2 February 2015

Edgewater Soaps - Life and Soap: International shipping scams, part 3: out of the nutshell

Edgewater Soaps - Life and Soap: International shipping scams, part 3: out of the nutshell



In my first post
on this topic, I wrote "in a nutshell" about how these international
shipping scams play out.  With greatest thanks and appreciation to Rosa
Ziv of Carmel Gifts, this post will crack that nutshell open and show



exactly what happens when a business owner pursues, in good faith, the
sales opportunity one of these e-mails appears to present.



Rosa had been corresponding with a scammer who calls himself "Robert
Jones" of De-Crown Stores in the Netherlands (who has also tried to scam
me), and after reading one of my previous blog posts on this subject,
Rosa offered to send me the entire chain of e-mail messages in her
correspondence with him.  They show, step-by-step, exactly how shipping
scammers attempt to con their targets into paying for shipping to a
retail business that doesn't exist, using a shipping company that also
doesn't exist.



The Initial Contact



In Rosa's case, the initial inquiry was made through the "Contact Us"
form on her website, not through an e-mail. Here's the text of the
e-mail notification she received:

Someone submitted the form from your 'Contact Us' page



A user has submitted the contact form on your store.

Here are their details:



Full Name:  Robert Jones

Email Address:  de-crown.stores@hotmail.com

Company Name:  De-Crown Store

Phone Number:

Order Number:

RMA Number:

   

Hello, How're you?I want to place an international order from your
company to our store in Netherlands. I want to know if you can ship
internationally and accept credit card as a form of payment?I'd love you
to reply me back and we can proceed further Eagerly await to read back
from you and we can proceed.

Thank you and God bless you



De-Crown Store

Robert Jones.
Interestingly, this is not the same as the e-mail I received from Robert
Jones.  But it's almost exactly the same as a recent e-mail I received
from someone who calls herself/himself Theresa Gullit:

Hello,

How're you?I want to place an international order from your company to
our store in Amsterdam,The Netherlands.I want to know if you can ship
internationally and accept credit card as a form of payment?I'd love you
to reply me back and we can proceed further Eagerly await to read back
from you and we can proceed

Thank you and God bless you.

Yours

Theresa Gullit (Mrs)
Also, if you didn't already notice, Robert's e-mail address is a free
hotmail account that's meant to give the impression of an official
business e-mail address.  On the one hand, it might be what he uses for
his business.  But on the other, it might only be a free e-mail account
that looks like a business e-mail address.  This will come up again
later on.



The Initial Response 

From:  rosa@carmelgiftshop.com

To:  de-crown.stores@hotmail.com

Subject:  RE: Someone submitted the form from your 'Contact Us' page



Dear Robert,

Thank you very much for your interest in Carmel Gifts.

Yes, of course we ship internationally and of course we accept credit cards.

In order to pay by credit card, at check out, you have a choice of
PayPal or other form (credit card). When I receive the order, I will
send you an email request via my PayPal for you to pay using your card. I
don't see your card details and PayPal deposits the payment in my
account.

Please let me know if I can be of any more assistance.

Best regards,



Rosa
The Order



Robert then e-mails Rosa his shopping list. 

From:  De-Crown Store [mailto:de-crown.stores@hotmail.com]

To:  Rosa Ziv

Subject:  PRICE LIST AND TOTAL COST OF MY ORDER IS REQUIRED.‏‏‏‏



Hello Rosa,

Thanks for your reply back. I can't wait to have your lovely products in my store for my customers.

Below listed is the items I want to order for and will want you to get
back to me with total cost plus shipping cost and I can provide you my
credit card for you to charge and have my order ready and I can carry
your product in our new inventory for our numerous customers.

MY ORDER

AHAVA Dead Sea Intensive Dermud Foot Cream

Qty ... 20

"Sea of Spa" Dead Sea Foot Cream Avocado and Aloe - Set of 2

Qty ... 20

"Sea of Spa" Mineral Sun Block SPF15

Qty ... 20

Zaatar Hyssop Aromatic Seasoning Blend from the Galilee

Qty ... 20

"Sea of Spa" Dead Sea Foot Cream with Magnesium

Qty ... 20

MY ADDRESS FOR THE SHIPPING QUOTE   ...

