How to prevent being scammed by fraudulent international sellers

Thanks to ease of purchasing over the internet, finding international suppliers and purchasing goods for import has never been as easy as it is today. Suppliers for an endless amount of goods can be found through Google, and international credit card payments can be done swiftly through international payment portals such as PayPal. Unfortunately, with the increase in international sales has come an increase in international scammers targeting uninformed, optimistic buyers. Some of the most common scams include the disappearance of the seller after payment, or substandard goods being supplied. Buyers are not, however, totally vulnerable; there are a number of options that they can employ in order to protect themselves from being scammed.

Research the Seller

Take special care to research the seller when purchasing popular, high value, or rare items, especially when advertised at good prices. Get the seller’s physical address and phone number. Check whether the seller is registered with the correct phone number and physical address in the telephone directory or local directory assistance service. You can also look up the company’s address on Google Earth and see if the image rendered is appropriate for the type of business. Alternatively you can ask your freight agent to contact their office in the local country to verify the business contact details and give their opinion on the business’s legitimacy.

Search online and look for company reviews. This is a bit trickier for foreign companies operating with foreign languages. You can also ask for assistance from your freight company.

A number of sellers are registered on PayPal. Check if the supplier has been a verified member of PayPal for a reasonable period of time. This gives an indication of whether other buyers have trusted this supplier in the past. To check the seller’s PayPal status you will need to initiate (but not finalise) payment to the seller. On the “Check the details of your payment” page is a “seller’s reputation link.”

Make use of a reputable business-to-business trading platform.

Most trading platforms have a method for rating sellers and a section where previous buyers can leave feedback. Look for established sellers with a reputable rating and a history of positive transactions from happy buyers. It is often advised to only communicate with the buyer through the trading platform. That way an independent record of the communication is kept. The majority of trading platforms offer some buyer protection services. Read about their buyer protection policy on their website or contact them directly for information.

Use a payment method that offers buyer protection.

Aim to never wire money directly into a seller’s account unless you have an established trust relationship with the seller. Rather choose a more secure payment option. A number of the established business-to-business trading portals offer an escrow service which you can make use of. For large payments, a letter of credit or documentary bank collection may be considered.

Take control of the freight and use insurance.

A common scam is for the seller to send damaged/substandard goods and blame the damage on the shipper. To protect yourself against this scam arrange the freight yourself and use freight insurance. Due to the low claim rate in international transport freight insurance, rates are very reasonable for most commodities. For assistance with freight quotes fill in this form or phone our offices on 021 850 0967.

Arrange for a pre-shipment inspection.

A pre-shipment inspection by an internationally recognised company may be arranged by your freight agent. Receipt of an approved inspection certificate can be one of the conditions for payment.

By adhering to the above advice you can dramatically lower your chances of being scammed, giving your more confidence when sourcing new products.

Find more original resources and assistance with customs licenses & foreign exchange on TradeLogistics.



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