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DPChallenge Forums >> Business of Photography >> Customer insisting on their own shipper - scam?
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01/21/2011 03:57:34 PM · #1
I've just had a very strange exchange of emails with a potential customer which has raised a number of red flags... I'm just curious if anyone has run into this before, and/or might know what kind of scam they are trying to run (or if this just really is some very essentric buyer).

- Claims to have very "normal" European/American name, but speaks extremely broken English.
- Emails are usually sent at odd times (assuming they are in Oregan as they claim, they are sending email around 2-5am local time).
- Customer insists he will not use any sort of online ordering system for security, but offers to email me his credit card number in plain text.
- Since the customer won't use the online ordering system, they have sent me a list of the prints they wish to order, but are having difficulty understanding they have to specify *what* they are ordering (what size prints, what paper type, etc).

And here's the strangely-specific kicker:

- Customer insists on using "his own" shipping company, and claims he will schedule a pickup of the prints from my location. He refuses to disclose what shipping company he's using, only referring to them as "his shipping agent".

Each of these indivdually might not be odd, but putting them all together and my spidey-sense is telling me I've got some sort of scammer on the hook. Email address is a gmail account, so not much I can infer either way there. I just don't understand *what* kind of scam he's running, or if this is actually a legimate, albeit rather unusual, customer.

Anyone have any insight?
01/21/2011 04:02:57 PM · #2
I haven't a clue, but it does peg my own BS meter. Perhaps if you bite, there will come a later request for money for some reason.
01/21/2011 04:17:43 PM · #3
Originally posted by Yo_Spiff:

I haven't a clue, but it does peg my own BS meter. Perhaps if you bite, there will come a later request for money for some reason.

Or it's a stolen or otherwise invalid credit card, or the shipper will "lose" it and the customer demand a full refund, including shipping charges ...

Tell them you are not set up to accept credit card orders, and that they can send cash via USPS Registered Mail for the ultimate in safety. Their shipper can pick it up once you have the cash in hand ... :-)

ETA: Get a physical shipping address (and the billing address for the credit card) and use Google to check and see if it's really just a private mailbox site or empty lot or something ...

Message edited by author 2011-01-21 16:19:56.
01/21/2011 04:24:08 PM · #4
I had an almost identical enquiry when I was selling my car a few months back, if you do a check on the originating IP (look in the headers in the email) you'll probably find it's somewhere in Nigeria.
01/21/2011 04:27:53 PM · #5
BWAHHHHP!! BWAHHHHP!! BWAHHHHP!! BWAHHHHP!! BWAHHHHP!! BWAHHHHP!!
danger...warning...danger...warning...danger...warning..danger...
BWAHHHHP!! BWAHHHHP!! BWAHHHHP!! BWAHHHHP!! BWAHHHHP!! BWAHHHHP!!

not in this lifetime.

just my opinion. ymmv ;-)
01/21/2011 04:28:22 PM · #6
sounds very odd... thankfully hadnt had to deal with this yet. (although then again everyone that i've photographed i've had as friends...)
01/21/2011 04:38:10 PM · #7
I'm not sure I would want somebody's "personal shipping agent" to be coming to my private residence.
01/21/2011 04:45:50 PM · #8
Okay, well I don't feel so bad now -- I was afraid I was being overly-paranoid and would hate to turn away a legit customer.

Re: Current status -- before I started this thread, my latest reply was that I would not be able to use a "pickup shipping" company, as I have my prints drop shipped directly from a pro lab in CA. (Trying to avoid calling it out as suspicious, but simply indicating it's not a supported method of shipping). I also re-encouraged him to use the web site, detailing some specific ways around his apparent security concerns (including my print vendor's ability to accept a telephone call to finish payment processing). I haven't seen a reply yet, but I'll probably get it around 4am tomorrow morning. :P

Re: IP Address -- First thing I checked. He's just using the web UI for gmail, though -- can't pin anything back to him without a google admin's help.

Re: Address -- He sent me a physical address which maps to a house, but I can't tell much more from it than that. Could be completely bogus/random, though. I don't want to start calling people at random to see if phone records match at this point; I might consider it if he actually places a legit order, though, just from the red flags he's raised so far.

