Import ‘pester’ scam alert

24 January 2013

A consortium of three Midlands businessmen led by property developer Carl Higgs decided to test-import children’s go-karts into the UK. The group contacted what it believed to be a Hungarian-based supplier listed on the Ali Baba website and were quoted for a consignment of 100 units. The three then asked for a sample of the product before placing a larger order but the suppliers insisted on shipping a minimum of three of the units to them, which the businessmen paid for in order for them to inspect the quality of the product and service.

After transferring £250 for the sample units to the European supplier via Western Union the group was told the order was being processed. It then asked about other items that the supplier had and eventually paid £400 for a 50 inch TV set to be sent out with the dispatched order.

Shortly afterwards the importers received an e-mail telling them there had been a mistake with their order and that an additional $30,000 worth of goods had also been dispatched to them by mistake, including 65 go-karts along with phones and iPads.

“We then started to think that this looked like some sort of scam but the supplier assured us it was their fault and they were prepared to let us receive the whole consignment if we paid for a percentage of the goods up front,” said Mr Higgs. “They continued to pressure us and said they must have 50 per cent before the goods were delivered. But we said, ‘There’s no way you’re having a further down payment on the other items until we have checked the quality of the sample and decided if we are interested in taking the additional items from you, please return the consignment and send out what we have paid you for.’

“They issued us with a tracking number for the courier which confirmed the order and we were able to see that the goods were moving from one country to next but during transit they continued to hound us for additional payment, wanting 50 per cent first of all, then 25 per cent and then just a 10 per cent upfront payment for the larger dispatch but on each occasion we refused to pay them. Eventually we said that if the goods arrived and we were confident of the authenticity, quality and condition of the products that we would agree to take them, but only on that basis.”

A further complication then arose when the European suppliers requested a Global International Trading Certificate from us to allow the goods to clear through German customs. The group became suspicious at that point and then contacted Chamber International, the group found that the document did not exist but the suppliers continued to press for a Certificate to be issued.

“We continued to get hounding emails from the supplier asking for the certificate,” added Mr Higgs. “They said that if we are not able to supply it then they could obtain it on our behalf for the sum of $600 for a two year Certificate or $1,000 for a four years one.  We finally told them, we intended to report this to the relevant Authorities and also to Ali Baba where the trade lead was first introduced.’’

“In the end we lost £650 and have not received any of the goods to date. We’ve have now brought this to light because we did not want anyone else to go through a similar scenario. You can clearly see how easy it was for them to manipulate the situation once a small payment had been made in good faith and we do not want these people to get away with it.”