Emails sent to various companies or product providers ask recipients to reply with details of the available products with a view to a future order.
The emails are part of a money-laundering scam. If the recipient replies with the requested details, the scammer will subsequently place an order and request to pay via credit card. They will ask to pay substantially more than the agreed price and request that the recipient wire the extra money to a ‘shipping agent’ or another third party provider. The credit cards used in the transactions will be stolen. This scheme is a means of converting the proceeds of crime into untraceable cash.
Subject: Order Needed
My name is David and i send this inquiry to your company in regards to order some Plastic Containers and i will like to know the types and sizes of
Plastic Containers you have as well as the prices on them.
Immediate responds is require and advise on payment method you do accept.
With Kind Regards
Please Can you furnish me in full details about the standard of your
products.I will appreciate it more if you can give me with details
specification / price lists to avoid making a wrong choice of products.
I am a Middle east (Qatar) Union Project Accredited commission Agent and i am
looking for manufacturers whose product is of good quality. I need
different kinds of Product and you can reach me for effective and
efficient business at my email address. (Address Removed)
I am looking forward to read your response.
Thank you for your cooperation
Mr.Mohamed Al Emadi.
Businesses that sell products online will have likely received emails asking for more information about the particular products they offer. The emails typically request pricing details and payment options.
Of course, some such messages may be genuine customer enquiries. However, many represent the opening gambit in money laundering scams.
If the vendor responds to such a scam email with the requested information, the scammers will then place an order using email and ask to pay via credit card. Often, the orders will be quite complex and convoluted and the scammers will insist that they deal directly with the vendor rather than conduct the transactions via the vendor’s online ordering system.
And, the scammer will ask to pay considerably more than the order total with the proviso that the vendor sends the extra money to a specified ‘shipping agent’ or courier service. The scammers will make some excuse as to why they cannot pay for shipping directly. They may warn that the order will be withdrawn if the vendor does not agree to accept the extra fee and wire it to the delivery agent. They will also insist that the shipping fee be wired via a money transfer system such as Western Union.
However, the scammers are not remotely interested in buying any of the vendor’s products. Their real goal is to convert funds from stolen credit cards into untraceable cash. The supposed “shipping agents” are in fact the scammers themselves. Thus, the victim will be inadvertently accepting payment via a stolen credit card and then sending a portion of the payment back to the scammers as cash.
Meanwhile, the transaction trail may lead investigators directly to the vendor while the scammers can disappear with their suitably laundered funds.
The scam emails are often quite generic and may request information about a vendors ‘products’ without specifying which particular types of products they are interested in. This is because the scammers may send identical emails to thousands of potential victims, regardless of what they may actually be selling. In fact, a lot of recipients may not be selling anything at all. The scammers only need to gain a few victims out of each emailing campaign to make the scheme pay off for them.
Some less experienced vendors, concerned that refusal may result in the cancellation of a large order, may agree to the scammer’s request.
It may not always be possible to tell an initial scam email apart from a genuine request. But, if after replying with the requested information, you are asked to accept more than the required payment and use the remainder to pay a third party, do not proceed.
This is only one type of online money laundering. Other versions consist of fake ‘payment agent’ jobs in which the hapless ’employee’ is instructed to receive funds from customers, deduct his or her wages, and wire the remainder back to the ’employer’. Again, the money received will be in the form of stolen or bogus cheques or fraudulent bank and credit card payments.
Last updated: February 5, 2017
First published:April 3, 2014
By Brett M. Christensen