Friday, January 23, 2015

Don't Get Scammed

The Internet has now become the way that most of us keep in contact with our friends and family, no-matter how far apart we are. There are few places left in the world that we are unreachable by this web of fibre optics, wires, electrical pulses and radio waves that digitally  brings so much convenience to our lives. Even in the middle of the ocean or on top of the highest of mountain peaks we are able to connect to anywhere else in the world, as long as we have the right equipment and the power source to energise it.

Even 10 years ago most people had some doubts about doing business on-line, mainly over the safety of sending money to companies via the Internet and concerns about the ethics of business people in foreign lands. Those doubts have gradually faded and it is now common to pay for international transactions via the web. It is much simpler and normally cheaper to pay by credit card than to do a wire transfer between banks.

I must say that Americans are generally more reluctant to deal with foreign Internet companies than are people from other countries, preferring to buy from American sources. Even with that self-imposed limitation, Internet transactions continue to grow exponentially in USA as much as elsewhere.

Most businesses that trade on the Internet want to expand their markets and build long-term growth amid ever-increasing competition. To do this they must prove that they are trustworthy and build a good reputation. After they have been around for a few years they will have a base of support from people who have had a good experience and will help to spread the good vibes about them.

Occasionally we all come across a really bad company that exists only to rip off their customers for profit, or we have a very bad experience with the item not being up to the marketing hype that enticed us to buy it. Such an experience tends to colour our attitudes toward future dealings. If it was a small item we may shrug it off and just not do business with them again. If it was a considerable amount of money then we should do what we can to spread the word, to cut that company's market share down to what they deserve. Such companies take away business from those that do trade fairly, in the process reducing their profitability.

A client of mine in Australia, building a Didi 950, recently ran foul of a scammer when searching for an engine at a good price. He sourced a Yanmar 3YM30 inboard diesel motor with saildrive for about half the price of buying the same package from other suppliers. The supplier, Inbond Limited (also known as Inboard Limited) was ostensibly a Canadian company, based in Calgary, Alberta but selling through the Chinese on-line gateway Alibaba. Note that this is not the British logistical company InBond, which is a legitimate company.

This scam became deeper and more complicated as time passed, eventually including a fake shipping company as well, that was going to transport the purchase by air. A fake supplier shipping a non-existent engine via a fake transport company; the only realities in the chain were the buyer and his hard-earned cash.

It is very easy to be wise after the fact but most of us look for the lowest price that we can find when shopping, whether for large or small items. When we can save as much as a few thousand dollars on an item then it is even more enticing, tough to resist. But, the bigger the saving the more wary we need to be. We know the old saying, "If it seems too good to be true then it probably is". A price that low indicates that it is likely an item that has "fallen off the back of a truck". This is South African terminology for "stolen". If not stolen then it may be a fake copy or doesn't exist at all.

Alibaba is a reputable gateway doing transactions for many, many millions. However, this company Inbond Limited was unverified by Alibaba, noted at top left of the company listing. That means that Alibaba cannot vouch for the supplier and that you haven't any chance of a refund from their payment system. If you buy through Alibaba make sure that the supplier is verified, so that you have the full backing of Alibaba if things don't go the way that you planned.

Look out for other clues as well. There are errors in the product listings, for example they call it a gasoline engine instead of a diesel engine. A reputable supplier is unlikely to make such an error.

Once we were aware of this scam it developed into a lengthy discussion on Facebook. If you want to read it, go to my Facebook page and scroll down to January 12th 2015. A Google search showed that the premises where they were supposed to be located are actually occupied by a signage company.

Realising that the buyer had become aware of his scam and refused to send more money, the scammer sent a shipping notice with tracking number and said that shipment was waiting only on the shipping payment. It all looked very authentic until we dug deeper. The tracking number even pulled up a form with all the right details on it. But, there was no way to contact the shipping company, Highonshore, except through their on-line contact form; no telephone, no fax, no email and no physical address. Claiming to be a long-established UK company, there was no record of the directors named and described on their About Us page when I did a web search of British company directors. Their website looks very impressive but has no real substance and is full of grammatical errors, written by someone who does not have English as their first language.

Now the Highonshore website has gone dead. Registration details for the domain show that it was only registered in mid-December, by someone in New Hampshire So much for the long-established British shipping company.

The buyer also had someone dig deeper into Inbond Limited and found that it isn't a Canadian company at all. The payment was deposited into a California banks but the scam is run by a Russian. The Internet helps us all, whether we are good or bad people.

The point of this post is not to discourage you from doing business on-line, it is to ask you to please be careful. And please, please please don't do business with Inbond Limited, Inboard Limited or Highonshore. Please also spread the word about these ripoff artists and their scam.

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