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Avoiding Fraudulent Orders & Scams That Target Handmade Soapmakers

starting a soap business

You've worked hard setting up your shop, taking photos of your products, writing stellar product descriptions, and filling the orders as they trickle in to your new business. And then it happens! You get an email requesting a large order from someone out the country. YES! (But no... Sadface.)

Unfortunately, fraudulent orders & scams often target small handmade companies, hoping to taking advantage of a small business owner's excitement and dedication to growing their biz. When I owned my first soap company, I received upwards of five to ten scam emails a week. The only good news is that it gets easier to identify them as you receive them more often!

Here's an example of one recently received from a member of our exclusive Facebook group, Kay at Ruby Rose Apothecary:

Hello,
Thanks for your reply back. Its a pleasure receiving your reply back. I will like to order for the below items for my customer's here, I want you to reply back with the total cost plus shipping quote. We're ready and can't wait to receive these wonderful products if yours here.
Your utmost reply back with the total quote will be highly appreciated.

THE ITEMS I'M IN INTERESTED IN ORDERING FOR IS LISTED BELOW AND ALSO MY ADDRESS FOR THE SHIPPING QUOTE::::

ORANGE GUAVA NATURAL SOAP
QTY::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::12

AVOCADO & GREEN TEA NATURAL SOAP
QTY::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::12

BABY BLUE SOAPY CUPCAKE
QTY::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::12

AUTUMN IPA ALE SOAP
QTY::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::12

ACNE WARRIOR
QTY::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::12

BARBER SHOPPE SHAVING SOAP
QTY::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::12

CHAMPAGNE NATURAL SOAP
QTY::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::12

CYPRESS NATURAL SOAP
QTY::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::12

COOL OCEAN BREEZE
QTY::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::12

EUCALYPTUS ENERGIZER
QTY::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::12

ADDRESS FOR THE SHIPPING QUOTE::::
Address: 200, 9 Calle San Mateo,
ZIP: 28004
CITY: Madrid,
COUNTRY: Spain.

Hope to read back from you with the total cost and we can proceed and finalized my order.
God bless you,
Steph

As soon as Kay shared the email, many of us identified it as a scam due to various factors. Here's some red flags you should look out for before you get too excited about large international orders:

  • Orders involving the same multiple quantities of differing items (this scammer is requesting 12 of everything.)
  • Urgent or rushed requests, such as next-day shipping or phrasing that urges you into action ("We're ready and can't wait to receive these wonderful products if yours here. Your utmost reply back with the total quote will be highly appreciated.")
  • Poor grammar, punctuation, capitalization, and spelling ("Hope to read back from you with the total cost and we can proceed and finalized my order." - say what?)

Even if you have doubts using these factors as a way to screen out fraudulent order requests and scammers, you can do even more due diligence. You can check into an international bulk order request more thoroughly by:

  • Checking the email for areas that feel like a form letter or copy and paste job. The entire middle section of the email is clearly a form letter that has been filled in to fit Kay's products.
  • Checking if they have ordered from you before. If not, why would they order a huge amount with no previous experience or samples? If you want to be sure, ask how they found you - I bet they've never even gotten a whiff of your wonderful smell-goods.
  • Checking the shipping and billing address of orders on Google Maps. The handy dandy Street View makes it possible for you to see exactly where the address is located. You may also want to check this list of countries with the highest fraud risk to get a good idea of whether it is a legit order.
  • Checking that the IP address is located where they say they are located, if your email or contact form provides an IP address. (They usually aren't where they say they are!) If possible, integrate a better contact form that shows what pages the visitor viewed before they contacted you (so you can tell if they browsed or went straight to your contact form) and where they are located via IP address.
  • Checking their feedback or ratings, if it is through an online venue, such as Etsy. If they don't have any feedback, why would they be shopping for their store on Etsy?
  • Checking the all-knowing Google machine. Copy and paste, and google: the email address that sent it, the receiving address they are requesting it be shipped to, and the person's name/business name.
  • Checking a phone number, if provided. If they provide a phone number, call it as a last resort. It's likely a bad number and only provided to make it look real.

Does the email check out? Well, hey, it's not impossible to get international orders - I promise! Before fulfilling a large international order, you want to make sure that:

  • You use your own shipping service, and ship to the billing address. Anyone requesting to use a third-party shipping service is bad news and mismatching shipping/billing addresses can be sketchy.
  • You do not accept credit card payment on new customers' international bulk orders. Only accept payment through methods in which you can verify the funds are truly received, such as a wire transfer through your bank (if there are transfer fees, pass those on to the customer!)
  • You do not ship a single drop of product until you have the full amount of money for the order in hand and verified by your bank.

Not all scam and fraudulent orders are as easy to spot or as detailed as the one Kay received. Here's another common fraudulent order request/scam that is makin' the rounds:

Hello,
I want to place an order from you to our store in The Netherlands.I want to know if you can ship here and accept credit card as a form of payment.
Reply back asap
Thanks

When you reply to this email, you receive yet another one that ignores any questions you may ask and more urgent wording:

Hello,
Thanks for your response. I am located in the Limburg. I have a freight forwarder that will come for the pick-up from your location, after I have placed the order and make the payment. They will handle the Insurance Charges, Custom Duties and other charges.
Await your reply back with the total cost of my order
Thanks

Like I said, third party shipping services are a big ole red flag. The random capitalization, lack of experience with your products, and lack of actual information are all signs that this is definitely a scam.

So, how do these scams and fraudulent orders play out?

Scammers use stolen credit cards to purchase your items, and pressure you to ship quickly. In the end, the scammer receives your products, while you receive no cashola (or worse, a giant chargeback.) Ouch.

Scammers may also request you to overcharge a credit card and pay a third party shipper or freight company (a fake one, at that.) When the chargeback on the card comes through, you are out your product AND the money you sent to the fraudulent third party.

When it comes down to it, listen to your instincts. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is!

Have you received a fraudulent order or scam email in the past? Feel free to leave details of the scam you received in the comments below. It will help warn others who Google it up! ;)

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