Mauritskade 63

1092 AD Amsterdam,

Netherlands.

Hope to read back from you with the total cost and the photos of the
selected products and we can proceed and finalized my order.

God bless you.



De-Crown Stores.

Robert Jones.
One odd thing to note here. Robert has obviously visited Rosa's website
to put this list together.  Rosa has pictures of all her products on her
website.  So why does Robert ask Rosa to include "photos of the
selected products" along with the price quote?



I point this out for the simple reason that it doesn't quite make
sense.  And things like this that don't quite make sense -- even little
things -- are another tell-tale sign that you're dealing with a scammer,
not a legitimate customer.  



In any case, Rosa writes back:

From:  rosa@carmelgiftshop.com

To: 
de-crown.stores@hotmail.com

Subject
: RE: PRICE LIST AND TOTAL COST OF MY ORDER IS REQUIRED.‏‏‏‏



Dear Robert,

Thanks very much. I will prepare the quotation for you.

I would like to point out that I am constantly adding more products.

If there is anything in particular you are interested in that you don't see I will try to source it for you.

Just to clarify, regarding the payment by credit card, you will not need
to give the details to me, but rather I will send you an email
requesting funds via PayPal and your card details will go securely
[Rosa's emphasis, not mine] to PayPal and they will transfer the funds
to me. I can walk you through it when we get to that point!

In the meantime, I will prepare my best offer.

Regards,



Rosa
Rosa then prepares a formal price quote for the items Robert specified and attaches it as a .pdf document to this e-mail:

From: rosa@carmelgiftshop.com

To: de-crown.stores@hotmail.com

Subject: RE: TOTAL COST OF MY ORDER IS REQUIRED.



Dear Robert,

Attached please find Quotation No. 2154.

I have offered you 15% off your entire order PLUS Free Shipping.

I look forward to turning this quotation into an order!

Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions.

Best regards,



Rosa Ziv
Note that Rosa has offered Robert both a discount and free shipping for his order. Sounds like a sweet deal to me!



Enter the Shipping Company



Here's where it starts to get interesting.  Robert the scammer wants
Rosa to use his preferred shipping company.  I've bolded the key
elements in his e-mail and will summarize them below.

From: De-Crown Store [mailto:de-crown.stores@hotmail.com]

Sent: Friday, June 21, 2013 11:58 AM

To: Rosa Ziv

Subject: CONTACT MY SHIPPER.



Hello,

Thanks for your email, I really appreciate you getting back to me with
the cost of my order. I got you from online business  inventory and you
what I needed to add to my stock and also to my customers. I have
experienced lots of difficulties when it comes to getting my items to my
address here, I will want you to contact my shipper which I uses every
time I order for goods worldwide
. Contact them via the below E-mail (westernmultifreightllc@gmail.com), with the weight and dimension inclusive the value for insurance quoting my customer ID#: QP34567555A. They will come pick my order up at your location I will need you to obtain a quote
and tell them that I want to Insure the package and I will like you to
get back to me with overall cost of the items including the shipping
cost via my shipper.

Once I have these details, I will get back to you with my credit card details immediately for payment.

God Bless you (Amen),

Kind Regards,



De-Crown Store.

Robert Jones.
Note the following:

  • Robert has been offered free shipping but apparently doesn't want it
    (!) because he's had lots of problems receiving things that were
    shipped to him
  • For that reason, he has a reliable shipper that he always uses
  • Robert wants Rosa to contact his shipping company for a price quote that includes pick-up and delivery
Also note that the e-mail address Robert has provided for the shipping
company (westernmultifreightllc@gmail.com) is another free e-mail
account that looks like a business e-mail address but may or may not be,
just like Robert's e-mail address.



I know that Rosa sensed there might be something fishy about all this
from the start, but she also wanted to give Robert the full benefit of
the doubt.  She decided to continue negotiating in good faith until the
transaction was either successfully concluded, or until it was clear
beyond a shadow of doubt that Robert was up to no good.  In her next
response, she gently but clearly indicates that she's a little leery by
asking Robert whether he actually intends to place an order, and by
asking him for a link to his store.

