I have been in the foreign trade business over 20 years. Traveled around the world more times than I can remember. Over the years, I think I have learned more on the topic of ‘What NOT to do” then on what to do. Others are getting the same results.
One would think finding suppliers is an easy task. Simple open any B2B website and type in the item you want to find. For example, you want to start selling “Mugs”, you will find between 23,000-45,000 suppliers of this item. That was easy!!! Now make it even easier, type in your request that you are ‘looking’ for a supplier for mugs. In 24 hrs, you mail box is full of suppliers with offers. Too easy!!! The world has just jumped to serve you. At this point you become very excited and the picture of riches begin to dance in your head. You are rich!!!
Then you wake up.
You lost all your money, you have no recourse to get it back and you blame someone else. You have been scammed. Nearly everyone in this business experiences this at some point. (some of us more than once)
So let’s take a look at how you can avoid or at the very least, lessen your risk.
Q: How do scammers work?
A: Today’s scammers have developed better marketing skills than many honest businesses. They pay high fees on large B2B websites to get a posted label “Gold Member or Trusted Member” status. In fact, if you go to the ‘communities’ page, you will read many postings from buyers complaining how ‘Gold members and Trusted members’ have scammed them. Those new to the business of foreign trade are impressed with such labels as Gold or Trusted member, this is where scammers excel. They target the ‘rookies’.
Q: Doesn’t the B2B sites realize this?
A: Of course they do! They receive the complaints and read postings in their own forum. But it’s a world driven by profits. If the scammer is willing to pay the high cost of getting an endorsement from the site, they will get it.
Q: I get many tips from sources like Facebook, YouTube, MySpace and eBay. Those must be reliable sources right?
A: Wrong. Again, scammers are excellent in the field of marketing. While all the sites you have mentioned had started out with very good intentions, profits have allowed holes to open. Just because some sites are blocked in some countries, does not stop the savvy scammer. They simply contact a friend outside their blocked area. Sadly, unless you have a paid account on the site, and you openly report a scammer to the public, you risk having YOUR account suspended. (after providing solid proof to eBay and to Yahoo Answers of scamming activity MY accounts were suspended while the scammer is still operating)
Q: I should check with the BBB?
A: I don’t bother, simply due to the fact that if people don’t take the time to register a complaint with them, the scammer will have an A rating or no rating at all.
Q: Any reliable sources to follow up on a business?
A: Yes. Dunn and Bradstreet is a reliable place to research a company. If they are registered with them, there is a very good chance they will be a reliable supplier. But many reliable suppliers are not listed with them also.
Q: Many say they sell true name brand items, are they scammers?
A: Most are knock-offs. So yes, in a sense they are. Not all. Unless you are licensed by NIKE to sell NIKE shoes, the factory producing NIKE shoes will not sell to you.