Beware of the Printing Scams:
How to Spot and Avoid Fraudulent Print Orders
The subsequent article outlines a prevalent commercial printing scam affecting our industry. Although it pertains to the printing industry, this fundamental scheme has unfortunately been employed across various sectors, including technology, building supplies, industrial manufacturers, Craigslist, etc.
If you have received a proposal for a print order that appears unusual, raises doubts, or seems too good to be true, rely on your instincts.
We have received calls from companies across the United States and Canada who have confirmed that this knowledge has saved them from expensive errors and, in one potentially catastrophic instance, a financial loss that would have caused the company’s ultimate demise.
If you know individuals or businesses that may benefit from the information on this page or wish to link to it, we urge you to share it.
Commercial Printing Scam Explained
1. You will receive an email requesting a quotation for a print job.
2. You respond by providing a quote or seeking more information from the requester. Contact is established, and artwork will be provided to you, usually of very low quality.
3. The requester accepts your quote or email very quickly, usually without any conditions or even without you submitting an actual quote.
4. Contact details, including name, address, phone number, and sometimes a credit card for verification or payment of the entire order, will be provided.
5. After establishing a “trusted relationship” with you, the requester will ask you to pay “only” the freight costs to a shipper in a foreign country, typically Africa, via wire transfer. You will be instructed to include this shipping charge on your invoice once the job is complete. The requester may give various justifications for this request, such as using a trusted shipping company that requires payment in advance to pick up the order from your facility. The freight costs are usually quoted at around $10,000.
6. If you pay the upfront shipping cost to their “trusted shipper,” the scam is complete.
Don’t Understand How the Printing Scam Works
The scammer will place an order with you and pay in full for the product plus additional money to cover the “shipping costs” — for the shipper “they” choose. They will ask you to pay their shipper directly from the funds they send you.
Their payment will likely be legitimate, as the check or credit card will be from a real company from which the scammer has stolen account information. They have probably tested the stolen credit card with small charges to see if the account is active.
Once you receive the full payment (product + shipping costs), you’ll be asked to send the shipping costs from those funds “immediately” via wire transfer to the scammer’s “trusted shipper” so the shipper can come to get the product. The scammer will be very insistent that you use only their shipping company, which is actually just another part of the scam.
Let’s say the order is for a $25,000 print job, and the “negotiated” shipping cost is $5,000. The check or credit card the scammer sends you will be $30,000, and you’ll then be asked to send the $5,000 to the scammer’s “trusted shipper” via wire transfer. Remember, a wire transfer is the same as handing over cash.
You’ll be heavily pressured to act quickly, not to wait for any payment to clear before sending the money via wire transfer to their “trusted shipper.”
The check may bounce (depending on what is in the real owner’s account at the time) or be contested by the account owner when discovered. If a credit card was used, the account owner will dispute the charge, and it will be charged back to you. Either way, you’ll be out of the initial costs, bank fees, and, most importantly to the scam, the money you sent via wire transfer to the scammer’s “trusted shipper.” That was a cash payment.
The scam is complete.
Remember, this is, at its core, a shipping scam. The scammer just wants the shipping money you send. Of course, the business owner is out not only the shipping cost but the direct and indirect costs of the fake job created.
You’ll be left with merchandise that will never be picked up, and the scammer will have pocketed the cash you sent for shipping costs via wire transfer. Unfortunately, the money you sent to the shipper is likely unrecoverable.
If you have been scammed, we suggest filing a formal report with your local authorities to document the incident officially. However, local police are unlikely to be able to help you recover lost funds from scams originating overseas.
For internet scams, you can report the incident to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3), which is the central hub for reporting cybercrime in the US. The IC3 is managed by the FBI, which is the lead agency for investigating cybercrime.
Unfortunately, it’s unlikely that you will be able to recover any lost funds from this type of scam. If you have any printed materials related to the scam, it’s best to check with an attorney or authorities before disposing of them, as they may be considered evidence.
If this information has been helpful or has helped you avoid a scam, please share your story with us by filling out our online form.