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How I Got Scammed By a Seller On Alibaba

Published 11/13/07 (Modified 3/8/11)
By MoneyBlueBook

I debated about whether I should share this story, but at the end I decided that my experience might help prevent someone from falling into the same scam as I did. At the time I was young, inexperienced and financially naive. Since then, I've learned and improved based on my past failures and eventually went on to run a small but profitable home business by making money online with ebay, at least for a modest period of time.

It All Started With Too Much Greed

Shortly after college I decided I wanted to start a part time side business selling merchandise on eBay. But first I needed to find a wholesale supplier. After some research I decided I wanted to focus on consumer electronics such as GPS navigation devices and Apple iPods, and concluded my best bet at finding a supplier would be through a free network site like Alibaba, that helps connect sellers with buyers of goods. Little did I know at the time, but sites like Alibaba are crawling with scammers and evil doers.

I ultimately decided to focus on selling Garmin and Tom Tom branded GPS units. After a few searches, I was amazed to find numerous sellers offering brand new Garmin GPS units for very little money. The Garmin GPS model I was interested in buying in bulk retailed for more than $1200 on eBay at the time. The sellers I found on Alibaba were offering each unit for only $700 each. The asking prices were exceedingly low, but sadly I was too overcome with dollar signs in my head to realize that the offers were likely too good to be true. I essentially had blinders on and was too busy calculating all the profit I was going to make by selling these units for such high markup. Eventually I narrowed down a potential seller.

Greed Prevented Me From Recognizing the Warning Flags

When you are overcome with greed, it is hard to think clearly, even when a clearly fraudulent transaction is staring at you in the face. I should have been more aware of all the telltale signs that the seller was likely a potential scammer and a fraud. First of all, the seller provided me contact information based in Indonesia, a country like Nigeria that is notorious for being a hotbed of scammer activity. He also provided very limited company background information that could be used to verify his personal or business identity, or determine his true geographical location. The phone number he provided me did indeed work, but I should have realized that nowadays with VOIP technology, phone number locations are very easily faked. It's easy to reside in one country and still obtain a temporary, disposable local phone number from another. Even paid identity authentication and verification services are subject to abuse and illegal manipulation as well. It's not all that difficult for online scammers on Alibaba or any other Internet exchange service to obtain a genuine TrustPass or Alibaba Gold Membership certification using falsified identification.

Another thing that should have raised red flags was the fact that the seller offered to pay for shipping, which is an extremely unusual practice for first time wholesale purchases, especially since international shipping can be quite expensive. The seller also insisted on rushing the sale, frequently threatening to end the lucrative deal if I continued to demand more verification information and not move forward with payment. But otherwise, the scammer was extremely convincing in the way he portrayed the deal as completely legitimate. Rather than thinking that the sale was a scam, I just thought I was getting an excellent deal.

Because I was so motivated by greedy emotions, I was more fearful of losing the lucrative buy than I was of being scammed. There were so many warning signs that I simply ignored, such as the seller refusing to accept Paypal or even credit card payment. Instead, he demanded payment through bank wire transfer. If I had conducted more due diligence, I would have known that unlike Paypal or credit card transactions where my money would have been protected, bank wire transactions are permanent and irreversible once properly executed.

I Fell For the Trap - Hook, Line, and Sinker

Ultimately I sent him over $2,025.00 through bank wire transfer for 3 sample Garmin GPS units. Once he had the money, he disappeared without a trace. I attempted to contact him through the phone number he provided me, but the line had been disconnected. He never responded back to my e-mails and I never received the merchandise. My money was gone and I never recovered it.

Afterwards, I felt very stupid and ashamed, but I learned many valuable lessons as a result. I'm glad I experienced this hard knock life lesson earlier in my life when the potential stakes were lower. I thought something like this could never possibly happen to me, but it did, and I allowed my greedy emotions to get in the way of rational caution. You and I, we may think we're very smart and that we're so clever, but we are only human, and still susceptible to basic human emotional irrationality. It's difficult to control emotions like greed, fear, and pride. So my friends, it's important to always stay vigilant - scammers are everywhere and one day you might be in their cross hairs too.

