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The following six red rags are simply a list of indicators, which in isolated terms, may or may not mean anything; however, when found all together, should ring some alarm bells. As with anything in business or life, the whole is greater than the sum of its’ parts.
1. The Site.
Let me first show you an example, www.chinabaijiang.com ,which is still avail to visit ,and still have victims.
The website has an absence of any Chinese version for its’ own pages.
This means they’re targeting only one group of prospects – foreigners.
That is to say, people who will not stand a hope in hell’s chance of chasing them up after the bolt is shot.
In my experience, companies in China that have Chinese and English versions of their pages are usually genuine, as they’re making themselves accessible to the home market too; particularly for companies dealing in electronics, phones, and computers.
An absence of such, may, but not always, indicate a potential scam site.
O.K. our website only has English, but we deal with requests from foreigners, and we seek-out suppliers. Suppliers seldom seek us out; although, we occasionally have a Chinese company approach us with an offer and an introduction.
2. Contact Information.
All the email addresses are ‘Hotmail‘ or ‘Yahoo‘; there is a distinct absence of a company email address.
This in and of itself doesn’t carry too much weight, as many genuine Chinese companies operate with free email addresses.
However, it is a common enough marker amongst the scammers.
You can also try running a quick check on the company’s name and address, via the online English language page of the Yellow Pages for China, found at: www.yp.net.cn/english/.
If they have no listing, then there’s a good chance they aren’t a genuine company; either that, or they’re a SOHO (Small Office Home Office), and use their home as an office, as they usually never come face-to-face with clients, and have no need of an office as such.
However, this wouldn’t usually be the case for a technology company, as they’d normally have to have an official office, and storage facilities out of mere necessity.
3. Company Registration Number.
Of course, as a legally registered business entity, they’d need to have a business registration number.
When once you have that number, you can go to the following Ministry of Commerce (MOFCOM) page, for contact details of the Local Administrations office, and try to get the data for the government business registration office in the city, and the province where they claim to be registered. You can then email, fax, or phone requesting to know if this number matches a genuine business.
Sadly however, the Ministry’s own website is very poorly put together, as you yourself will note upon visiting it, and a search for the contact data for the appropriate office may not actually work; neither does the page display correctly. I have informed the Ministry of this fault, as have others, but to no avail.
This is something I’m in the process of changing by putting together my own listing, and which I shall make available to registered users of Safely Sourcing China, and collated on a provincial, and city level.
The inaction of the Ministry to properly display this data, and its’ accompanying suspicion which is cast upon the Ministry itself, seems to have escaped them.
4. Unbeatable Offer.
This one is a complete no-brainer; if the price seems too good to be true – then it’s a scam.
Ask if the company will accept an L/C (Letter of Credit); if they only take Western Union, Money Gram, and the likes, then they’re more than likely a scammer.
6. IP Check.
Run an IP address check on the company and see how many other web addresses they have registered to them.
Personally I’ve come across guys with upwards of 2 or 3 hundred websites connected to them as the registrant.
Go here and type the web address, MINUS the WWW bit, into the box: whois.domaintools.com/.
This last one is a definite NO-NO. If you see they’re registered to a cartload of websites, just turn your back, shake the dust from your sandals, and leave.
And that’s about it for your basic checks; more to come in the future.
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