The “Fake Shipping Company” Western Union Scam

A couple of weeks ago, I was contacted by a Japanese customer who called himself Kenny Moore and used the email address (kennymoore011@hotmail.co.uk). “Kenny” wanted to buy a series of large format framed prints. Having recently read in the news about how strong the yen is against the dollar, and how many Japanese are buying lots of American goods right now, I didn’t think anything of it.

My usual policy is to wait until I have full payment up front before beginning a print job, and with an overseas customer, I was certainly not going to deviate from that method. I waited until he gave me his credit card number, along with his billing and shipping info and credit card security code, and when my bank verified that the transaction had gone through, I send the image files to the printer. When the prints came back, I even got so far as to take them to my framer, but since they had to order more mat board, nothing was done on the job yet.

All seemed fine until the “customer” told me that instead of using Fed Ex or UPS to ship the prints, he wanted me to use his preferred shipping company, Crystal Freight. He gave me their email address and I sent off for a quote. The amount was around the same that I got from Fed Ex: $1550 for express freight from Anchorage Alaska to Kobe Japan. The red flag came when I received an email from the shipping company that they only accept international payments via Western Union.

I tried to find out some information about Crystal Freight on the web, and found Crystal Freight System, based in Lahore, Pakistan, Crystal Freight Services, based in Singapore, Crystal International, based in California, and Crystal Logistical Services, Ltd., based in London. These are all legitimate shipping companies, but according to my “customer,” they were different companies, and not “his” Crystal Freight.

That’s where I balked, and luckily so, because after doing a little more Google research, it became clear to me that the entire sale was nothing more than a scam.

Here’s how it works: Artist (You) gets paid with a stolen credit card (or counterfeit money order), completes the order and packages up the work. In the meantime, artist contacts Fake Shipping Company, who is really just the scammer using a different email, and is told to make payment via Western Union. Artist goes down to the local Western Union office and sends away his cash, never to see it again, goes home and emails the scammer the MTCN number along with shipping details. Scammer walks into any Western Union office in the world, collects money and walks away. Your art sits, packaged up, ready to go, but noone ever comes to pick it up. Then, credit card (or bad money order/check) is charged back to your account. Suddenly you’re out the $1550.00 for shipping, plus a $15.00 charge-back fee, in addition to the time and cost of producing your art, which now has no buyer.

Luckily I caught this in time. This morning, I called Chase Fraud Services and was told that the credit card that was used to pay me had been cancelled, which meant that I’d be charged back the full amount. I went ahead and refunded the transaction before that happened, and so I’m only out my time and the cost to produce six 16″x24″ Alaska Landscape prints, for which I can hopefully find new buyers.

Apparently, this type of scam is pretty prevalent, so to help alert others, here is some simple advice that will help you avoid being scammed.

1. NEVER WIRE MONEY TO ANYONE OR ANY BUSINESS VIA WESTERN UNION OR MONEYGRAM. You might as well put money in an envelope and throw it away, because it’s the same thing. It’s completely untraceable, and you never have any way of knowing who may have picked it up on the other end. In other words, you’ll never see it again. No legitimate organization does business through Western Union, and anyone who expects this is trying to commit fraud.

2. DO YOUR RESEARCH. Just about every legitimate business can be found by using Google. If you can’t find the shipping company that your “customer” gives, it probably doesn’t exists. Often, it will have a similar name to a real company, which may throw you off. You can also find examples of similar scams through google as well. If it’s happening to you, it has probably happened to somebody else who has written about it on some blog post… which is exactly why I’m taking the time to write all this!

3. AWAYS DO BUSINESS WITH A COMPANY DIRECTLY THROUGH THEIR WEBSITE, NOT THROUGH A LINK THAT SOMEONE GIVES YOU IN AN EMAIL. That “link” is usually nothing more than a link to the scammer’s other email address, which he uses to pose as the fraudulent company.

4. NEVER EVER ACCEPT PAYMENT FROM ANYONE IN AFRICA!!! realize that there are many legitimate, and honest people in Africa who might want to do business over the internet, but unfortunately, the HUGE number of scammers in Nigeria and Ghana have ruined it for them. However, be aware that scammers operate out of or pose as if they’re in any country. My own situation is proof. I’d never heard of a scam run by a Japanese person, but that’s probably why it got as far as it did. I know that he was Japanese, because he called me on the phone a few times, to “check on that status of his order.”

