by Janine Gerade and Rena Klingenberg.
Internet scam artists are targeting handmade sellers and other small businesses – and here’s one way it can happen.
Jewelry artist Janine Gerade received an email from someone who seemed to be a potential customer. The message said,
My Name is Lawrence Peels I am a Clayer by profession located in Coventry UK.regarding your advert on polymer clay work you have for sale. i want to inquire in purchasing some as i need details on them..
Please let me know these details below as follows
— The picture of the polymer clay work for sale
— the location of the polymer clay for pick up
Do have a wonderful day ahead as i hope to hear from you soonest.
Janine sent an email reply to this supposed customer, including her website URL so he could see photos of her work. She mentioned her shipping charges from the U.S. – and also asked how he had found her email address.
But when he answered, he ignored Janine’s question about how he’d found her email address, and listed an order for 55 of her items:
Thanks for your prompt response towards my inquiries.i have seen the pictures of your polymer clay jewelry on your website
I will like to have these polymer clay jewelry as follows:
5 sets of Polymer Clay Feather Pendant Necklace
5 sets of Crackled Stone Double Strand Necklace
5 sets of Champagne And Rose Pearl Set
5 sets of Pearl Grape Cluster Earrings
5 sets of Markasite Drop Earrings
5 sets of Leafy Beaded Earrings
5 sets of Green And Blue Stitched Earrings
5 sets of Natural Landscapes Polymer Bracelet
5 sets of Mixed Bead Whimsical Bracelet
5 sets of Hot Fiesta Party
5 sets of Ice Fiesta
Please do get back to me with total cost for these polymer clay jewelry then i can have my shipper come for the pick up..
Hear you soon.
Deciding Whether an Order
Janine says, “He ordered well over $4500 worth of jewelry and about two months’ worth of work. I knew off the bat it was too good to be true.”
She adds, “Anyone who was really interested would have more contact information, proper spelling and a reason for purchasing that amount of jewelry (such as a new store opening in England for international imports, or a gallery).”
Also, internet scam artists typically place an order that’s big enough to be exciting to you, and then urge you to complete the transaction in a hurry – before you can have second thoughts or do any security verification.
In fact, three of the most common features of orders placed by these internet scam artists are:
- Orders involving multiple quantities of the same item (Janine’s “customer” ordered 5 of everything).
- A request for urgent or next-day shipping or pickup (her customer urged, “please do get back to me with total cost … then i can have my shipper come for the pick up”).
- Lots of misspelled words, poor grammar, and incorrect punctuation and capitalization (as her customer had).
The Scam Often Works in
One of These Ways:
- Scammers use stolen credit cards, fake money orders, or fraudulent wire transfers to purchase your items, and then pressure you to ship everything quickly (before the fraud is discovered). The scammers then sell your items as soon as they receive them.
- Or scammers have some excuse to over-pay for the purchase – and then ask you to reimburse them for the extra amount they paid. Then their payment doesn’t go through, and you’re scammed out of the amount of money you reimbursed them.
- Or scammers place an order for your items, and then ask you to purchase a big-ticket item (such as a TV or computer) and ship it to them, along with the items they ordered from you. They use a fraudulent credit card or money order to pay you for everything – and they get the big-ticket item and your handmade merchandise for free.
We decided to do a quick Google search for the person who emailed this huge (and suspicious) jewelry order to Janine.
A search for “Lawrence Peels” Coventry brought up this discussion about him on the Alpaca Nation forum (an information resource for the alpaca industry).
It turns out that several of the Alpaca forum members had received an almost identical email from him, and all of them took it as spam or some sort of fraudulent order.
Also in the Alpaca Nation discussion about Lawrence Peels, the original poster mentions that Peels said he was a “farmer” (while in his message to Janine he said he was a “clayer by profession”).
So you may turn up some helpful data by doing a search on Google or Bing for any of the information in suspicious orders.
Strategy: Try searching for the customer’s name or for a phrase from their message, to see whether other people are discussing this customer’s orders or similarly worded scam emails.
Don’t Ship Until
You’ve Verified Everything
To protect your handmade business from internet scam artists, it’s important to stay aware and vigilant.
Make sure all orders (and payment) are legitimate before you fill them.
In Fraudulent Jewelry Orders Ryan Cheng lists easy steps for checking and verifying the online orders you receive, before you process them.
Also consider having some anti-fraud policies in place, and posting them on your website. For example:
- Orders must be shipped to the billing address.
- Money orders and checks must clear before products are shipped.
- Custom orders must be paid for in advance of beginning any work.
- There may be a delay in shipping while credit cards and mailing addresses are verified.
Does the Order Just
As always, listen to your intuition. Many people have an unsettling feeling that “something’s not quite right” when they receive a scammy order.
Janine says although she loved that her customer wanted a ton of her jewelry, she had an uneasy feeling about the whole thing.
