I knew there was a rat in the kitchen. The very minute someone wants to send printed material to a foreign country you have to know something isn’t right.”

The scammers have even started to email me directly, trying to place glass orders supposedly for orphanages, churches or schools in other continents.

If you know the warning signs, the scams are easy to identify. At Glass Magazine, we set up a Scam Alert page listing the red flags for fraud. Make sure you and everyone at your company knows the warning signs. And, most importantly, trust your gut. If it seems fishy, it probably is. Legitimate customers won’t be hesitant to provide basic additional information. Legitimate customers won’t insist on the use of their preferred shipping company when it costs thousands of dollars more to do so. And legitimate customers won’t force you to take a great financial risk to complete their order.

To learn more about the red flags, read examples of fraudulent orders and get information about reporting scammers, go to the Scam Alert page. To read more in-depth information about the shipping company scam and see numerous comments from business owners who have been targeted, click here.

--By Katy Devlin, commercial glass & metals editor

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