If you operate or work in a business that sells products either online or from brick & mortar, you will often receive emails soliciting a quote. Although most of your email requests will be legitimate, a certain small percentage will be criminals trying to defraud you. If you are unfortunately deceived by one of these criminal requests and actually ship the product, you will suffer a large loss. You lose not only the “profit” from the sale, but you lose the entire cost of the product that you ship.
It is extremely important to equip yourself and your team with the tools to recognize and combat these criminals. If you are a victim, you can report the crime to the police and/or the FBI, but your odds of recovery are very small.
How to combat the criminals
There are many simple and some more complex ways to combat these frauds. Here are a few simple warning signs to watch out for:
- Poor English – many of the emails will use poor English and this is a BIG warning sign. See the items circled in red below. This email is written by a non-native English speaker and you should evaulate it with caution.
- Requesting prices on multiple items (see below the “RFQ” that was attached to the above email- requesting a price on 52 laptops)
- Requesting prices on easily re-sold items like PCs, electronics, etc – small, high priced items (see below the “RFQ” that was attached to the above email – requesting pricing on HP laptops)
- Look for odd things about the request/email
- This RFP has a row for Sales Tax – no government request would ever note sales tax on their request since they do not pay it
- If you have ever seen a legitimate government RFQ, they do not look like this. They are usually single space text with no color and no logos
- The government does not send out RFQs to random vendors; they send them only to their qualified vendor list
- Call the phone number – you most likely will get a voice mail; normally you will never get a person to answer; if they call you back, you can start a dialog and this often will be obvious that they are not who they say they are
- Google the phone number and see if it provides any legitimate information
- Oftentimes, they use legitimate people’s names and companies and agencies in their correspondence. An effective way to check on a person is to google the phone number for the company or agency and call the main number. Do not call the number on the correspondence they send. When you call the main number, ask to speak to the person(s) referenced.
- They request expedited shipping – they will not object to very large overnight shipping charges
- They will most likely change the ship to address at the last minute that is not the same as the original address on the correspondence they sent you
- They will request a drop ship – a shipment to a different address from their correspondence address
- They always request Net 30; payment is never by credit card, pre-payment, or wire
Determine where the email really came from
People that send emails can “spoof” the address of the email sender. They can put in an email that looks legitimate, but the reply will need to go to where they actually are. This video below shows you how to look that up. This will be the final step in determining a fake criminal request for a quote.
More examples of crooks
Fraud example #2
Fraud example #3
This third example is a fairly common fraudulent email you will see. There are a bunch of red flags on this one:
- Although he claims to be from Texas A&M University, this email comes from a gmail.com account – this alone would cause me to delete this email
- Further on the email address- the email address is purchasing0011 – emails with large numbers (0011) like this are common among crooks and scammers
- The English in the email is stilted
- The crook is requesting a quote on multiple units of items that can be easily resold
- The crook requests that you quote him something different if these are not available now – these crooks always want to act as quickly as possible before the fraud has time to be revealed.