About a week after Janine received the fraudulent jewelry order discussed above, she got another suspicious email:
I am an American but I live and work here in Japan.I will like to place an order for some items from you, but I will like to know what you have available in stock.Let me have your website address so I can view the products you have presently in stock and if there is any special pricing I need to know about.Lastly regarding payment I will be sending you my credit card for the full payment charges for my order.In order to avoid any form of delays can you let me know the type of credit cards you accept? I hope to hear from you as soon as possible so we can proceed with the Order.
Janine says, “I see signs in this email such as not mentioning what they want to buy and mention of credit cards accepted. I only use Paypal which I feel is the safest way to make payments on the web.”
This message just doesn’t feel like a genuine order.
And like the previous scammer’s order, this one also contains warning signs:
- Urging Janine to rush things through without thinking – “in order to avoid any form of delays”.
- Wanting to place an order for jewelry he’s never even seen – “let me have your website address so I can view the products you have”.
- Claiming to be an American living in another country is a common ploy for using a stolen American credit card and having items shipped to a different country.
Stay vigilant for signs of internet scam artists, listen to your intuition – and don’t ship your jewelry until you’ve verified everything.
Many thanks to Janine Gerade of Janine’s Jewelry Design for sharing her experience regarding an order from an internet scam artist.
Thank you again!
by: Janine Gerade
You wrote this article beautifully. I hope it helps other jewelry artists. Although I am sad that I don’t truly have the jewelry order of a lifetime, I definitely learned something!
Internet Scam Artists beware
Great article. Thanks for sharing the warning. I’m getting very pessimistic with online inquires and emails. Guess this is one reason why.
by: Dianne Culbertson
I had a similar expereince but the customer wanted to pay with a money order. I explained I only accepted Paypal on internet orders adn never heard from them again.
I’ve had several fraudulent orders over the years. The most recent was a surprise. A lady in Las Vegas ordered just one $35. bracelet. She wanted to pay by check. I told her I would send the item as soon as her check cleared, or, if she wanted it sooner, she could use paypal. She opted to use paypal, but I did not get any paypal notice, so I knew she had not. I informed her and she said she would try again. That’s the last I heard from her. No sale.
Thanks for great information! It brings to mind an email I got a few years back from a “wholesaler” who claimed to have looked for someone for a long time who painted coins. They wanted to place an order for 5 cufflinks, but then went on way too long with info. They ended the email with a request for me to contact them if I would like to discuss more.
I wrote them and asked a few questions. In reply, like this artist, I got a reply that never answered my question, talked a lot about other things, and then asked me to contact them if I would like to discuss more. It felt wrong, especially since they were talking about “guiding” me through the wholesale process and working closely with their artists. I suspected at the time they were trying to get info on how I did my process (which I had to figure out on my own)… A Google search did not result in finding this “famous” wholesaler, so I never replied or heard from them again.
After reading this article, it is clear they were a scam of some type. I’ll never know what they were up to, but thanks for the advise so we keep alert for other scam artists.
Scammers, another point
I have not been scammed (or an attempt made)on my jewllery, but I have had it happen when I was selling a non-jewellery item on Craigslist. This person had a backup “company” (in this case a shipping company who was to pick the item up)send me shipping details, which looked quite professional and really did make me question my gut feeling that I was being had.Fortunately, I also did a google search and lo and behold, my buyer and his shipping company,were all over as frauds.
I am assuming here that a person who is in a “hurry”, as in the article above, might use a second company, maybe a couier , or even a store, as back up.
But hey, this guy couldn’t spell either!!
Before making jewelry, I had an all natural facial care, bath & body website. Received the same type of email, ordering over $2000 in products.
When I read off the info he sent, the address was in California, but (and this is where I caught them)
the phone number started with a +, telling me it was an out of USA phone number.
Contacted credit card company, and the card had been stolen.
Another example was a Postal Money Order. Went to Post Office, supervisor & 3 others said it was OK. However I don’t ship cheques or money orders until they have cleared. Bank caught this one. Afterwards, I no longer accepted cheques, money orders or fax orders.
I learned something about checks “cleared” by the bank when a friend of mine lost $6,000 in a scam.
He and the customer exchanged emails that seemed legitimate, over several weeks. (He has a service business, not jewelry, but this could apply to anyone.) She payed in advance by check for more than she owed and asked him to forward the rest to someone else. He was suspicious but because they’d shared so many normal-seeming emails he trusted her enough to deposit the check — although he waited for it to clear before doing anything.
When the bank said it had cleared he forwarded the money. Very soon after, she repeated the request. Again he waited for the check to clear and sent money.
Several weeks later his bank called to inform him the checks were fraudulent and he owed the bank $6,000.
He protested that they said the checks had cleared. He then learned that a “cleared” check means only that the bank makes that money available to you. If a check later turns out to be fake you have to replace any money you withdrew.
