This is a guest blog by LOCO Member Wildcrafted Wool
To those members conducting business on the Internet, this is for you! As a maker/artist, I was recently targeted by fraudsters through my website’s online store. I know this happens all the time and that’s why it’s important I tell you about it.
It all begins over a month ago when I was approached by a potential customer calling him/herself by the name “Hannes Arne” of “firstname.lastname@example.org” and claiming to live in a rural town in Holland. She messaged me through the contact form on my website asking if I ship internationally to Europe. We begin an email exchange. She claimed she owned a small boutique and wanted to buy my “lovely” products for her store. Her emails were professional sounding and believable.
Little did I know, Shopify (my e-commerce web host) had blocked her credit card after multiple failed attempts but did not alert me. The fraudster therefore manages to place his/her order using a second credit card. Both cards are likely stolen.
“Hannes” requested I ship through a third party shipper that she uses for her North American orders that will deliver directly to her door. This is a lot easier for her since there is limited mail delivery. I thought it was strange that there was no website for her shipper and just this sketchy Facebook page. And so I got suspicious…
I quickly realize this is a common fraud scheme and cancel and refund the order. Thank goodness!! Otherwise, I would have been responsible for the amount charged in full when the rightful cardholder disputed the funds.
And then the plot thickens. The very next day I’m getting calls on my private cell phone that is NOT published publicly. The numbers are always different and they leave voice mail asking to speak with me immediately about my website. I realize the numbers aren’t in service so I can’t phone them back. I’ll never know how these fraudsters got my personal information. Pretty frightening. And I think it’s a little more than coincidental that I got these calls the day after I cancelled a fraudulent order…
And finally, how do these fraudsters make their money? Well, the shipping company is fake and so that “shipping” money goes straight to their hidden pockets. So hidden that law enforcement claims they can’t do anything.
And that’s why I’ve devised a sleuthy anti-fraud checklist for all online orders. Check it out:
- Call the number on the order and make sure that it actually exists. Also, check if the area code matches their location
- Verify that the billing and shipping addresses match
- Use a search engine to look up the email address and look for hits containing reported fraud
- Verify the customer’s IP address and ensure it matches where they say they’re from
- Pay special attention to high value orders
- Verify the shipping company is a legit company or don’t use third party shippers you haven’t heard of before
- Find out what risk analysis and anti-fraud tools your web host provides. Ensure you have notifications turned on
I hope my story spreads awareness and prevention when it comes to extortion fraud and E-commerce. The more we know, the less they’ll be able to extort and therefore the less viable it is for them. However, it’s important to not become overly cautious and suspicious! While web hosts and e-commerce platforms have security and risk analysis in place, I realized pretty quickly that when things go wrong it’s “blame the seller”. We have to verify who we’re really doing business with at the end of the day and for now, I’m sticking to craft fairs and local boutiques for the majority of my revenue.