When Craig Silberman opened Glenwood Custom Carpets three years ago, it didn’t take him long to learn that some “customers” will go to great lengths to conduct scams that could cost him thousands in goods and shipping.
Because Silberman has a business Web site, it’s not unusual for potential customers to contact him via e-mail. What is unusual is when the inquiry is for a large quantity of flooring to be shipped out-of-state.
“I have to assume the initial contact is legitimate,” Silberman said of conducting business. It’s ensuing e-mails -- or in some cases TTY Relay Operated phone calls, most often used by the hearing-impaired -- that tip off that it’s a scam.
“They usually seem to be very eager to buy from you, but the tip off is they don’t want to talk to you in person,” Silberman said. In one instance, he added, the “customer” continually changed the quantity of flooring needed and wanted it shipped to Alaska. The E-mails, he noted, are always rife with spelling and grammatical errors.
As a BBB Accredited Business, Silberman wanted to alert other businesses that might not be as familiar with the scheme. The BBB warns that this type of foreign-operated scam is pervasive and affects all types of business, from sporting goods to paint stores. Typically, scam artists want to buy a large quantity of an item, ask that it be shipped through their own transport service, pay for the item and shipping with stolen credit cards, then ask the business to wire the shipping fee to the transporter. If the scam succeeds, the business owner is out both goods and money.
The BBB advises businesses take the following steps to protect themselves:
• Beware of e-mail requests that are filled with misspellings and grammatical errors.
• If the caller is using a TTY Relay Operator, ask the customer for his/her full name, address and telephone number.
• Ask for the name of the issuing bank and its toll-free customer service number as printed on the back of all credit cards.
• Ask the caller for the three or four digit Card Verification Code that is found near the account number on the back or front of a credit card.
• Tell the potential buyer that you will check with the bank and call them back. When you do that, keep good notes. Verify all information the buyer gives. If a buyer objects, explain that these procedures are for their protection as well.
• If the caller still objects to providing any of the above information, abandon the conversation and advise that you are not prepared to do business this way.
• If the buyer insists on paying with a certified check, wait until the funds are in your bank account, before shipping the merchandise.
For more trustworthy advice on scams, go to www.bbb.org or call 800-564-0371.