(Edited 1/23/10) *Please note my revision to Tip #4*

4. While there are certainly legitimate customers who reside in Africa, sellers should be EXTREMELY CAUTIOUS about any sale from a buyer who CLAIMS to be from Africa. It’s true that most scammers originate in the US, but the majority of Internet-based ‘Advance Fee Frauds,’ which is how this type of scam is correctly defined, either operate out of Africa or operate from a scammer posing as someone from Africa. Again, do your homework and VERIFY AND WAIT FOR ALL TRANSACTIONS TO FULLY CLEAR BEFORE PROCEEDING.**

5. AWAYS VERIFY THE TRANSACTION. Call the bank and verify the name, address, billing info and security code on the credit card. Even if it goes through, it can still be charged back if it’s a stolen card.

6. WAIT FOR PAYMENT TO CLEAR BEFORE DOING ANYTHING. If you do accept payment from a client who you think might be for real, wait at least 30 days for the payment to clear. If not, you’ll be out when the payment bounces.

7. IF IT SOUNDS TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE, IT PROBABLY IS. I was guilty here. Bad economy, big print sale.. hey, we all want more business, right? Just keep careful track of everything that transpires regarding a job, as well as any transactions, authorization numbers and receipts, and most of all, use your head. I was lucky that I caught this before it went any further. Hopefully this post will help alert and inform a few more people so that “Kenny” won’t be able to find any more “work”.

Unfortunately, internet scams are here to stay, and they’re constantly evolving. Stay informed and be smart. For those people who are interested in reading more, check out Scams and Swindles, by Silverlake Publishing. It’s a great little book that explains in detail how most of the prevalent internet scams work and how to protect yourself from getting ripped off.


Comments

The “Fake Shipping Company” Western Union Scam — 92 Comments

  1. There’s a variation of this going around that’s targeted to printers or graphic designers (I am a designer). Someone claiming to be a minister wants a quantity of flyers printed for a “good” cause, and is soliciting quotes. If you send a quote, you’ll get a CC number, and the whole thing proceeds as described above. You’re out the cash for printing and shipping, plus the charge-back. And no customer — just the awful feeling of being scammed. When I received a request to charge more than the total amount, I canceled the whole deal and just ignored the scammer. Creative, though, how they come up with this stuff.

  2. Thank you, Thank you Thank you!! I will blog about this scam myself. I have a women’s manufacturing company and we have been hit hard by these people.
    I appreciate you getting the word out.

  3. I had experience today with a scammer called “Mr Walter Scott”.
    When I tried to call me on the number he left and it said “not connected”, i thought that was unusual. He called me on the number i emailed him and he said his number didn’t work because he was on the internet. He was buying Christmas trees for an orphanage so i decoded to Google the orphanage because i was feeling suspicious. Scamming alerts came up.Thank goodness for others like yourself who have blogged their experiences.

  4. Normally I don’t post on blogs, but I wish to say that this write-up incredibly forced me to perform so! Thanks, extraordinarily nice article

  5. Wow, thank you very much for posting this. I was in the process of selling some things on Craigslist. The “customer” contacted me to buy a bed set worth about $2000, he was happy with my asking price of $1200, and allegedly planned to buy it as a gift for his dad. Everything seemed fine and normal until he said he contacted the shipping company headquarters and they required $750 commission for their services before he could commit to the sale, and that Western Union was the only payment form accepted. After responding with a skeptical email to him asking what shipping company this was, where he was that didn’t have WU, and possible places to look, I began my Google research and discovered your article. You saved me $750!! Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!

  6. I own a locksmith company and was contacted by a scammer using this method. He wanted locks shipped to South Africa by a shipping service that only took Western Union and didnt have a website. He is calling me right now actually. I reported the stolen card to the bank, and id like to wring the guy’s neck.

  7. I get these emails all the time as I work for a small business in Florida and we also have a website. I email them back to get the credit card infomation so I can call the credit card company on Fraudulant charges and that’s one less stolen credit card the scammers have. I have done my good deed for the day.

  8. Thank you so much for this blog!!!
    One week ago I had the same situation,customer from China wanted to buy 30 dresses !Everything was normal until he told me that the only company he will accept to ship the dresses is Crystal Logistical Services, Ltd.After I contact them they told me that only they accept Western Union money transfer!After this I did Google this shipping company and I found your blog,which mean I will never do this transaction!
    Thanks again

  9. My daughter found an ad in our city newspaper for 2 free english bulldog puppies there was only an email address so my daughter emailed the man hes claiming to be a man of god and that he only wants safety for his puppies he is called us and having the shipping company emailing contacting us we really want the puppies the fee is 400.00 to be shipped I cant afford to get scammed what do I? jeandom30@yahoo.com

  10. Jeanann, agreed — it’s a scam. Don’t reply and don’t send your money. There are plenty of pups available for $400 from reputable buyers who will provide you with full contact information and be willing to meet — no “shipping companies” involved.