From: rosa@carmelgiftshop.com

To: de-crown.stores@hotmail.com

Subject: RE: CONTACT MY SHIPPER.



Dear Robert,

Do I understand this to be an order?

My advice – based on years of export from Israel – is that you let me
ship the goods with EMS, which is special delivery, tracked and insured
via the Israel postal authority. They are very good. Also, I would not
charge you shipping, as per the quotation.

My suggestion is that you pay for just the goods, I will receive them
from the different sources, repack them as efficiently as possible and
send them to you at my expense, insured.

I have not had any problems shipping to Amsterdam.

What do you think?

Could you send me a link to your store?

Regards,



Rosa
Robert offers an explanation for why he can't provide a link to his store website:

From: De-Crown Store [mailto:de-crown.stores@hotmail.com]

Sent: Friday, June 21, 2013 1:10 PM

To: Rosa Ziv

Subject: RE: CONTACT MY SHIPPER.



Hello Rosa,

Thanks for your reply back.  I understand your fact concerning the
shipping of your products. If this is how you feel them I want you to
ship it directly to my customer who order for it. He made the request
from Africa.  The name of our store is De-Crown Stores Ltd. We're new
and just springing up, we don't have a website yet. But we're in the
process of expand to other parts of the world in the near future where
we can have our website up and running.

Await your reply back



Thanks
OK, De-Crown Stores Ltd. doesn't have a website because it's "new and just springing up."  Plausible enough, I suppose. 



But note that Robert has changed the story line.  Remember earlier when
he was so eager to have Rosa's products in his store for his numerous
customers?  Well apparently he forgot that he wasn't actually ordering
them for his store, he was ordering them for a particular customer.  And
that customer is actually in Nigeria, not the Netherlands.



I've omitted a number of e-mails in the series here, but the important
point from them is that Rosa is not comfortable with Robert's insistence
that she use his preferred shipping company and contract with them
directly.  If Robert wants to use his own shipping company, fine, but he
should treat the purchase of products and the payment for shipping as
two separate transactions: he should contract with Rosa for her
products, and he should contract with his shipping company for pick-up
and delivery.



As a professional courtesy, however, Rosa asks Robert's shipping company for a quote.

Forwarded Message: Pick up from Israel CUSTOMER ID NO. QP34567555A

From:  "Rosa Ziv"

To:  WESTERNMULTIFREIGHTLLC@GMAIL.COM

Cc:  de-crown.stores@hotmail.com



Hello,

I have been asked to contact you on behalf of your customer Robert Jones
of De-Crown Stores, Netherlands, CUSTOMER ID NO. QP34567555A

He has asked that you advise estimated shipping costs.

Attached you will find my calculation of the estimated weight without
the box: approximately 18 kilos divided across 2 to 3 boxes. I do not
yet know the size of the boxes, but I trust that the actual weight and
dimensional weight will be similar.

Total Value: €1026.50. (quotation attached).

This is the best estimation I can give at this point without fully processing the order.

Please advise his shipping costs from pickup in Haifa, Israel.

Goods should be available for pickup approximately 2 weeks from receipt of payment.

I believe he wants delivery to Nigeria.

Best regards,



Rosa Ziv
Enter Western Union



This is one of two absolutely key parts of a scam like this, because
when you send money through Western Union, you pay in cash and the money
is GONE.  There are no refunds.  You can't stop payment on a wire
transfer the way you can on a check.



And guess what.  The shipping company only accepts payment through Western Union.  In advance, of course.



The following e-mail from the shipping company is long, so I've bolded the critical part.

From: veryquickrobot1@gmail.com [mailto:veryquickrobot1@gmail.com] On Behalf Of Western Multi Freight LLC

To: rosa@carmelgiftshop.com

Subject: SHIPPING COST, INSURANCE, CUSTOM AND HANDLING CHARGES.



