The scammers are going after the label companies. Several North American converters have received emails from various clergymen who are interested in buying labels. It appears that the requests for quotes are aimed at making money through a freight payment scheme. One of the names of this operation – which is detailed online at many sites – is the Ghana Freight Scam, so called because the scammers ask that the goods be sent to that West African nation.
In mid-March, L&NW learned about the scam from Ken Meinhardt, whose company, Tailored Solutions, produces Label Traxx print management software. Label Traxx customers communicate among each other via a user network. On March 12 a converter in Canada received an email from "Rev. Marc Walker" asking for "3x10 RCR with black background and white bold lettering saying GOD HELP US with round corners. What types of payments do you accept?" The converter wrote back with some questions and learned that the order was for 38,300 labels.
He decided, however, that he didn't want the job, and posted it the next day on the Label Traxx network so that other users could bid if they wanted the business. Subsequent online chatter revealed that another Canadian label printer had received three similar requests, all from "reverends." He thought it was a fraud.
One person at a US converting company responded to Rev. Marc Walker with a quote. He got right back to her with an OK and two credit card numbers. She checked on the validity of the numbers and they passed inspection. She communicated further with the man and even had phone conversations with him. That's when he mentioned his independent freight company in Ghana, and would she please contact them to find out the freight.
"This was all going a bit too smoothly for me," the woman says. "It was all happening in the same day. He wanted me to put half of the cost on one card and half on the other, then he changed his mind. The freight was going to be $1,600 for about 500 pounds of labels. The next time he called I told him that I thought he was a scammer, and that I found it offensive that he would act that way using the name of God. I got some emails from the Label Traxx group and quite a few members were certain it was a scam, too."
This type of scam has been going on for years, and the targets are businesses of all kinds located everywhere on the planet. The credit cards are probably stolen, perhaps not. The freight company is probably phony. The victim bills the job to the credit cards, then the scammer gets the victim to pay the freight (often large) via Western Union. That payment goes into the scammer's pocket.
Here's a basic scenario in more detail, synthesized from online reports:
1. A company (vendor) is contacted by email by a reverend (fraudster) working for a Ghanaian company to supply a quote for a large order. In many instances the emails state that the purchased items will go to an orphanage in Ghana.
2. The fraudster accepts the quote from the vendor without any negotiation, and notes that freight costs need to be paid to transport the goods to Ghana. He suggests they contact a Ghanaian freight company to seek a quote.
3. The alleged Ghanaian freight company sends back an email which notes the freight costs will be $1,600, or $5,000, or another number.
4. The fraudster supplies his credit card details to the vendor, which charges his card for $5,000 for the freight cost.
5. The fraudster then asks the vendor to send the freight payment via Western Union to the alleged Ghanaian freight company as he claims he cannot complete this transaction himself.
6. The vender transfers the money via Western Union, which is received by the alleged freight company.
7. At the same time, the fraudster arranges for the credit card transaction to be reversed.
8. The outcome is that the vendor is defrauded of the freight cash, the fraudster does not have to pay the credit card bill, the alleged freight company has received the funds, and no order for merchandise is ever placed.
On March 31, I received the following email from Rev. Mike Johnson: "I will like to know if you can print a lable for me in a form of car sticker will be putting on out side the door of a car with the size of Size:Size: 2" Circle Colors: Black on White Semi-Gloss Stock One sided, and what I need on the lable is (Glory Be To God) and so let me know the total cost of 700.000 lables and also the form of payment you accept so that i will know what to do next hope this will help. pls advise. May God Our Lord Be With you."
I wrote back with a quote. An hour later I got this reply: "Thnak you very much for your email .i will like you to know that i am in a middle of a church conference in isreal .and i am shipping this lables to my church in ghana west africa. i have a shiping company i will like to recommend to you interms of picking up the lables to my church .i will like to know if you can contact the shipping company for me and get me the shipping quote. Please let me know so that we can proceed. God Bless you."
His next email, about a half hour later, urged me to contact the shipping company right away. The name of the company is Depend Trading and Shipping Company Limited; the contact is Mr. Mamuni Awudu, and the email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
They'll even go after a magazine editor. Imagine that.
Here are some tips that can keep the scammers away:
- Be cautious when responding to any instructions via email, especially from overseas.
- Fraudulent emails often promise rewards beyond expectations – if it's too good to be true, it probably is.
- Before conducting business with a new customer, know your customer.
- Never give your business bank account number or information about your business to unauthorized people.
- If you are unsure about a business offer, ask for more information or seek independent advice.
- Always check that goods and services were both ordered and delivered before paying an invoice.