If you have sold online for a while, chances are you have had a total scammer. By “scammer” I am not referring to the typical “bad customer” who is trying to get you to let them keep it and also issue a full refund or the person. Instead I am referring to literally scammers: people who steal credit card numbers and place fake orders, OR people who use their real credit card numbers then claim “fraudulent transaction” via a chargeback. Like I said, ACTUAL scammers… fraudsters… thieves.
The easiest way to catch 99.99% of these scammers is to use a fraud verification program, like Signifyd, but that costs money, so I am instead going to tell you how to catch a scammer for free.
The first major Red Flag is that the billing and the shipping do not match and are usually super far apart. For example, the Billing address is in California but the Shipping address is Maine. Or the Billing is in the USA but the shipping address is Brazil. Yes, it is possible that the person relocated or is sending the item(s) to friends / family, but this is also the first sign of a credit card scammer.
The second major Red Flag is paying for faster shipping, overnight shipping or express shipping, especially on a large order or on a very pricey item or even on an item that is so totally cheap that express shipping costs 5x more than the actual item AND also having it rush-delivered. The credit card thief is trying to get the inventory out of your possession before the rightful card owner realizes the bogus charges were applied to their card and contacts their bank.
Third, the billing is in one name and the shipping is in a different name. Why would Bill Smith from Texas be “gifting” Bob Daniels from Oklahoma $500 worth of Victorias Secret perfume? Or why would Kensie Laurence from the USA be gifting Natasha Conner from Spain a $100 dress… and paying $500 to have it arrive in 72 hours? None of these scenarios make a damn bit of sense.
Fourth, the order is illogical as a whole. Scammers do not care WHAT they get. They just want your inventory. Kids clothes, purses, lipstick, bras in 34A and 38DDD, a flower pot, mens NIKE Shoes. When you place an online order, does your order look like this? Mine sure doesn’t. Most people buy stuff that somewhat matches; a baby bouncer and some infant clothing or mens NIKEs and a mens necktie. Maybe even makeup and a bra.
Fifth, direct credit card payments are almost always the scammers favorite payment method. Scammers, for the most part, avoid PayPal, Google Pay, Apple Pay, Samsung Pay and Amazon Pay because all of these entities require some level of identity verification. Google Pay, Apple Pay and Samsung Pay all require an account with the actual card scanned, so this is a major detourant to fraudsters.
The last major red flag is someone who, as soon as you ship, starts flooding you with more orders. The scammer has realized you fell prey to their con and they want to get as much of your inventory as possible before you catch on. IF you already shipped something and you now realize that it was a scam, immediately REROUTE the parcel back to you! Rerouting parcels usually costs money ($10-$20) but it is substantially better than supporting the fraudsters livelihood and gifting them inventory.
HOW TO CATCH A SCAMMER
Here’s an actual total scam order we received:
Here’s some very easy way to tell that this order is totally bogus:
Google search the shipping address. Just copy and paste the address into Google. Is the address a Freight Forwarding Company? A hotel or weekly-lease motel? Does Google Earth show there’s literally no address at all? Or is it a house with boards on the windows? NOW Google search the Billing address. If the billing address is a $300,000 home in Florida and the shipping is a run down dump in Detroit… this doesn’t make sense either.
Google search the AREA CODE for the phone number. If the person is claiming to be in Texas, but their area code is “313”, the phone number is from Michigan OR the person used a free app to create a bogus phone number. And it’s even more bizarre if the phone number is from Michigan, the Billing Address is Texas and the Shipping Address is Washington.
Next, Google the entire phone number and see what you find. If the phone number is registered to a Chiropractor or business person, call it and ask for the name on the Billing Address. If the person is available, let them know you received an order for (whatever) and you want to confirm that he/she did legitimately place this order. If he/she says “no”, let them know their credit card information has been compromised and they need to contact their bank right away. If there is nobody by that name, ask for the name on the Shipping address. If they hang up on you, it’s definitely a scam. Surprisingly, most of the time scammers just type totally made-up phone numbers or use free phone numbers. If you do not Google search the phone number but instead decide to just call it, remember that it could be a trap. If the scammer downloaded a free phone number app the scammer will answer and tell you the order is legitimate. This is why you need to first see if the number is registered to a real person, listed on the internet.