  11. We are getting the same email about bulk order purchases. I sounds 99% like a scam but I was curious to to know what they would end up trying. Thanks.

  12. Thank you for this information. I offered 2 antique dolls at 600€ and received a cheque for 3.500€ . Then I got an email with the instruction to take the money for the dolls and then send the rest to the Shipper by Western Union. I think I was lucky when I googled Western Union and found your report. Thanks again

  13. I just had this happen to me. I am a manager of a high end fine art gallery. I had a customer “Thomas James” contacted me about placing an order to Lebanon, and gave full address before specifying which piece he wanted, and made sure to specify what shipping company he wanted me to use. I got a quote from them but the only thing is that the shipping company only deals with the shipper and doesn’t accept credit cards, only money transfers via western union. That set off a big red flag for me, because what kind of a shipping company doesn’t accept credit cards. Good thing that my policy is that the customer is responsible for all shipping charges and the gallery works as the middle person to pass shipping info to the freight company on behalf of customer. After I go him the quote for total amount due and that he is responsible for paying shipping directly. His response was only about the shipping company and how my gallery had to pay them and he’s pay us up front (i’m sure with a fake credit card). So i left the last message at that we cannot accept credit card info via phone/web, only accept certified checks or signed invoices/agreements.
    And of course as the article mentioned, the “Destination Courier Express” freight company doesn’t exist, only offshoots of the company name all over the world. …be careful and never ever work with people/company’s that only accept money orders via western union.

  14. Sasha, I googled DESTINATION COURIER EXPRESS
    and got your post. Someone calling themselves Todd James ordered prints to be shipped to Lebanon by that courier but was vague about what he wanted and refused to use paypal as I don’t personally take credit card numbers. Thanks for the warning. I thought the request was suspicious. The shipping companies live.com email and lack of web address was enough for me.

  15. We almost got scammed in the exact same way. Customer calling himself Winston Smith called and wanted to purchase an industrial blower. We use credit cards all the time so I didn’t think twice about it. Even when he asked me to use his freight company and they wanted us to pay western union I wasn’t overly concerned because i was totally unaware of these type of scams. We thought we were good because we ran the cards and they cleared the bank. We will incredibly naive and incredibly lucky that we didn’t lose almost $4,000.00. This article helped me back my case that not all was as it seemed.

  16. You just saved me $3500! I want to take you out for dinner!
    Exact same scam. I smelled a rat. Guy’s English was HORRIBLE and the Shipping Company’s English was HORRIBLE – so probably same fella. Wasted a whole day. getting estimates and going back and forth with “shipper” and “client”. Did not order any goods (these were for printed t-shirts) before Googling. Wonder if there is any way to nab these guys. Who/where does one report them to anyway?

  17. Glad I could save you some time, money and trouble. As far as catching and stopping these guys, I think that warning posts like this one are the best way. The more readers and comments post that a blog post gets, the higher it will be ranked by search engines and thus the more people it will reach.

    Keep spreading the word, write about it on your own blog if you have one. and if you feel up to it, save every bit of documentation regarding the scam and take it to the FBI.

  18. Thanks for the post! My boyfriend got a very similar email today – “Jason Park” from Japan wanted to by some cookware, but it had to be shipped via his preferred company Intel Air Cargo, which used a live.com email address and only accepted Western Union (and had poor spelling and grammar). The guy emailed his address (the city was spelled wrong) and CC info and we reported it to Mastercard.

  19. I received the same from a Jason Park and was immediately suspicious as the request to use his shipper was unusual in that he would not set it up. I googled the shipper and came up empty so I sent an email to live.com address and received a reply quoting $ 750.00 and I had to pay it via WU. USPS for this particular shipment would have been $65.00. Unreal.

  20. I too received an email from “Jason Park” at jasonpark535@gmail.com on May 9, 2011. He wanted to place a large order to be shipped to an Osaka Japan address, but specified in his email that “i will like you to process the shipping for me through my choosen freight service that i have recieved a similar shipment through without any custom problems here and am confident of their serice,but they will want the shipper to contact them.Their name is INTEL AIR CARGO and you will have to email them at ( intelaircargo@live.com ) with what you want to ship,the weight,the quantity,the locations and the exact cost of my order and they should get back to you soon with information.”