I've tried to be as reasonable with him as possible, assuming he might be a real customer, but I'm not going to spend much more time on it; even with the substantial size of his order, it's not worth much more of my time going back-and-forth. I might string along for a while longer just to see where it goes for the entertainment, but unless he makes a reasonable effort to use "normal" methods to place the order, I'm not going to worry about it.

Sure is a weird scam, whatever it is. I expect ' . substr('//www.dpchallenge.com/images/user_icon/user_id/1031.gif', strrpos('//www.dpchallenge.com/images/user_icon/user_id/1031.gif', '/') + 1) . ' GeneralE hit it on the head -- it would probably turn into some sort of refund-demand. I've heard of similar scams for electronic equipment, but that's a bunch of trouble to go through just to get some free prints. Maybe he's using me a trial-run to test his methods before he starts ordering something "big" from someone else.

I'm just waiting for him to segue-way somehow into "Please simply advance me $150 via Western Union to cover the blah blah blah and I'll send you your check for $1 million" or something. ;)

Thanks for all the quick replies and sanity-checks. Was afraid I was becoming a cynic. ;)

[ edited for typo ]

Message edited by author 2011-01-21 16:50:49.
01/23/2011 06:28:37 PM · #9
I think we've reached an impasse -- he's just talking in circles now. I send details of how he can place his order with my vendor and confirm the payment info by telephone, and he just replies back with a canned paragraph about how he won't use PayPal (which isn't even in the equation) or online payment processing. I've been re-sending my previous messages a few times now, hoping we'll get somewhere (I'm just really curious what the scam is at this point), but I think it's stalled out.

The icing on the cake it that he also just sent me the *very first* original email again asking to buy the prints -- so it's clearly a scam. I just wish I knew what the point or goal was, just for my own entertainment if nothing else.

I think I'll do the same thing I do with some of those 419 scammers -- turn up a mail filter to run his message through "babble" and reply back with first couple paragraphs of output. It's amazing to see how long those exchanges usually go on, with complete nonsense messages being sent.
01/23/2011 06:42:17 PM · #10
This could turn out to be as much fun as the "windows to the world" blind photographer episode from a few years back. Anyone recall who that was was?

Message edited by author 2011-01-23 18:42:26.
01/23/2011 07:19:18 PM · #11
Originally posted by gcoulson:

I'm not sure I would want somebody's "personal shipping agent" to be coming to my private residence.


Yeah really. It's like the Craigslist scams where you get robbed when you go to look at the big screen TV.
01/23/2011 07:37:54 PM · #12
Originally posted by Yo_Spiff:

This could turn out to be as much fun as the "windows to the world" blind photographer episode from a few years back. Anyone recall who that was was?

Here ya go: //www.dpchallenge.com/forum.php?action=read&FORUM_THREAD_ID=825877

Unfortunately, the link to my masterpiece of photography "windows on the world" no longer works. But it was basically a snapshot of a water leak next to a bathroom window.
01/23/2011 07:47:14 PM · #13
I doubt you'll be sent cash for this deal. Eventually, the "buyer" will be happy to send you a "cashier's check" or "money order" for a lot more than you would normally expect to receive for the product and shipping. You will be asked to deposit the "cashier's check" in your bank and you'll be asked to pay the buyer's "personal shipping agent" with YOUR cash or personal check. Usually, the hook is you'll be offered to keep the extra cashier's check money "for your trouble". Then, after your money has been placed in the hands of the "agent", the communications will suddenly stop. Our banks are somewhat slow at clearing transactions like this. They should be faster, but they're not. It takes a few days to bounce back counterfeit "cashier checks", but that could happen, and likely will, in this situation. The thing to remember is that "cashier's checks" and "money orders" are not golden. I think even a counterfeit "certified check" could theoretically bounce. Protect yourself! Report this to the FBI if you are asked to pay out your cash to make the deal work.
01/23/2011 07:47:19 PM · #14
Originally posted by JH:

Here ya go: //www.dpchallenge.com/forum.php?action=read&FORUM_THREAD_ID=825877

Thanks. Not sure the photo was a masterpiece, but the thread certainly was!
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