A simple Google search will send you into a dark abyss of Chinese scammer sites. Does this mean all chinese trying to sell online are scammers? NO! First I will take you through the mind of a Chinese scammer, then I will show you the only way to really know for sure you know what company you are dealing with, and how to trick scammers into helping you find factories to deal with! Also I will cover: What is TradeKey and Alibaba, and are they trustworthy? and a small section on Counterfeit Items.
1. The Mind of a Internet Wholesale Scammer
First of all, not all of these live in Putian / Fujian , not all of them are from Guangzhou, and not all of them are from China, either. Lots of other countries have similar scammer problems. I have delt with these types personally, sometimes sacrificed some money just to see how they would react and what they do. Most of these scammers are fairly young, and come from poor families. They are trying to get some money so that they can go to the big city, hopefully get an education and a job. So they pretend to own a factory that sells wholesale prices for a variety of items. The only way they can get money and keep it is through Western Union, Bank Transfers, Money Gram, and other "point A to point B" money transfers. However, some of them allow you to pay with paypal. Of course, if they don't send the item, send a defected item, or anything that was not in your deal, you contact paypal right away, cry about being scammed, and paypal gives you a refund almost instantly.
So why do they offer paypal? To get you to trust them.
Here is a little story to get you thinking ..
I remember one time someone was trying to sell me something, and I said no because they wanted Western Union. Then they said, well for $30 more I will accept paypal. They say this because they want you to think to yourself "Well they accept Paypal, so they must be legitimate! I want to save money though so I'll just go through with Western Union." Don't bite into this bait. They will send you an empty box if you are lucky, otherwise, they will disappear from the face of the planet and never contact you again. Okay, so lets say you decide to go with Paypal, pay the extra $30, and see if they come through. Naturally, if you pay with Paypal, 9 times out of 10 they will send you your order on time and flawlessly. You are very excited, this being your first time to deal with a Chinese company, and next time you want to buy, they ask for MoneyGram. They say you won't have to pay the extra $30 but it is "safe like paypal." They show you that on the MoneyGram site it says, "Safe - secure online transaction". Here's a big hint, IT IS NOTHING LIKE PAYPAL. It is point A to point B just like Western Union. And you will NOT get your money back.
Some main points to remember:
* Just because they've come through before and given your items doesn't mean they will do it again.
* Sometimes they will give you your items even with a Western Union transaction, just to gain your trust.
* Do not trust anyone selling things online, ever. You can however, trust Paypal for the most part. (After taking all those fees from you, you'd think they have some security to offer you)
* Pay attention to addresses. If you get your items from one city, and talk to a person from another city, something is up. Read the "How to Trick a Scammer" section if this happened to you.
2. How to deal with someone and know for sure they are legitimate.
Meet them. Meet their company. Look at their factory. See how the items are made. Show them a prototype of what you'd like made. Actually having your item made in a factory is alot more work that an exchange of emails with dimensions. Otherwise you are just hoping to get lucky.
I realize this is not realistic for alot of Ebay sellers, and often times you'll have to dance around with these online Chinese "factories" to see which ones are real and which ones are not. My only advice is to use nothing other than Paypal, and try to get the lowest price. All the prices on these sites are VERY inflated, but just enough that they look "okay" to an American. For example, a leather handbag (no brand) goes for about 20-30 USD on these sites. That looks decent to the average Ebayer, who is used to retail prices. A handbag with QUALITY stitching, embroidery, brass detailing and good leather is about 8 USD in a Chinese factory. A poor quality plastic-made (PVC) handbag is a few cents. Wholesale has even lower prices.
3. How to trick a scammer.
Most scammers do not own factories (duh) and they usually give their real city when they ask for a Western Union transfer. Most often than not, this city is called "Putian". I do not know why they all cluster in this area. I imagine it has to do with lax MoneyGram and WesternUnion officials. (Often times, they give a variation of their real name to protect their identity, and then they tell the Western Union official that the American spelled it wrong.) I have recieved money from WesternUnion before (a transaction from a family member, the only good reason to use WU) and they were VERY strict that I needed 2 proofs of identity, I had to know the answer to the secret question, the Transfer number, and my name HAD to be spelled right, or I didn't get the money.
Moving on .. so they live in Putian (or whatever they say in their Western Union information). You order a bag, pay $50 with paypal because you want to be safe, and you end up getting it. The bag is great! The exact finish you wanted, great color, the stitching is beautiful. You're starting to think you got a good deal. Until you see a little sticker on the bag somewhere inside. It says "Price: 832". You look up what 832 yen is in dollars ... and it is $8!! Then you look closely on the customs form and address, the bag came from Hefei, not from Putian, and whoever mailed it declared the value of your bag at $10. Now what you do is try to get in touch with these people from Hefei, they are the ones that made your bag - and for $40 less. You can try to google their address, and if that doesnt work, write them a nice letter. Hopefully there is someone that can speak English at the factory or warehouse, and they have an email address or website. Now that you've found the origin of your beautiful bag, still try to use Paypal. Yes, it is slightly safer than who you dealt with before, but be cautious. The scammer now only made $40 of your cluelessness, and you can report their name and address on a website, so if anyone googles them, they will know they are a scammer. Yes, even though they sent you the correct bag, they scammed you out of $40 and misrepresented themselves.
Of course, this will not always work. Sometimes they ship from their own address instead of drop-shipping. And is getting scammed out of 40-ish dollars worth finding a warehouse that may or may not reply back to you? You decide this for yourself.
Remember: It is always a risk dealing with online wholesalers, no matter what country they are from.
4. TradeKey and Alibaba
Do their "Goldkey Member" or "GoldTrust" statuses mean anything? No. People simply buy these, for $300-ish a year. The "Gold" members are simply the richest factories and the richest scammers. Be wary of these people, if someone scams so much they can afford Gold status on multiple sites, that means they are very good at it. Of course, they could just be a very integrated factory that makes many high quality products. Bottom line: These statuses are not a guarantee, ever. Niether are "previous customers".
5. Counterfeit Items
If you want to buy wholesale of a certain brand, contact the main branch of that brand. For example, Levi's will tell you you can buy jeans at $12 a pop at Fashion Malls, like the one in LA. Of course, you have to buy at least 3,000 or so pairs. If the company doesn't recommend that exact chinese factory, it is fake. It is 10000% fake. Be cautious.
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Buying Chinese items safely, and
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19 April 2008
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