China Business – Beware of these buyers! – How a member NEARLY got scammed

This is my first year as a member of Alibaba.com. I have responded to most trade alerts pertaining to my particular product. However, on two occasions I was contacted by two prospective buyers; one from Benin and the other from Lome, Togo respectively. They sounded like serious buyers, very professional and knowledgeable about their market. They were very impressed with the price and the product. They requested Pro-Forma invoices outlining CIF and payment terms. Note carefully; the payment terms were T/T 50% down and balance due prior to shipping. Both buyers signed pro-forma and sent back saying they will pay T/T 100%. (1st reason to suspect a scam) However, one buyer told me the Product will need NAFDAC certification and the seller will have to pay for it, before his bank can release the funds. (2nd reason to suspect a scam). The other buyer requested a copy of our business registration before his bank can release funds; which I sent to them. Then, someone from the bank contacted me saying that I will need to get the copy of certificate legalized and gave instructions to contact a specific lawyer to get this done. (3rd reason to supsect a scam). I contacted this person, who then informed me that I will have to Western Union US$600 immediately. I informed the buyer that it would be best if he took care of all expenses in his country and my company will process his order as soon as funds are received for the goods. He insisted that I will have to pay, so I asked him to send a copy of his business certificate and his personal identification. He sent me a copy of his Passport. I have not seen many forgeries in my life time, but this was the worst fake ID I had ever seen, a baby could tell its a fake. I halted correspondence to this buyer right away and forwarded the emails to fraudwatchers.org. I was still communicating with the other buyer who was from Benin. I told him I could supply samples and water analysis report to him,however he will have to pay to get the certificate. He agreed. He told me about a lawyer who could get the certificate in two days. The lawyer contacted me and requested samples and gifts.(?) I sent the samples and gifts to the buyer who supposedly passed on to the lawyer. The buyer later informed me that the lawyer was charging $2500 to get the certificate and he only had $1500, so he was asking me to pay the balance of $800 which was due after the lawyer received it. I started doing some research, I contacted the Chamber of Commerce. Two days later; the buyer claimed that the certificate was ready and I should Western Union $800 to the lawyer immediately. I informed the buyer that I prefered T/T and furthermore my company will not release any payments until I have confirmed his legitimacy. He got very angry saying $800 was a small amount of money and he was going to be sending a huge sum to my account and they will have to visit my country before the order is shipped. I informed him that I had no objections to them visiting, its only natural that they would want to make sure the product was up to standard before its shipped. I put in a phone call to the their local Chamber of Commerce and the person I spoke with said yes they had received my faxed enquiry and yes the the buyer was registered but they could not verify whether the business was active. He further advised me to not send any money to them until they can be certain. He also recommended that i ask the buyer to visit the chamber which I did. However, the buyer emailed me back and said he went to the chamber and no one by that name was working there and they had no clue about what he was talking about. I called back the person at the chamber and he to told me that the buyer must be lying because he did not visit them. He also advised me that he suspected a scam and I should not send them any money. So I emailed the buyer and told him the Chamber advised me against paying them so if he was still interested in purchasing my product, he should pay the lawyer and get the funds released so I can process his order. He informed me that he will have to put the transaction on hold so he can cancel a grant he was getting from the bank and get back his 40% deposit after which he can pay the lawyer and other debts and he will contact me in about two months to resume the transaction.

There are other details which I have left out, however there were so many clues which led me to believe these buyers are fake, yet I ignored the clues and continue communicating with them. The good thing is I did not pay them, but I did send them Product samples, T-Shirts, Caps and CD’s.

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