Dear Client,

Thank you for contacting Western Multi Freight LLC(Freight &
Container) for your  service. We're a private shipping agent with
private affiliate all over the world. We ran into our data base on the
location you provided and also rectified the customer id number
(QP34567555A) ad later got to discover that we have shipped some
Merchandise to De-Crown Store in the past. We are located in United
Kingdom but help private customers in pick up like this and have got
affiliate all over the globe. So getting your shipment from to your
client won't be a problem.

For a shipment moving from Haifa, Israel  to The Nigeria with the total
Total weight and dimension you provide, below is the Standard and
Express Shipment Air Freight quote.

Customer ID Number (QP34572955A)

Express Shipment (2 to 3 days)  €600.00 EUR

Standard Shipment (3 to 5 days)  €550.00 EUR

The freight costs includes:

Collection from your Yard

Customs clearance

Duties & taxes

Inland transit to The Nigeria

Insurance

Door To Door Delivery

Pick up will be made by our agent in the states from your address after
payment is Confirmed. We will need you to provide us with estimate pick
up date and time so that we can schedule a date and time for you, before
the the goods are ready for picked up as we normally have a lot of
shipment request. As soon as we got payment confirmed, we invoice your
shipment and scan it to you to print out and paste on the shipment.

As soon as we receive all necessary information from you we will proceed on the pick up at your location, Also
we'll like to inform you that we only accept Western Union/Money Gram
Money Transfer for now prior to pick up and collection of package which
will be paid as soon as the order is ready for pick up
. You would
have to send us the amount to which the weight of the goods weight via
Western Union/Money Gram Money Transfer so that we can do the pick up
and settle the necessary tax and custom duties, this price includes
insurance and all duties, then we will get back to you with the
necessary details
. We have greatly reduce the price of your shipment. For further information don't hesitate to contact us.

Looking forward to be of more service to you.

Yours Sincerely,



Jackson Walter.
In other words, as soon as Rosa pays the shipping bill via Western
Union, the shipping company will get back to her with details about the
order pick-up.  (Note that the shipping company response was sent from yet another free e-mail account.)



Rosa writes the shipper back to make it clear that she will not be paying for the shipping, Robert Jones will:

From: Rosa Ziv [mailto:rosa@carmelgiftshop.com]

To: 'Western Multi Freight LLC'

Subject: RE: SHIPPING COST, INSURANCE, CUSTOM AND HANDLING CHARGES.



Dear Jackson,

Thank you for your speedy reply.

Please note that your customer De-Crown Stores, would be paying for the
shipment. I will forward this mail to him and wait for further
instructions.

(Please note that I am in Israel, I think you mentioned an agent in the States)

Best regards,



Rosa
Rosa forwards the price quote to Robert Jones, and he writes back with a
number of new twists in the transaction.  Again, this is long so I've
bolded the important part. 

From: De-Crown Store [mailto:de-crown.stores@hotmail.com]

To: Rosa Ziv

Subject: SHIPPING COST, INSURANCE, CUSTOM AND HANDLING CHARGES.



Hello Rosa,

Thanks for your message. I want you to supplement the original order to
fill the 50 unit as Assorted Variety. Thanks for the total quote of my
order. The total cost of my order is  okay by me and I'm ready to pay
the bills send me an invoice via email and I'll email you my Credit Card
for you to charge for the payment of my order. But,i just got a
response from my shipping Agent that He cannot receive payment via
credit or debit card from me at the moment. I  want you to help me
Charge another €600.00 EUR to my shipping agent who is going to  pick up
my ordered items from you.

The €600.00 EUR that will be sent to the shipping agent is for the
shipping of my order plus other items I ordered from different countries
which will be deducted from my credit card. Also, I'm compensating you
with the sum of €100.00 EUR for the transfer fee and for surcharge. Please
note that I should have given the shipping agency my credit card for
him to deduct the shipping funds but He told me that he doesn't have the
facilities to  charge or debit credit card at the moment, so that's why
I bring my vote of confidence in you and I don't want you to betray 
the vote of confidence i put in you, I want you to transfer the funds to
him after you have make the charges and the money charged from my
credit card is in your account, then you can now make the transfer  to
the agent via Western Union/Money Gram. I'll have love to do this my
self but there no Western Union/Money Gram here
, So the charges you'll make on my credit card will be:

Order Fee (€1,026.50 EUR)

Agent fee with shipping fare  (€600.00 EUR)

Transfer Fee plus Your compensation (€100.00 EUR)

Total:(€1,726.50 EUR)

Note that my credit card will be charged for the amounts above
(€1,726.50 EUR). Please do get back to me if you are in the office right
now so that I can forward my credit card details to you , then you can
charge full amount and transfer the agent shipping funds to Him via
Western Union/Money Gram.