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296 Responses to “How I Got Scammed By a Seller On Alibaba” 

  1. SW says:

    Dear everyone,

    I am a Taiwanese who is doing trade business with European, now I live between Holland and China. Sometimes I use Alibaba for sourcing. My iphone was robbed on the day time street in Shanghai (Damn, China is freaking unsafe), so I got desprirately greedy to look it up on Alibaba, oh my sweet holy god, 20 pairs of 3GS. 32G iPhone cost only 2000usd? I contact the seller, and he doesn't evn know what he is talking about, i see signs, and i am still greedy, so I looked up google, I found here. Reading those articles here just make me feel really grateful you guys warn us not to be greedy. Yeah, when it's too good to be true, it is scam. My robbed iPhone was bought in black market in China, it was real, but it still costs me 800usd, so you see, even in CHINA, there is no sweet deal that beyong imagination. DO NOT believe there is things like same product from same factory. High value product has strick controll, no such a thing, even chinese buy 800usd iPhone on black market. Back to Alibaba, i would suggest if you can not visit factories personally as I do, DO NOT buy from it. How do you know it's real or not, How do you ensure they will send goods to you after you pay? I have many western business friends got cheated by online chinese seller, it just doesnt work. Here is full of liars, the law doesn't protect you, it doesn;t even go after bad criminals here. When I got robbed on the street, went to the police, they just told me it's my fault and china is dangerous in the end of year season (WTF?) Well, so, don't have the big dream of cutting profit by just ordering online. Most of the successful traders I know, they travel among EU/ USA to China themselves, or they gave me business to inspect for them. You got to have someone SEE it for you on the warehouse, factory or whatever, phone/ emails is just not enough!

  2. Melissa says:

    Thanks guys for these very useful posts. I guess i was about to make the same mistake. I am currently in contact with a seller from Alibaba, she is offering me two dell Alienware laptops for $517 , shipping included. Now ,Alienware is one of the best and most expensive laptops out there, their price range from $2000 to almost $4000.
    I tought it sounded too good to be true and i was hesitant about it although it looked like its from a real,legit company. they have their website , contact page,etc....now I am def not doing this.

  3. Alex says:

    hello guys,I am from Europe and I got scammed on Alibaba by company named Shanghai Yin Zhen Industrial co.lt. of course verified member and gold supplier member.they have most likely several other company names and "sales" representative using names such as Sofia Sun,Carry Tian,Alina Young etc.,but they always ask you after closing the deal to send money to Jiyau WU. this guy have also several accounts at The Bank Of China with different account numbers.They will call you dear and friend and put honey in your mouth just to turn away your attention.They will tell you how hard they have to work and they will be using sell tricks such as "let me ask my boss,I will get you better price" there is no boss no office and they will be on line only in china night hours.they also have list of few products such as cell phones LCD Tv'S and any brand any type of electronic goods you ask them about they will be able to get to you even if they don't have it listed on their web page.The real thing is that they do not offer you to buy anything but a scam and you are able to buy from them scam only.nothing else.

  4. SW says:

    To read others still get scammed really upsets me, if you guys want to buy things from supppliers on Alibaba, maybe you can contact me first, at least I can call those suppliers r even visit them for you, I am a Taiwanese, they can not cheat me. I have checked several suppliers for my EU friends, once those scam chinese know I am in China and I understnad Chinese, they hang up the phone or change the story of they can give you everything. Please CHECK before you wire anything out!! there is no law protecting you in China.

  5. Ferdy says:

    @SW

    hi, nice to meet you SW... I want to ask you, is it really true that there are LEGITIMATE companies in mainland China or Hong Kong that can supply authentic apple iphones at discounted prices? I want to be a distributor in my country but so far, whenever I searched and enquire to those companies selling cheap iphones, i always smell something fishy. (like they only accept wire transfer or western union or how they don't like paypal and other 1000 reasons for me). If you know any company that can really supply authentic iphones and have it shipped to my country, please let me know... Thank you for your time Mr. SW

    Cheers

  6. rich says:

    i have had 4 transactions from alibaba..one was for guitars and went great,,another was for sneakes,went great but took ling to time because of customs,the other was a no show on the goods and the last one i ordered playstation 3's and got a cell phone with no guts..!i strongly recomend paying %5 down and no western union .try finding and using an escrow service or middle man service like paypal wich covers you if you are ripped off.you let the escrow know when you get the goods and then they release the money to the seller

  7. Kelly says:

    Look people, if you read through this you will find a re-occurring theme. Scammers are all over the place not just Alibaba. I too have have had successful transactions on Alibaba BUT not in the electronics category. Anytime you have a highly desirable product, ie. Apple iPhones, iPods, gaming systems, GPS etc... you are going to find scammers. As many have said above, common sense has to dictate what you do, if it is to good to be true then it is not. Any legitimate supplier out there is going to be able to process credit cards or use a payment service such as paypal, the lame excuses just don't fly. Yes it cost to take credit cards, then build that cost into your product but if you are being told "we can only accept T/T or Western Union" walk away, you have no recourse and probably a 99.9% chance of losing your hard earned money, especially in the electronics category. 'nuf said.

