Friday, July 27, 2012

Buying From China is Risky!

Buying from China?

There are thousands of people out there who believe they can buy cheap brand name electronics and textiles from the other side of the planet as easily as they go grocery shopping. Believe it or not. As far as I know (I should mention that I am not in this business myself so I'm no authority) the idea that you can always get the latest Nokia/Sony/Apple gadget cheap from China is just a dumb get-rich-quick myth that gets thousands of people scammed. There is no such thing as cheap branded electronics from China, but there are hundreds of scam sites feeding off this dumb myth. The chance that the one you found is real is practically zero, all other things being equal.

If you are looking to do business in China (or anywhere else for that matter) you actually need to learn something about international trade, about the market you are entering, and especially how to make sure you get what you pay for. This is not necessarily easy, it is not something we do on this forum, and it is not something we can provide advice on. 

What we can do is provide a forum for people to share experiences and opinions, and we can help you recognize common scams. But frankly, if you intend to start a business importing from China then this is something you really need to learn to do yourself. There are also plenty of companies you can hire to do this for you, which is probably the easiest way, here are a few possibilities. Two forums that could be more appropriate for an aspiring internet trader is www.thewholesaleforums.co.uk and http://resources.alibaba.com/discuss..._Diligence.htm also read a tutorial on identifying scam sites here:  www.scamwebsites.tk

As for the common scams you will find in China, the most popular is of course websites selling all kinds of brand name consumer electronics at below market prices. These are always fraudulent, and they operate on most B2B and auction sites. Here was a small collection of them. You can find some pointers here on how to recognize them. Some of them like to excuse themselves with that the goods got stuck in customs somewhere, or just send a fake Nike shoe regardless of what you order. Some will send non-working tracking numbers. The city of Putian, and the Fujian district, is somewhat infamous for fraud both in China and internationally. It's possible to find plenty of scam companies from this area, many of their websites advertise fake Nike shoes in combination with electronics.

Many of these scammers go around spamming eBay traders who are usually the primary targets, some examples are here

Lately there has been in increase in scammers registering chemical, paper, metal and commodity sites, accepting money usually through money transfer or bank to bank transfer and then not delivery the goods. It is very important not to sent money via Western Union/MoneyGram or Bank to Bank transfer to a stranger or a company you are not familiar with. Read: www.never-wire-money-to-scammers.tk Many of these websites can be identified because they are recently registered and only for one year. Read: www.scamwebsites.tk

All Chinese sites selling all kinds of designer clothing will only deliver counterfeit items. Some of them will freely admit this, others will not. Many of these will also scam you, sometimes only depending on which salesperson you are talking to. These companies are operating outside of the law already so they have little incentive to actually deliver anything, and frankly it's a lot easier to just scam people. They know you can't really complain either way, as long as you realized the goods were fake. Trading in counterfeit items is after all not legal. You may get your items seized by customs and face legal action. Seeing the difference between a fake faker and a "real" one is often very difficult as the fakers use similar methods as the scammers to stay anonymous. Either way, I'm not personally interested in the difference, and I have no wish to assist people with this type of business. We have no way of knowing if people will try to pass these items off as authentic or not. We have a long list here of sites suspected of being scams or selling fakes.

Many other types of counterfeit items can also be found in China, e.g. memory chips, golf clubs, Ipods and mobile phones (often including models that have yet to be released). They will always claim that the quality is "AAA+" which can mean half of them are broken. If they claim that the items are authentic the price will often be thereafter as well, but you will still only receive fake junk. Don't expect them to honor any guarantees they give you unless you have the resources to hire a couple of Chinese lawyers to go after them. You really need to check them out so you know who you are dealing with, see above.

It should be mentioned that there are a few legitimate companies selling refurbished electronics from China. These can be cheap, but for good reasons, and there might be quality issues that you need some proper commercial due diligence to deal with. And this article mostly applies to mainland China, Hong Kong is a different story.