    After packaging up the order to determine the exact weight, I happened to research the company and came accross this website and read about this scam and saw the comments about “Jason.” I then wrote him back and told him we only use UPS or USPS to ship and cannot accommodate his request. Thank you to everyone who posted here for saving me and my company a lot of time, headaches and money!

  21. Thank you so much for your original blog in 2008. I also was approached from a ‘customer from Japan’. The scenario is pretty much exactly as what happened to you. After emails back and forth for days, the mention of Western Union was an instant red flag.
    Thanks again….I’ve learned so much.

    Kathleen

  22. Thanks for this info
    I run an very small accommodation business and was asked if I had a vacancy for 3 people for 10 days. Very nice The booking was confirmed by the Travel Consultant Andrew Ripey andresouth.r1@gmail.com; in ? U.K but would I please pay the Travel agent in Benin Republic for the flight booked for his clients as they were unable to accept his credit card payments.
    He would not give me details of his company nor his address or the country he was operating from , only an English phone number.
    Neither would he give any details of the African travel agent, the guests or where they would be arriving at in Australia
    After a phone call or two from him and I rang the U.K number he gave me and after a pause he answered and simply told me to ” Follow my instructions” rather rudely and to transfer the money as told in two separate amounts from his credit card.the details of which he gave me. THEN . he would let me know where to send the money —-yes you guessed it via Western Union!
    My gut feeling told me something was amiss so I rang my bank and thank good ness I did as they had several calls just recently regarding the same scam in our tourist industry.
    So thank you all for telling your stories , and maybe saving other from similar fates
    Anne 21 June 2011

  23. Thanks for this contribution for safer business!

    In our hostel we got e-mail from andresouth.r1@gmail.com, the same procedure as always. The only thing you have to be really aware is that no one will pay you more than he has to and you are not allowed to do anything more, than your normal business – that includes also any transaction to any third party or any weird way of payment, when there are so many much easier, comfortable and transparent ways.

    Good luck to all!

    Filip

  24. Hi Dan, Many thanks for this site, saved me a lot of wasted time and more importantly money. Andrew is now targeting the accommodation business, wanting to make bookings in the name of Mr & Mrs Alvin and son James. Again thank goodness for your site and warnings.
    Kind regards
    David.

  25. Thank you for sharing this. There is another variation of this going around that targets freelance computer technicians. The customer asked to have several laptops virus scanned and upgraded from Vista to Windows 7. This is a bone stupid and straightforward fix, and I was already a little wary of someone wanting to ship computers to have this fix done, but some companies do have very remote work forces.

    When he asked I send the shipping charges to Western Union and take payment with a cashiers check alarm bells went off, and I did a Google search on Western Union shipping scams. Your blog post came right up on top.

    I assume that what I’ll get is the phony cashier’s check and some junked out “boot sale” or even stolen laptops to fix. The scammer loses a few hundred dollars in laptops, or offloads some stolen laptops he can’t move himself, and pockets X thousands in phony shipping while I possibly end up holding several pieces of hot merchandise.

  26. Thank you for confirming what i expected. My wife told me this morning she was going to deposit a cheque for 2500.00 into her account. I asked where she received the cheque from as she a full time mom. She said from the secret shopper ad i had passed along a month earlier. Supposedly she is to deposit the cheque into her account and draw a western union cheque in the amount of 2100.00 and mail that off to someone somewhere. Something didn’t seem right and so i asked her to hang on until i got home tonight. I figure they must be wanting her to legitimately provide 2100, while receiving fraudulent funds of 2500.

  27. Thanks a lot for this post. Andrew Ripey is trying right now to book for the same people you already mentioned in my hotel. thanks again from Malaga, Costa del Sol

  28. Received a similar relay call (tty) from an Allen Jack (Jack Allen) from Illinois wanting some oriental rugs cleaned. He asked us to charge a card, which he has yet to provide, and then send $1500 to a shipper, which he has yet to name, via Western Union. We tried getting an address and he demanded to speak to the owner. Sounded fishy so did some research and found this. Thanks

  29. My clients deal with scams like this on a daily basis. Luckily it’s easy to figure out the scam. Just have the customer submit their info via a web form. Capture the IP and ask for their city/country. Then compare the city/ country they input with the city / country that corresponds to their ip using this database: http://www.maxmind.com/app/ip-location
    If there is a match then accept payment; if not then block payment.
    Sounds complex but it can be fully automated and literally takes a millisecond to process. Any web geek can set it up for you.