  8. Fred says:

    My golden rule buying from abroad: Go and visit the sellers first. Air tickets and accommodation in the far east are so cheap now.
    I went to China, met the sellers, saw the goods and bought items from several suppliers, sent in two containers. I even used an agent who paid them after I went back to the UK and sent the money to the agent. I had no problems with any of them, other than the inexperienced agent who did not package the items properly and some got broken in transport.

  9. Helen says:

    I found this blog when googling 'scams' and was appalled at how little is being done to stop this online fraudulent activity. It may be unfair to legitimate sellers but I wouldn't buy anything from alibaba...I'd rather miss a bargain then take a chance on being scammed. It is a sad world when you automatically distrust sellers from certain countries because they have such a bad reputation and it is sad for the genuine sellers in those countries who are all being tarred with the same brush.
    I think you have done a great job Raymond and am sorry you are unlikely to see your money again. You are right when you say "if it looks too good to be true then it probably is too good to be true".

  10. SW says:

    @ Fredy,

    NO, there is no private distributor for iPhone. I know several engineers/managers in the factory of iPhone (it's a Taiwanese IT company manufacture in Southern China). They told me the quanity control is very strick, themselves can not take a single piece of iPhone to sell. And I also know the balck market of iPhone in China, here, you pay 770-900usd for 3GS, it's more expensive than in USA, why, because all the mobiles are taken from USA or HK. The official Chinese distribitor only sells special iPhone version- without wireless. Anyway, as far as I know, there is no way to get cheap iPhone from China. Don't get scammed!! Hope it helps.

    SW

  11. Pat Swayzi says:

    There's no way that's true, right? The iPhone never used to be anywhere like that. I am seasoned enough to think back to the very first like that had input support

  12. Johny says:

    The iphone that is manufactured in China is not being retailed back to China. I have a friend that working as the IT person over there. Everything that manufacture in China is being shipped directly to the destination country. Please do not buy iPhone from China. Nothing against Chinese product but if the person refuse to accept payment via paypal? Forget it. ferdi? if you need help I can assist you. Email me johnylim@rocketmail.com. I sell iphone and blackberry on ebay and craiglist. I purchase directly from people brand new and resell to other market by paypal/cc. It is safe and quick way to make decent money. Greedy is good but not too greedy.

  13. Alfred says:

    I was in the orocess of concluding, until you opened my eyes to this, it could have been me,Thank you,
    I wrote to the company i am dealing with and suggest to have items sent first and payment will be released after goods arrive, Not sure of the reply yet. ! will update you. We all know what the answer will be, our agreement was 50% first to release the goods.

    Thank you for taking your time to inform us.

  14. Deviansyah says:

    again, here is the list of people THAT I NEVER CHEATED OR DID SOMETHING BAD:

    Victor, did you lost your money because of me? the answer is NO !!
    Buffort T. Pusser, did you lost your money because of me? the answer is NO !!
    Zotyak, did you lost your money because of me? the answer is NO !!
    Stan, did you lost your money because of me? the answer is NO !!
    Valdazzar, did you lost your money because of me? the answer is NO !!
    Gregory, did you lost your money because of me? the answer is NO !!
    Sam, did you lost your money because of me? the answer is NO !!
    Paul, did you lost your money because of me? the answer is NO !!
    Sharon, did you lost your money because of me? the answer is NO !!
    this_is_too_funny, did you lost your money because of me? the answer is NO !!
    scammer_terminator, did you lost your money because of me? the answer is NO !!
    Melissa, did you lost your money because of me? the answer is NO
    Ferdy, did you lost your money because of me? the answer is NO!!
    Senchi, did you lost your money because of me? the answer is NO!!

    But these people got paranoid and freaks after reading articles from our beloved friends, Raymond.

    TO RAYMOND:
    Would you still refused me if i pay your money back? Even if i pay you back, how will you recovery my names after that? since all people here called me Criminals…

  15. Raymond says:

    Deviansyah,

    You are and will forever be a scammer. Please go back to the cesspool you sprouted from. Stop scamming people.