Another type of scam that is quite common in many places in China is sometimes known as the "Guilin scam". The general idea is that they make a large order with a foreign company, and invite them to China to sign the contract. The victim is then expected to pay for various gifts, hotel bills, upfront fees (notary fees) etc... before the contract can be signed. It is not common Chinese business practice to insist on a personal meeting in China, nor are notary fees, both of these should be considered red flags. For more information on this type of fraud please read here:
Chinese Fake Contract Import/Export "Guilin" Scam
http://www.onejerusalem.com/2007/05/...-youlianshiye/

But the fact is, beyond the obvious scammers and counterfeiters, there is no easy way to check out a Chinese company unless you speak Chinese. Even real Chinese companies will often use Western Union or MoneyGram for smaller payments, and use free email addresses, for example. Scammers (and counterfeiters) will invariably only offer WU, MG and a personal bank account for payment methods, some also have PayPal. Real companies should have a company bank account and will also accept L/C. But there are exceptions to this, and these complexities of international trade is not something we are qualified to enlighten you on.  Wiring money either through Western Union, MoneyGram or other money transfer or through bank to bank transfer is very risky.  Once the money sent you cannot get it back even if you have been scammed.  Please read: www.never-wire-money-to-strangers.tk 

B2B sites like TradeKey.com, Alibaba.com, EC21.com all have some sort of paid members who are verified in various ways. For your own safety you should not assume that this means anything at all, especially if they joined the site very recently. And especially if they are selling cheap branded electronics, there is always very good reason to be suspicious as it's not unusual for scammers to be paid members on these sites. If you read the terms & conditions, disclaimers etc... on the sites you will most likely find that they do not make any guarantees that a paid member is legitimate or supplies authentic products. If you intend to start a business it can be a good idea to start reading the fine print. The practice of phishing is also not unheard of, you have to be sure you are dealing with the real company and not some scammer who stole their password.

For more information the following sites may be of interest to you:
http://www.buyusa.gov/pittsburgh/chinascam.html
http://firetrust.com/en/blog/chris/s...bsite-in-china
http://www.thewholesaleforums.co.uk/...g-chinese.html
http://resources.alibaba.com/discuss..._Diligence.htm
http://www.smartchinasourcing.com/su...due-dilli.html

Recently, there are a reat deal of scammers doing non-delivery chemical scams.  Again, it is very important to check the domain registration of any strange website offering any goods, never mind chemicals.  Again, read: www.scamwebsites.tk  Here is a list of some of those websites.  

Recovering money lost to fraud in China is very difficult, just like anywhere else. You would need to report it in person to the police there, or hire a legal representative, which won't be worth it unless you lost more than at least a few thousand dollars. Here you can find some advice from a Chinese lawyer. If you paid by credit card, contact your credit card company to see if you can do a chargeback. You may be able to get refunded through PayPal if you file a dispute with them, or if you paid PayPal with a credit card you may also be able to do a chargeback.


/Jonas Anderson
©Copyright 2007 - FraudWatchers.org

Scammed By A Chinese Seller

So, I've been scammed by a Chinese seller. I sent money, they sent nothing/something less than what I ordered/junk and are now flunking Customer Service 101. Now what?
Unfortunately, in short, you take it as a very expensive lesson learned and warn others. The money, more than likely, is gone, whether you were scammed by a non-delivery scammer who sent nothing, shipped a box of rocks, or a supposed “name brand” seller who sends you some cheap knockoffs that don't work or were hacked or built out of quality components like twigs and baling twine. Warning others away from the same type of scam and avoiding making the same mistake twice is usually the best you can hope for.

In a nutshell, once you send your money to China, you're at the mercy of the recipient. If they are legitimate or semi-legitimate and you seem like a possible repeat customer who will place substantial orders and would be worth their while to keep coming back, they may work with you. If you are obviously a one-time customer who stopped by to get a great deal on that single unit of this week's cool new phone and have ranted that you'll never buy from them again after this experience, forget getting a refund.


If you're only willing to take extra steps if you can definitely recover your money, you might as well not bother. In the entire existence of Fraudwatchers, we've only heard of one person receiving a refund from a Chinese seller who failed to uphold their side of the bargain, and it was a very unusual circumstance. Unless you happen to have friends, employees, or a personal attorney located in China, or you travel there often, you will not be recovering any money.


Why is it so difficult to recover money from counterfeit, copycat and non-delivery scammers located in China?
 

