How to Spot a Scam

September 13, 2019

It’s that time again as we quickly approach the end of the calendar year and the corporate fiscal year for many; budgetary dollars must be spent lest they be lost. Also, many end-of-year sales bonuses rely on big numbers in the fourth quarter.

Enter the savior order. This is a nice, easy catch that will really bump up your sales numbers, and all you have to do is ship some stuff quickly and have it paid by credit card. Nice.

Except it’s not so nice. Here’s how it goes down:

  • You get an email from “Bob Smith” at ABC Company for a nice round figure of the same item or items (camera, PIR, switch, hard drive – you name it) and they need them right away.
  • ABC Co. is not a current customer, but they fit the customer profile and are willing to pay by credit card as it’s a rush order. They may request Net terms but will back out as the application process “may take too long.”
  • You either take some items from stock or do a dropship from the vendor, often overnight to the address on the order. You run the credit card, or sometimes cards, and they go through with no problem.
  • You enjoy this nice little $50,000 order at the end of the week.
  • Then, about 29 days later, the card(s) are declined and you’re out $50,000 with no recourse as the information provided was bogus.

Here is an actual request I received. The names have been changed but the content is the same:

Hello Sales,

We have an urgent requirement on the individual hard drives below:

1.10TB WD (WD101KRYZ) Enterprise-Class SATA Hard Drives (100 Pieces).

2.8 TB WD (WD81KRYZ) Enterprise-Class SATA Hard Drives (100 Pieces).

We are using these items for a project in our new Annex.

Items are expected to be delivered within 7 business days (if applicable).

Kindly send us an official Quote on the drives and the quantity listed:

Also send us a credit application form if Net terms is applicable.



Bob Smith,

Procurement Officer, ABC Co

It may seem straight-forward, but there are little inconsistencies that can tip you off. Here’s what to be on the lookout for:

  • The contact name is real – there is actually a Bob Smith in Procurement at ABC, but his contact info is suspect – he has a Gmail / Hotmail / Comcast address rather than a company address.
  • The shipping address is a storage unit or retail mailbox, not the corporate address of ABC Co.
  • The order ALWAYS has to go right away. The urgency is a huge part of this succeeding.
  • The order must be paid by one or more credit cards.
  • The order is almost always for a round number of the same items.
  • The English and punctuation in the body of the request is somewhat poor and contains words like “kindly”.

If you get an email that displays any of these characteristics, take a couple of minutes to do some Google searching. If the information just doesn’t quite add up and you have some suspicions, make a call to Bob Smith and ask him if this request is legitimate. There’s a 99.9% chance it isn’t, and Bob will either be grateful for the heads-up or will have already been called on it by another savvy recipient.

It’s very tempting to run a nice-sized order at the end of the week/month/quarter, but remember that about a month later, chances are you’ll be out when the bank reverses the card charges or you actually get a phone call from the real cardholder (not Bob Smith) asking what this charge is for.

Note that this is not the only scam out there, but it is one that seems to make the rounds every year around this time.

As always, if something looks too good to be true … well, you know the rest.

Good luck and stay aware.

Stuart Clapp

PSA Supervisor, Insider Sales