Hope you understand?

Thanks for your co-operation & understanding.

Hope to read from you ASAP

Thanks and God Bless you



Robert Jones.
OK.  Now let's recap:

  • Robert tried to pay the shipper with his credit card, but it turns
    out the shipping company isn't able to accept credit card payments at
    the moment
  • Therefore, Robert wants to pay Rosa in full for the order and the
    shipping using his credit card, and he is willing to trust that once
    "the money charged from my credit card is in your account," Rosa will
    pay his shipper via Western Union and send the products
  • Robert would love to be able to pay the shipping bill himself via Western Union, "but there no Western Union/Money Gram here"
Now just a minute.  It may be that there are no Western Unions where Robert actually is, but a simple Internet search shows that there are nearly 100 Western Union locations all over Amsterdam, where he claims to be. 



But also note how Robert tries to spin this so it sounds like he's the
one taking the risk by paying Rosa upfront with his credit card and
trusting that she will follow through on paying his shipping company.



Enter the Fraudulent Credit Card Number



This brings us to the other key part of the scam.



Robert will use a credit card number that's been stolen, obtained by
computer database hackers, or "phished," and the charge will be
approved.  But that does not mean the money is "in your account."  The
charge will be approved only because the rightful credit cardholder does
not yet know that a fraudulent charge has been made on his/her card,
and the cardholder won't know this until he/she receives the next bill.



In the meantime, a business owner who doesn't realize that this is a
scam will go ahead and pay the shipping company -- which is really the
scammer -- via wire transfer.  And there is no doubt in my mind that
having succeeded once, a scammer like Robert Jones will immediately want
to place a second, larger order while the business owner is still under
the impression that he's a legitimate customer, and while the credit
cardholder is still unaware of the bogus charges.



What many small business owners like me don't fully appreciate is that
while consumers have protections against fraudulent charges made on
their cards, business owners have very few protections against
fraudulent charges they've accepted.  If and when Robert Jones's charge
is successfully contested by the rightful cardholder, the business owner
will end up with nothing and lose every penny he or she paid for
shipping.



Did Rosa Get Scammed?



Rosa did not respond to Robert's last e-mail as promptly as the others,
because at this point the nature of the scam was clear to her beyond any
shadow of doubt.  Robert, meanwhile, is getting a little anxious
because he's right on the verge of scoring a nice chunk of change, so he
follows up with another e-mail:

From: De-Crown Store [mailto:de-crown.stores@hotmail.com]

To: Rosa Ziv

Subject: READ AND REPLY SOON.



Hello Rosa,

How are you today? Do you get my last mail detailing on instruction on
how to proceed and you get back to me with the order invoice and i can
advise with payment and we finalized.

Kindly reply back today and let me know if you get it.

Thanks and God bless you



Robert.
Another reason she did not respond right away is that she was doing some
Internet research on Robert Jones and De-Crown Stores, and came across
my blog International Shipping Scams Part 2
as well as other sites with information on Robert Jones and his
numerous scam operations. When she wrote back, the message was simple
and concise:

From:  "Rosa Ziv"

To:  "'De-Crown Store'"

Subject:  RE: READ AND REPLY SOON.



Dear Robert,

Too many suspicious aspects. I'm sorry.
Too many suspicious aspects indeed!  And thank you so much, Rosa. Your
willingness to share the details of your experience will be of
immeasurable benefit to other business owners targeted by these
scammers.



To readers of this blog post: Have you received scam e-mails like this? 
Have you had an experience with one of these international shipping
scammers that you'd like to share for the benefit of others as Rosa
did?  Please do so using the comment box below.  (Comments are moderated
and any that include links to commercial or otherwise inappropriate
websites will not be published.)

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