  16. Deviansyah says:

    Raymond,
    Again, you don't have any single proof for everything you said here. I did mistakes, but i have changed now. But your silly articles will be here forever... Thanks for that Raymond.

  17. Curious P says:

    Ok, so Deviansyah, your saying Raymond is at fault for trying to warn the good public about fellow trash heaps like yourself? Well thats rich. Trying to blame your faults on good people. If I had a dollar wired to me every time I heard that, I would run away with it.
    Good day to every one, and hell to scammers like Deviansyah.

  18. Deviansyah says:

    To everyone reading this blog, YOU MAY GIVE ANY COMMENTS HERE. BUT ONLY IF YOU GOT CHEATED BY ME!!! IF YOU JUST READING SOMEONE ELSE COMMENTS, OR GIVING YOUR OWN COMMENTS BUT NEVER HAD ANY EXPERIENCED CHEATED BY ME, PLEASE SHUT THE HELL UP!!!

    Here is the list of people, who's effected after READING my beloved friend, Raymond. These people NEVER got cheated by me:

    Victor, did you lost your money because of me? the answer is NO !!
    Buffort T. Pusser, did you lost your money because of me? the answer is NO !!
    Zotyak, did you lost your money because of me? the answer is NO !!
    Stan, did you lost your money because of me? the answer is NO !!
    Valdazzar, did you lost your money because of me? the answer is NO !!
    Gregory, did you lost your money because of me? the answer is NO !!
    Sam, did you lost your money because of me? the answer is NO !!
    Paul, did you lost your money because of me? the answer is NO !!
    Sharon, did you lost your money because of me? the answer is NO !!
    this_is_too_funny, did you lost your money because of me? the answer is NO !!
    scammer_terminator, did you lost your money because of me? the answer is NO !!
    Melissa, did you lost your money because of me? the answer is NO
    Ferdy, did you lost your money because of me? the answer is NO!!
    Senchi, did you lost your money because of me? the answer is NO!!
    FERDY, did you lost your money because of me? the answer is NO!!

  19. Deviansyah says:

    BE FAIR PEOPLE !!! If you have never lost your money or never got cheated by me, PLEASE DON'T ACT or PRETENDING AS IF YOU LOOSE YOUR MONEY BECAUSE OF ME!!!

    Victor, did you lost your money because of me? the answer is NO !!
    Buffort T. Pusser, did you lost your money because of me? the answer is NO !!
    Zotyak, did you lost your money because of me? the answer is NO !!
    Stan, did you lost your money because of me? the answer is NO !!
    Valdazzar, did you lost your money because of me? the answer is NO !!
    Gregory, did you lost your money because of me? the answer is NO !!
    Sam, did you lost your money because of me? the answer is NO !!
    Paul, did you lost your money because of me? the answer is NO !!
    Sharon, did you lost your money because of me? the answer is NO !!
    this_is_too_funny, did you lost your money because of me? the answer is NO !!
    scammer_terminator, did you lost your money because of me? the answer is NO !!
    Melissa, did you lost your money because of me? the answer is NO
    Ferdy, did you lost your money because of me? the answer is NO!!
    Senchi, did you lost your money because of me? the answer is NO!!
    FERDY, did you lost your money because of me? the answer is NO!!

    NEXT LIST TO BE CONTINUED....

  20. Deviansyah says:

    Looks who's talking now. Some dumb ass Chinese like Ferdy, written about something he doesn't have a clue at all. I don't even know this dumb ass. I even never met this dumb ass before.

    Ferdy, yang goblok itu lo atau gue? Gue kenal lo ajah ga pernah, gue ketemu lo ga pernah, dan gue dealing apapun sama lo ga pernah. Lo takut business sama gue, karena akibat baca blog ini. Kalo lo jadi parno atau freak out, itu bukan salah gue... Ini blog umum, jadi semua orang berhak nulis apapun (entah benar atau tidak). seperti nama lo ajah, benar ferdy atau bukan, ga ada yang tahu... urusan lo disini apa, gue juga ga tahu.... buat gue, kalau orang ngomong macam macam atau fitnah, gue berhak dong membela diri.... Urusan gue cuma sama Raymond... dan itu udah berapa tahun lalu... yang lain yang nulis disini, ga pernah ada urusan sama gue... tapi mereka seperti lo, cuma parno atau freak out setelah baca tulisan blog ini.... naif banget....

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