A variety of factors come into play here. One undeniably large factor is the fact that, despite it being technically illegal to counterfeit brand name goods, China mostly turns a blind eye to the practice because it brings in a great deal of revenue. Therefore, they do not generally pursue sellers who claim (always falsely, I might add) to be Chinese manufacturers and “direct wholesalers” of Nikes or iPhones, for example. The practice of “copycatting” brand name goods and labeling them as “genuine” is also widely accepted or winked at. There's also not a lot of interest in pursuing people who sell you an 8 GB MP3 player that turns out to be a hacked 2 GB MP3 player.

Definitions of “genuine”, you will find, differ. Many Chinese sellers will swear up and down that their goods are “genuine”. While you may accept that to mean “Yes, this is a genuine Lacoste product with all the proper construction, labels, logos, etc.” the Chinese seller may simply mean “My product looks pretty much like a Lacoste shirt, enough to fool the casual observer.” The seller may very well feel completely justified in calling their "near-Nikes" and "almost-Apples" genuine because they get the general look, feel and some of the interface right.


Similarly, Chinese authorities seem to have little interest in pursuing non-delivery scammers, who don't send anything of value, unless they have a properly filed police report. They cannot open an investigation based upon an email from a foreign citizen. Chinese law makes it exceedingly easy for a scammer to obtain a personal Chinese bank account without providing substantial identification, which means they can receive payments into the account completely anonymously, withdraw the funds, and abandon the account easily, without being identified. Corporate accounts can't be abused so easily. If that bank account you paid into was owned by "James Chen" as opposed to "Chen Electronics", the bank may never have seen "James Chen".

Chinese laws also make it nearly impossible for you to pursue any sort of criminal or civil action. You cannot file a police report from outside the country, by phone, email or postal mail. In order to file such a complaint, you must either travel to China in person or have a legal representative (a lawyer, friend or employee who has been appointed to act on your behalf) go to the police directly to file the report. The filer must BE in China. Your local authorities will have zero jurisdiction in the case. The same goes for Interpol. Interpol has no police authority on its own, they merely facilitate cooperation between cooperative police forces. Filing a court action is expensive. Add in the probable language and cultural barrier involved in all of the above, and this makes action twice as difficult.


Finally, international investigations are expensive, and police resources are not infinite. Even under the best of circumstances, pursuing someone scamming from China would be very expensive and I'm afraid it's simply not good economics or management to spend $75,000 in police resources pursuing a criminal who stole $1,000 from you during an electronics order gone bad.

Scammers and counterfeiters in China rely on the difficulty you will have in complaining to anyone with any jurisdiction to make money.


What options are available to me if I'm willing to take the time to pursue them?


First and foremost, of course, you can use the equalizing power of the internet. Post in forums such as this one, and other appropriate forums, warning others about the scammer. Post as many details as possible, in as many appropriate places as possible, in order to maximize the chances that another would-be customer finds your information. I emphasize that you post in appropriate places, such as business to business forums, buyer forums and consumer complaint forums. Do not randomly spam the entire internet with your post. Posting your warning at a recipe sharing forum you've never visited before does not help your cause, it only makes you look like a spammer. Please read the posting guidelines and become familiar with the forum's purpose before deciding whether to post. Be polite. Keep your language clean, stick to the facts as much as possible, and tempting as it is, refrain from lumping all Chinese businesses in the same category. Filling your posts with angry tirades, racial slurs, cultural slurs, broad insults or profanity only serves to make your warning weaker, or worse, makes you look like an angry nutter who should be ignored. Your personal blog, website or similar can also be an effective way to easily share your warning with online friends or strangers who may be searching for information.


You can report this as internet, advance fee or commercial fraud to sites such as
www.IC3.gov and www.ftc.gov or similar sites. For example, Canada has a site dedicated to online fraud reports called phonebusters.ca and many countries have federal trade commission websites that allow you to file such complaints by filling out a web form. These sites are primarily dedicated to gathering statistics and raising awareness, however, and it is extremely unlikely (and I emphasize this) that reporting your situation to the site will result in anything so substantial as an in-depth investigation, much less an arrest. And even an arrest and conviction would not necessarily mean you would be paid restitution. Even if you did get that ideal outcome, expect that it would take years from beginning to end.


