Red Flags for International Inquiries

Red flagsYou just received an international inquiry. Someone found your website and immediately sent you an email to place an order. Before you get too excited, it’s important to do your “due diligence” or vetting of this person/company. Especially if it’s for a large order.

International sales are an exciting step forward for businesses but you need to be cautious because there are numerous scams. Some of these fictitious inquiries are targeted towards a smaller business due to their presumed vulnerability. They anticipate the level of excitement their inquiry will generate and expect you will immediately ship the merchandise.  Below is a list of problematic items:

  • Generic email addresses (such as Gmail)
  • Someone wanting to place a large order but insists that you send samples first so they can evaluate the product
  • Wanting to immediately place a large order without ever seeing the merchandise.
  • A credit card number is in the initial email.
  • Not providing contact information other than the email address (which is generic)
  • Using an English sounding name which doesn’t fit the country they are supposedly from

We suggest you take the following steps to do an initial vetting of a contact:

  • Conduct an online search of the contact’s name and/or company name
  • Does the company have a website? Is the person who contacted you affiliated with the company?
  • Look for social media links associated with the contact. When was the last time they posted? How many likes do they have? Has there been any recent engagement activities or conversations between the company and consumers?
  • Does the company’s inquiry match the industry represented by their online presence?
  • Are there profiles of other executives on the company’s website? If so, conduct an online search for each of the individuals.
  • Remember, there are resources to help you conduct further due diligence through your local U.S. Commercial Service office.

Don’t be afraid of international sales. It’s a great way to expand your business. Just take appropriate precautions to protect yourself from scams.


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