So you’ve just got an enquiry for a large order from a company in China and you’ve been invited to go there to sign contracts. Perhaps you’ve already done some research, and were happy to see that the company is a genuine business trading from the address they gave you. You’ve negotiated terms and received a contract the terms of which seem reasonable to you and your lawyer. They may have even agreed to pay in advance. So you’ve looked into flights and visas, and are excited about your first trip to the world’s rising economic powerhouse.
But wait! As the old adage goes, “If it’s too good to be true, it probably is”. Just sit back and think how you would feel if the enquiry came from Nigeria rather than China – that’s because Nigeria is the origin of the scam that you’ve just been targetted with. Unscrupulous “business people” in China have refined the so-called 419 fraud and taken it to new heights, making it almost indiscernable from a legitimate business request. Gambling on a success ratio of over 10%, they invest in the registration of a company with an export license, rented office and a young English-speaking team that is mostly unaware of their bosses fraudulent intentions. Most clever of all, often the scam is such that there’s no clear proof of a crime being committed, which means the same firm can do it again and again.
So how do you distinguish a genuine order from a scam? There are a number of tell-tale signs, which should arouse your suspicion:
1. The original enquiry was unsolicited.
2. The company is assured of the quality of your product and does not require a sample.
3. They insist on the need for you to go to China in person.
4. They’ve mentioned the need for a notary fee of either a fixed sum or based on a percentage of the value of the order, which is to be split 50/50 between both parties.
5. The language of the default page on their company website is English.
The sad thing is that any of the above can also be found in legitimate orders, so one should be careful not to dismiss any enquiries from China offhand. The country is growing at a rapid pace, a large proportion of its consumers have the purchasing power to buy quality products from the West and there is a huge potential for developing genuine business. It is only when these and other indicators are found in combination, that fraudulant intentions can be identified.
We’ve seen quite a few companies in Southeast England who have been targetted with this scam recently and we’re of aware of a number cases elsewhere where the fraudsters were successful. Should you have received an unsolicited order from China, then please contact our research division: Go East Intelligence