It takes a bank 6-8 weeks to know if a check is good.
(My friend called the FBI who said they were sorry but unless he found others she had scammed the amount he lost was too small for them to investigate. If it made him feel less foolish about falling for a scam, they were investigating someone who had been taken for $250,000.)
Internet Scam Artists beware
Geez! $6000 too little to be investigated?? Not in my bank account.
Good to know about the 6 – 8 weeks to REALLY clear.
by: La NomRah
Thank you so much for sharing these tips. Very informative!
by: April Schwaegerle
Thank you so much for taking the time to share this very valuable information. We are fortunate to have this forum to help and support each other.
THANK YOU soooo much for posting this very important and informative article! I wish all independent small business owners would read it! There is so much of this going around making it very important for us to be careful and well informed! You always think it can’t happen to you but guess what – it can!! I’m so glad you posted this and will be sharing the link!
by: Tracy Dawn May
Snopes has an article on internet scams-different to what is discussed here but some of the ideas on how to detect , report etc are there. Interesting. Tracy May (Whimsy Jewellery Design)
I haven’t heard of these before!
Thank you for sharing!
by: Julie Schnoll
Thanks for this article Rena! I just received my first email of this kind last week! It was from a Jordan in the Philippines. The content was similar, asking for my website information, for photos, if I ship to the Philippines and asking for a quick response. There were many grammatical errors as well. Initially, I was excited and then I listened to my gut and simply deleted the email.
It is so helpful to have your newsletter and read your articles on issues that all of us artists deal with every day. As an artist, it is easy to feel like you are on an island while busy working. It is very reassuring to know that others are going through the same things and to learn from each other. Thank you!
Julie Schnoll Designs
by: Roxan O’Brien
I have had several of these scams which came from facebook using someone elses idenity on facebook. When I did a search for them on facebook I found how it wasn’t them that sent it to me. Check out everything, scammers are sometimes very clever and it doesn’t always look appearent that they are scammers.
Just got this email…
This was in my email this morning:
Hello Sales Dept,
I want to place an order in your store,and I will like to know if you ship to Kowloon,HongKong and my payment will be remitted via Visa/Master Card issued in US bank. So please let me know if you can assist me with the order,and please do not forget to include your website in your reply.Your quick response will be highly appreciated,I will be very glad if you treat this email with good concern.
Versions of this basic message seem to be really making the rounds right now – please be on your guard!
And Julie, thank you so much for your kind message above. I’m so glad to hear how much everyone’s tips, ideas, and experiences are helping you!
Thanks to all who are sharing your experiences and tips regarding scammy jewelry orders. And a big thank you to Janine for generously sharing her original message and experience here!
Listen to Your Gut!
I just cut-off a scam correspondence this week. It was all wrong & my gut knew it. I went along with it as I’m very new to selling my artwork and was, of course, excited to get an order. But as it went on, nothing made it seem legit.
First sign was that it was an Western name claiming to be contacting me from Thailand with incredibly awful English. Secondly, was that the initial contact stated that he wanted to make a purchase but needed my website address. So, why would he want to make a purchase of something he hadn’t seen?
Then we started with his “carrier” -not “courier”- service picking up the product instead my shipping it. But his 1st email had asked if I shipped to Thailand. Then there was the urgency for the order. Hmmm. And, he wouldn’t address any of the questions I asked directly or at all. Any legitimate business person is going to cut to the chase and not waste a ton of time in pointless emails.
I kept pushing for details and then payment in full, upfront. Then the final bell went off when he wanted 10 each of each type of print for a total of $1800. Ding, ding, ding: SCAM! He finally seemed to give up, but I’ll never be sure as I’ve blocked him from my email.
Though the product is different, the pattern is the same. The moral of the story is TRUST YOUR GUT! Don’t let your excitement overwhelm your instincts.
And, definitely, wait the 6-8 weeks for either the credit card or check to clear. My friend and fellow artisan pointed out the same problem can occur with a card as a check if it is fraudelant.
by: Chatty Cat’s
I remember the day I received an email just like that. Wanted “5” of everything. I emailed to tell him that I only did one of a kind, even though I knew it was a scam. He never wrote back!
Also, I received an offer from someone at a “gallery” in Indiana once. Never did hear from her again, either!
I figure, if it sounds too good to be true, it is. I wouldn’t even bother checking them out. When you get the clipped speech like that, it’s hinky.
I was contacted, though, by folks who actually did own a store in Virginia. They did buy wholesale from me, but I could tell by the email that it was on the up and up. Plus, they had two web sites. One for their Alpaca farm, and one for the store they own…so it was safe!
One other protection PayPal had for me was that they (PP) required the buyers to pay in the form of an echeck. Then I sent the products when it cleared. So, that’s a plus if you have a big order that you think is right, but have a niggling feeling you might be getting ripped off!