Google search the email address. Most people have some kind of online history related to their email address. If there are no results at all, the email address could be 100% bogus or they just made the email for the purpose of scamming. This isn’t always 100% true, but it often is.
Speaking of email addresses, LOOK AT IT. If the Billing name is Brenda Scott and the Shipping name is James Cook but the email address is SandraPeters3673@fmail.com , that’s pretty strange, aint it? Keep in mind, it is ILLEGAL (a FEDERAL CRIME) to apply charges to someone else’s card. So even IF Brenda Scott told Sandra Peters that she can use her Visa credit card to buy gifts for James Cook, it is a crime for Sandra to use the card to place an order! However Brenda could call Visa and request Sandra be added to her Authorized Buyers. Visa will then send Sandra a card in SANDRAS NAME that charges the funds to Brendas account. This means when Sandra orders merchandise for James cook she can place the order under her own name instead of Brendas. Kapish?
Also, does the email, as a whole, even make sense? Scammers often create mass free email addresses, such as @yahoo.com's. Since there are so many email addresses in the world, and no two people can have the same email address, they resort to sketchy email addresses like “firstname.lastname@example.org”. In the 15+ years we have been selling online, I have NEVER seen a legitimate person have an email address like this. Also, scammers from other countries often incorrectly spell names. In the USA, the name “Bill” usually has 2 letter L’s, not “Bil” and the name “Michelle” usually is not spelled “Muchelle”, “Misshelle” or “Mashelle”. Of course there are indeed people with very unique name spellings, so this is not always a dead give-away, but combined with other oddities, it does add up! As you can see in the image I uploaded of one of our total scam orders, the spelling of the name “Linda” is “Lyinda”.
Next, Facebook is your biggest ally! Search for the email address and phone number. If the email or phone number brings up a completely different profile, that in itself is exceptionally bizarre. If there’s no results, search for the name of the Billing address person and ADD THEIR STATE to the search. For example, in the scam order we received, the persons name is “Brandon Smith”” and he is supposedly from Texas but currently in Florida, so I would type into Facebook “Brandon Smith FL” and “Brandon Smith TX”.
If there is no existence of a Brandon Smith in Texas or Florida, here’s another huge red flag. Once again, not everyone has a Facebook page, but most people do and if you are finding that this persons email address doesn’t match the order name, there’s no results when you search Google, the Billing and Shipping addresses, rush shipping was paid for AND there is no Facebook account, you likely have a scammer.
Now let’s say you DO find “Brandon Smith FL” on Facebook. This is a positive sign that at least there is SOMEONE with that name in that state. If it’s a very unique name, then that’s an even better sign, however “Smith” is such a common last name that you absolutely shouldn’t get too excited yet. Scammers do use names that they think will fly under your radar - Thompson, Walker, Walters, Johnson, Smith, Peters in addition to Mike, Mary, Sarah, Sue, John, Joe, Jason…. Again, does the profile you discovered make sense at all? If you are able to view his Facebook “About Me” section, is there any mention of being a reseller? Is there a link to his eBay or .com site? Or does it say that he’s a Truck Driver or unemployed college kid?
IF YOU FIND THE BILLING ADDRESS PERSON ON FACEBOOK, send them a private message!! Explain that their information was used to place an order on your site and that you just want to be sure it is legitimate before you ship out the inventory. You will be surprised at how friendly and thankful people are that you contact them to let them know their card has been compromised.
You can also search for names and emails on other social media sites. If this person totally doesn’t exist anywhere AND nothing makes sense, it’s almost guaranteed to be a total scam.
WHAT TO DO IF YOU THINK IT'S A SCAM
If you truly are not sure if it’s legit or not, I suggest canceling the order and letting the buyer know they can reorder and pay using Pay Pal, Apple Pay, Amazon Pay, etc. Or ask the buyer for identity verification (photo of the drivers license or passport that matches the BILLING address). It is better to lose the sale and keep the inventory than to get hit with a $40 chargeback for fraud, lose the inventory, lose the time spent listing it and shipping it, losing the cost of shipping and also lose the money.
IF YOU REALIZED IT'S A SCAM AFTER IT SHIPPED
Check out our article 6 Steps to Take if You Shipped a Fraudulent Order
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