  30. Do not do business with Daniel Bailey. She is a SCAM ARTIST.
    She scams everyone at make wide turns.
    She makes you think you are working to make a check and she keeps all the money.
    She lives in Arlington, Texas
    He husband or so works at FFE they are out of Dallas, Texas.
    Do not do any business with FFE either.

  31. thanks for the post, makes me feel better as this almost just happened to me, we will lose a little money for some sample printing but card authorization caught us up to speed. I’m so mad!

  32. This also happened to me I was being contacted by a someone who wanted to buy music production equipment from me but his credit card was with the security company. BY THE WAY THIS WAS A GUY FROM NIGERIA I AGREE DO NOT DO BUSINESS WITH PEOPLE FROM AFRICA VIA THE INTERNET. He told me I had to pay the security company in which I did pay $400 for preparation, but then afterwards I received an email stating that the card was valued at a very high price and that I had to pay a lawyer company to clear the credit card. By clearing the credit card he said I would be clearing it with the International Monetary Fund from being for of fraud, drugs or a terrorist organization and that the lawyer firm required $1800 to clear it. Also the money could only be paid by western union and they did not accept credit cards. At that point I knew something was wrong and I told them to either send me the card without making the payment or the transaction was off. So I decided to cancel the transaction after stumbling on this blog.

  33. We just had a simular experience and thankfully we caught it in time. Customer called in an order for about $2500.00 and asked us to charge him the shipping cost and forward the money to the shipping company in Malaysia via bank transfer.Works the same way, the thief goes to the bank with the transfer code which you supply and they walk out with the money. We caught in time even though the Discover card they used went through. The Zip code of the so called field agent for “Ace Cargo” did not match the city they reported they were in. We called Discover Card and they did not report that the card was stolen, but when I told them the name on the card if was slightly different so they called the card holder, even though they did not tell me what was said, they transferred me to the security department to report how it all went down. We returned the money to Discover card before we were hit with the charge back fee.
    Then I emailed the thief and asked him for additional info and what a surprise…no response. Be careful out there….

  34. … Here is another one.
    They use similar text and different email addresses like this one
    Even with pdf attachments who seem real.
    I lost $8,000 with those guys 3 years ago and they are still soliciting me with the very same email.

    The email reads:
    Good day.
    Kindly quote the prices for printing envelopes with the specs below excluding shipping cost.
    1. Envelope size: 4 3/4″ x 6 1/2″
    2. 24# White Wove Envelope
    3. Self Seal
    4. Attached is the TEXT to be printed on the envelopes
    5. Provide quote on 40,000 and 60,000 copies of envelopes
    Kind regards,
    John Parish.

  35. I’m pretty sketchy now after reading the comments i recently posted an ad on craigslist to be a part time babysitter and i received an email from allenjack60@yahoo.com asking me to baby sit a four year old but he closed the letter off by saying his name was kim 0.o Getting the feeling ignoring that may have saved me some trouble

  36. I almost got scammed from the same type of thing, trying to sell something on Craigslist.
    They sent more money than I wanted, told me to ship, etc. I finally stopped and did nothing. Lost nothing but some time and irritation.

  37. Thank you. I have just had the same thing happen to me. I was getting suspicious and thought I would google and found your post. You have really helped me realise it was too good to be true. Thanks.

  38. My fraud problem is similar to these. I ordered two phones from a supplier named Pirana Mobile Phones. They promised free shipping with more than one item (which I received) and no customs charges..they would take care of them. They also said that they would ship with UPS or FedEx. After sending my USD $600.00, with the exception of free shipping, none of these promises materialised. They shipped with some company named Daralex Express..the tracking information was inferior, then on the day the package was supposed to arrive, the shipping company emails me to say that I have to pay a further USD $320.00 to the supplier for my package to be cleared from customs..I emailed the Customer Service Rep on the company website, they have no idea of my package being shipped, and the ‘supplier’ refuses to refund my money until they get back their ‘package’. Thing is, I’d scrape the money together and pay for it, but in my country..I refused to send more money to them, after they went back on their word..I’m out 600.00 and no idea how to get it back..

  39. Valuable information. Fortunate me I discovered your web site by accident, and I am stunned why this twist of fate did not came about earlier! I bookmarked it.

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