The following article explains a common printing scam plaguing our industry. While it pertains directly to the print industry, this same basic concept has unfortunately been used across multiple industries, including technology, building supplies, industrial manufacturers, Craigslist, and more.
If you have gotten a solicitation for a print order that seems unusual, raises questions, or looks too good to be true, trust your instincts. We have taken calls from companies across the US and Canada who have said this article saved them from making a costly mistake and, in one potentially devastating instance, a business-ending mistake.
If you know people or businesses that may benefit from the information on this page or would like to link to it, we encourage you to share it.
Printing Scam Explained
1. You receive an e-mail requesting a quotation for a print job.
2. You respond with a quotation or seek more information from them. Contact is established, and artwork will be supplied to you—typically very low-quality artwork.
3. Your quote or email will be accepted by them very quickly, almost always unconditionally, sometimes even without an actual quote ever being submitted by you.
4. Contact details, including name, address, and phone number, will be provided to you, and a possible credit card for verification or to charge the entire order.
5. Having established a “Trusted relationship” with you, a request will soon follow for you to pay “Only” the freight costs to a shipper in Africa (or some other nation) via wire transfer. You will be told to include this shipping charge on your invoice upon completing the job.
The request may be justified in many ways to convince you it is warranted. Often it is said that they have the trusted shipping company they use; however, they will need to pay them in advance to pick up the order at your facility. The freight costs will generally be quoted at around $10,000.
6. (If) you pay this upfront shipping cost for them to their “Trusted shipper,” – The scam is complete.
The scammer will place an order with you and send you a check (or credit card) to pay for the product, plus the shipping costs. If they use a credit card for payment, they will tell you to charge the additional monies to cover the “shipping costs” for the shipper of their choosing. They will pay you in full with a check or credit card and then have you pay their shipper directly from those funds.
If it is paid with a check, it will be from a legitimate company, account, etc., as this is where some of the global stolen corporate and personal identity theft ends up. If they use a credit card, the card number will be valid. They constantly test stolen credit cards with minimal charges to see if the account is active – frequently in the $.50 – $5.00 range, believing the actual owner may not notice these nominal charges on their statement.
Once you receive the fraudulent payment from the scammer for the fake order, you will then be requested to send money “immediately” via Western Union (or other wire transfer) to “Their very trusted shipper” for the “shipping charges.”
Again, they are paying you in full; then you are supposed to take the shipping portion of the funds and wire it to their shipper for them – the shipper is the scammer!
SThis will be explained such that they need to arrange to get the product picked up from you, but their shipper requires money upfront because it’s international shipping. They will INSIST you using their shipping company. (Of course, they would, they are the fake shipper)
Let’s give an example – The scammer pays you with a check (or credit card) for the invoice price of the product, plus shipping. Let’s say it’s a $25,000 print job. The shipping portion they have now “negotiated” with their “Very Trusted” the shipper is $5,000.
So the check they send you will be for $30,000. (product + shipping) They will immediately have you pay their shipper the $5,000 from these funds to pay their “Very Trusted” shipper.
This must be wired via Western Union quickly to arrange for their shipper to pick up the product at your facility. They need the shipping money “Immediately” so that money is transferred to the shipper before the check hits the bank and bounces. Otherwise, the scam would be busted. In theory, however, a 30k check may clear, depending on the balance in the victim company’s checking account.
So, our innocent vendor deposits the check (or runs the credit card) and then quickly sends $5,000 to the “Very Trusted” shipper via Western Union in hopes they will soon come and get the product off his dock.
You will be pressured not to wait for funds to clear if a check is sent.
Of course, if they paid by check, the check will likely bounce. (or contested when the owner of the checking account discovers the fraudulent charge) If they used a credit card, the account owner would dispute the costs upon discovery, which will be charged back to you!
You will then get hit with the initial costs, plus bank fees, etc.; meanwhile, the actual $5,000 you sent from your bank account via Western Union to pay their “Very Trusted Shipper” is gone.
Sadly, you will never recover the Western Union money you sent because sending it is the same as sending cash. Unfortunately, you are also out of whatever you spent producing the fraudulent order.
The scam is complete. You have a pile of merchandise on your dock that will never be picked up, and the scammer has pocketed whatever you sent via Western Union for shipping costs.
We recommend contacting your local authorities to file a formal incident report so it can be officially documented. That will give you a place to begin, though local police are likely to be of little help with recovering monies lost to scams that originate overseas.
If you want to report an internet scam or are a victim of an internet scam, we suggest you contact the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) to report the incident.
“The Internet Crime Complaint Center, or IC3, is the Nation’s central hub for reporting cybercrime. It is run by the FBI, the lead federal agency for investigating cybercrime.”
Unfortunately, it is doubtful that you will ever see any monies recovered from this type of scam. If you were a victim, the printed materials are simply trash or recycling at this point. However, before you destroy the materials, you may want to check with an attorney or the proper authorities since any losses related to the crime may be considered evidence.
If this page has been helpful, or has helped you avoid a scam we’d love to hear from you. Just fill out the online form and tell us your story.