I received a call the other day from an angry water ionizer dealer who had been victimized again for the second time by a credit card scam operation out of Montreal, Quebec. I asked if they took all of the necessary precautions required by the credit card companies. I was informed that they had done everything according to proper procedure but it didn’t make any difference.
After receiving the call, I started calling around to various dealers and was shocked to find out that many had been burned by the same operation in Quebec. I spoke to dealers from Canada, the USA, and even as far away as Australia who had been burned by fraudulent credit card orders from Quebec. I asked if this was a common occurrence and if it happened in other places as well. It turns out it is not common at all and it had only happened in Quebec for most of the dealers.
A number of dealers mentioned that they avoided taking credit card orders from any foreign countries, while others mentioned to stay away from orders from Africa and Asia. However, nobody ever suspected they would be ripped off by Canadians. Everybody knows that Canadians are among the nicest and most polite people in the world… well, most Canadians. I got out of the business before the crooks in Quebec started ripping off dealers, or maybe I was just lucky.
Before my fellow countrymen from Quebec start screaming at me about being treated unfairly, they should know that this article has been written to protect the hard working people in the water ionizer industry, not to pick on anyone. Crooks are crooks, no matter where they are from.
The Credit Card Companies Won’t Help You
The credit card companies always support the position of the credit card holder if the holder signs a sworn statement that they have not ordered or received the merchandise. The amount of the purchase will automatically deducted from the vendor’s account as soon as the sworn statement is received from the customer. You don’t receive a call to find out your side of the story. The dealer finds out about the scam when they see money has disappeared from their bank account or when they receive a notice from their bank.
When a dealer finds out about the scam, they have to prove to the credit card company that the unit was delivered to the credit card holder, and that is not an easy thing to do if the crooks are smart, and they are smart. When I called a credit card company “loss” representative to find out how the system works when there has been a fraud committed, I was told that the merchant should hire a detective to find proof of the crime. Geez… I bet you didn’t realize the system worked this way, because I sure wasn’t aware it was this one sided when I was in business. In hindsight, I don’t know if I would have ever started doing business with credit card companies. The bottom line is that if a scam artist wants to steal from you, you are at their mercy unless you force yourself to abide by rules that your customers won’t be happy about.
Steps to Protect Yourself…well sort of protect yourself:
1) You must make sure the unit is being shipped to the same address as the address of the credit card holder. Crooks will call you and give you a different address to ship to. This means that you need to call the credit card company to verify the address for every order to make sure that the address can be confirmed. The credit card company will not give you an address, but they can confirm that the address you give them matches the address on the credit card. If the address doesn’t match, call your customer and have them call their credit card company to add the shipping address to their credit card information. If you don’t do this, you are out of luck if the crooks have targeted you, because the credit card companies will not support you without a matching address.
2) Never have the unit dropped off at an address without a signature. Always have your customer sign for the parcel before it is turned over to them. If possible, have the deliver company check photo identification and record the information from the customer’s driver’s license. Unfortunately most delivery companies don’t offer the photo identification service, and the crooks know it.
Even if you perform both of the above tasks, you are at risk. The crooks are smart. They will have somebody else sign for the parcel with the credit card holder’s name and then the credit card holder will claim that the signature is not their signature. You will never know whether the person that provided the credit card is part of the scam or not. You can be sure that whoever is part of the scam will deny any involvement either way.
The Only Way To Fully Protect Yourself:
If you accept a credit card, make sure you swipe the card and get a signature, and confirm the identity of the customer by having them provide photo identification such as a driver’s license.
If you take telephone orders, you need to follow steps 1) and 2) above, which will go a long way towards protecting you, but even then, you are still at risk to sophisticated criminals. The only way to completely protect yourself is to have your customer send you a wire transfer before you ship the goods.
If you receive an order from another country or specifically from Quebec, get the customer to wire you the money directly. The cost to the customer should be about $30 and they won’t like the inconvenience, but if you explain the situation politely and offer to rebate them the $30 fee, they should understand if they are honest customers. You can even offer your customer $50 off the sale price in order to compensate them for the inconvenience. The good news is that a $50 price discount will likely be offset by the savings in credit card charges.
Once the wire transfer is complete, you are guaranteed to get your money because the funds are already in your account with no recourse from a bank or credit card company.
I hate to bring up ugly stuff, but ugly stuff happens. If you are a dealer, protect yourself because this problem is only going to get worse. The reason that it will get worse is because nobody has any interest in protecting you as a merchant. The banks don’t care. The credit card companies don’t care. The police don’t care.
If you are a customer, please be patient with the dealers as they don’t know who you are. If the situation disturbs you, put yourself in their shoes and ask yourself if you would ship thousands of dollars of goods to a far away place when you know that you are at risk and are basically only protected by the good word of a customer that you don’t even know.
If you are from Quebec and are angry at me for mentioning your wonderful province in a negative light, I can live with that. If nobody is cheating, then there is no problem.
The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author.