You can also try contacting the Chinese Ministry of Commerce. Their website is at
http://english.mofcom.gov.cn/contactus.shtml and they can be emailed by filling out the form at http://gzly.mofcom.gov.cn/website/pu...nd_mail_en.jsp Again, don't expect that this will necessarily lead to a resolution. While we've been asking scam victims to contact the Ministry to make them aware of how common these scams are and how much damage they are doing to China's business reputation, we can really find no indication that they have the will or the ability to pursue these scammers in any substantial way. We've yet to hear of any of these victims receiving any follow up from the Ministry. (Note: We've explicitly asked many, many victims to let us know if pursuing it with the Ministry led to anything positive. To my knowledge, we've received no such confirmation.)


We have heard that the Ministry is somewhat helpful in confirming the legitimacy of companies before you do business with them, but to be honest, if you have little experience in buying from China, you had best invest in professional due diligence services or rely only on extremely trusted word of mouth for bulk commercial orders. If you are a consumer looking for a good deal on a single unit for personal use, look elsewhere.

You can attempt to report Chinese seller fraud to your local law enforcement or FBI field office, but they are likely to decline to take a report, since they do not have jurisdiction in China. Even if you could give the police the scammer's home address, they cannot arrest without the cooperation of Chinese authorities. Some offices will take a report simply for statistics.

You could resort to civil or legal action, but this is difficult and expensive. You would likely spend several hundred times what you lost in retaining a lawyer to pursue a civil suit. Also, if you were scammed by a small non-delivery operation, chances are it's a single totally anonymous person with a disposable bank account or false Western Union receiver identity, an anonymous webmail account and a prepaid cell phone. You would need extremely good luck to even find someone to sue, much less to present enough evidence for a judgment. Western Union, we often say, is the equivalent of dropping a bag of cash in an alley for a stranger. There will be no tracing it. A bank transfer to a personal bank account in China is little better. Once you have completed a bank transfer, you cannot reverse it without the consent of the recipient. I hardly think I need to point out that scammers rarely consent to return your money.

In order to file criminal charges, you either have to travel to China in person or designate a legal representative there to file the charges on your behalf. Again, expensive, probably much more expensive than eating your losses. In very special circumstances, though, this may be worthwhile. For example, if you were scammed by a more “gray area” or “semi-legit” operation that stuck you with inferior or non-functional merchandise, or passed off “lookalike” merchandise as the genuine article, or you have a friend, legal representative or employee fluent in Chinese who is located in or traveling to China, the threat of having them file a police report without a great deal of trouble or expense to you may prompt the scammer to refund your money. Similarly, if you are fluent in Chinese and traveling there, you may be able to file a police report. However, chances are, if you are a frequent traveler to China who is fluent in the language, you aren't very likely to become entangled in a Chinese merchandise scam in the first place. 

This is copied from: http://www.fraudwatchers.org/forums/view.php?pg=fw_scammedchina 

China (Guilin) Import Scam

Chinese criminals also do an import scam, with some variations. A major source is Guilin China, but there are others.

- They may have a web site heavy on platitudes with little or no information about the company. They will often claim to import a large variety of products, some of which are much more likely to be "exported" by China.

- They will ask for prices and quickly place a very large order of your product, often without seeing samples.

- The price doesn't seem that important to them. They will agree with your payment terms.
 

- They will insist you travel to China to sign the contract and that's where the scam takes place.

If you go to China, they will ask you to pay for expensive dinners, and/or ask that you purchase gifts such as artwork for the chairman or president of the company, pay advance notary fees / a % of the contract value. They may show you various fake documents, permits, company registration etc..,

If they use a bank account for money transfer, it will usually be a personal account in the name of the thief as oppose to a commercial account in the name of their bogus (or real) company. Personal bank accounts have little regulations in China and are extensively used by criminals and scammers.


Please read: Chinese Import/Export Fake Contract "Guilin" Scam

Here are some links containing victim's description of the scam:

http://www.fraudwatchers.org/forums/...ad.php?t=10377

http://www.fraudwatchers.org/forums/...ad.php?p=71618

http://www.fraudwatchers.org/forums/...ad.php?t=17092

http://www.fraudwatchers.org/forums/...ad.php?t=49386