When you hear the word “scam,” you probably remember that one time your Uncle Marty sent $2,000 to your supposed kidnappers after receiving an urgent email. Or maybe you think about texts you’ve received telling you that you’ve won a gift card or that your bank account is frozen.
Scams aren’t limited to one-time emails, phone calls, or text messages. They aren’t always easy to identify. Whenever you make any changes to your business, you need to be aware of any potential scams that could affect your company.
When it comes to expanding your company to international shipping, there are several scams you could fall victim to if you’re not careful. Here are the most common scams and what you can do to avoid them.
1. Imposter freight companies
Not every freight forwarding company is legitimate. Imposters are all over the internet, posing as more reputable freight companies or pretending to be earnest when they’re actually looking to steal your money.
Whenever you’re looking for a freight company to work with, make sure you vet all candidates thoroughly to make sure they’re trustworthy.
How to avoid this scam: There are a few strategies you can adopt to determine whether a freight forwarding company is legitimate:
- Check the company’s URL to see if it is trying to imitate a well-known freight company or if it is part of a free web domain such as Wix or Hubspot. Real freight companies typically have their own domain.
- Read through the site and look for typos or content stolen from other sites.
- Evaluate the logo. If it is blurry or low-quality, chances are the company is meant to scam people.
- Do some research to make sure the freight company you’re looking at is not the same as another more established company. If you search the company name and another company comes up, that’s a big red flag.
2. Fraudulent returns
In 2019, one 22-year-old scammed Amazon out of $370,000. How did he do it? He would order an item, register it to be returned, and then send back a box filled with dirt that was the exact same weight as the item. He would receive the refund from Amazon and resell the unreturned item. What made this possible was Amazon’s slowness to open the returned boxes and discover the dirt.
This probably doesn’t happen all that often, but it’s important to have policies in place to ensure your returns process remains effective.
How to avoid this scam: The returns process becomes a little more complicated once you expand to international shipping. Make sure you create a returns policy that puts your customers first but also lowers the risk of fraud. Specify that an item must be in excellent condition to be returned. Factor in company time for processing returns quickly and efficiently. Remember, customers value a simple returns process.
3. Fake addresses
Sometimes, scammers will use a fake international address to trick you. If you’re not careful, you could face charges of fraud for shipping your products to this fake address.
Be on the lookout if your customer inputs a shipping address and then asks you to ship the product to an address in another country. While this is not always fraud, it could be a scam.
How to avoid this scam: Check every international address to make sure it’s authentic. If you have any questions about an address, ask your customer. Most of the time, your customers are trustworthy people who want to give your products a try.
4. Counterfeit customs fees charges
While this may not affect you directly as a seller, your customers might suffer from counterfeit customs fees charges. It’s often necessary for international buyers to pay customs fees to the country they live in. The problem comes when a scammer asks for customs fees to be paid via PayPal, Venmo, or money order.
The typical way to be notified of customs fees is to receive a notice from the customs office in the country you’re in. If you’re asked to pay the customs fee online, you will go to the customs office’s official website.
How to avoid this scam: Although your company may not be directly impacted by this scam, you may receive customer complaints if this happens to them when they order your products. It’s best to put a notice on your website that informs your customers how and when they’ll pay customs fees. Whenever you have a customer from a country you don’t usually ship to, make sure the customer is aware of that country’s policies.
5. Denying Bill of Lading
Some fake freight companies will conduct business in a way that seems normal…until your goods are loaded at the port. Then, the scammers will refuse to give you a Bill of Lading (BOL), which is an important document that proves the goods have been received. Without a BOL, no one will be able to claim the shipment at the port of destination.
In order to get the BOL, you will be asked to pay a specific amount of money to the scammer or risk losing your shipment entirely. Trustworthy freight companies will provide you with a BOL without extra fees.
How to avoid this scam: Fake freight companies will often offer to ship your goods at an incredibly low rate. Don’t be tempted by this “bargain”…you’ll make up for it in costly fees later on. Before you decide on a freight forwarder, have a proper idea of what your shipment should cost. That way, you won’t be sucked into a scam.
Are you looking for someone to help your business with importing and exporting? At BorderBuddy, we offer great solutions for international businesses of all sizes. Give us a call today.