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Traders Safety Tips


Prepare a Clear Contract
You should prepare a legally binding trade contract and keep it for the specified period to prevent argument and be sure in advance, the terms of the sale. The contract should include sales conditions, payment method, an arbitration clause, product specifications, quality inspection, etc. Stay in frequent contact with business partners.

Protect Yourself Against Payment Risk
Using a Letter of Credit (LC or L/C) or escrow are the recommended payment methods. Importers.com has partnered with Escrow.com and strongly encourages all members to use their services to process payments. If the seller seems more focused on payment than any other issue, or indicates that cash payment must be made urgently, more caution should be given to the transaction. Be extra cautious when the seller asks you to send money to an account whose real owner cannot be traced.


• Letter of Credit (L/C)

A Letter of Credit is the most preferred payment method in international trade. However, there is some possibility of fraud due to incorrect or forged shipping documents. Minimize the potential for fraud by contacting the L/C issuing bank. Be sure to check the L/C number, opening date, opening place, name and address of the issuing bank, shipping date, valid date, loading and unloading port, applicant, period of presentation, amount, as well as details of trans-shipment, partial shipment, etc.


• Escrow

Escrow.com is a transaction settlement service used by many of the leading e-commerce websites, including eBay and others. Escrow.com acts as a secure third party to protect Buyers and Sellers.


• Avoid Telegraphic Transfer (T/T) payments

Importers: It is NOT wise to accept an overseas supplier's request for pre-payment. In most cases, a request for T/T payment involves attempted fraud. Exporters: It is NOT wise to agree to accept payment from an overseas buyer after they have received products. Once a buyer has received samples or products without payment, it is very difficult to get them back.


• Avoid Payment by Western Union

Many of the online fraudulent cases reported involve payment via Western Union. After a buyer sends funds, the receiver breaks contact and the party disappears. You cannot trace the real name of an account holder with a wiring service such as Western Union.

• Don't Expect or Send Free Samples
Exporters: Request a nominal payment for samples. When an unknown buyer requests samples while hinting at a large order, it is always wise to request at least a nominal pre-payment. Importers: Request samples to check the quality of product. Order a sample before committing to a significant purchase order to be sure that the product meets your requirements. Be prepared to pay for samples - including shipping costs.

• Avoid Shipping Risk
If you are a buyer, you can protect yourself against poor quality by ordering a pre-shipment inspection of the products. You can demand the inspection as a condition to payment. Pay close attention to shipping or contact addresses located in countries with a high reported incidence of online fraud and many e-commerce web sites have found a high incidents of on-line fraud as well, such as Nigeria, Benin, Togo, Macedonia, Colombia, Romania, etc.

• Be Wary of Over Generous Offers
Be wary of potential partners who offer an especially high or low price. It is easy to be tempted by such offers, but they are often attempts to defraud. In business, the expression "you get what you pay for" is often painfully true. Be especially diligent to check the contact information, identification and any claims a suspicious trade partner makes. If it sounds unbelievable, it probably is.

Business Fraud

• Purchase merchandise from reputable dealers or establishments.
• Try to obtain a physical address rather than merely a post office box and a phone number, call the seller to see if the number is correct and working.
• Consider not purchasing from sellers who won't provide you with detailed contact information.
• Purchase merchandise directly from the individual/company that holds the trademark, copyright, or patent.
• Beware when responding to e-mail that may not have been sent by a reputable company.

Non-Delivery of Merchandise

• Make sure you are purchasing merchandise from a reputable source.
• Do your homework on the individual or company to ensure that they are legitimate.
• Try to obtain a physical address rather than merely a post office box and a phone number, call the seller to see if the number is correct and working.
• Consider not purchasing from sellers who won't provide you with detailed contact information.
• Check with the Better Business Bureau from the seller's area.
• Check out other web sites regarding this person/company. Don't judge a person/company by their web site.
• Be cautious when responding to special offers (especially through unsolicited e-mail).
• Be extra cautious when dealing with individuals/companies from outside your own country.
• Inquire about returns and warranties.
• Make sure the transaction is secure when you electronically send your credit card numbers.
• Consider utilizing an escrow or alternate payment service.

Credit Card Fraud

• Don't give out your credit card number(s) online unless the site is a secure and reputable site.
• Sometimes a tiny icon of a padlock appears to symbolize a higher level of security to transmit data. This icon is not a guarantee of a secure site, but might provide you some assurance.
• Don't trust a site just because it claims to be secure. Before using the site, check out the security/encryption software it uses.
• Make sure you are purchasing merchandise from a reputable source.
• Do your homework on the individual or company to ensure that they are legitimate.
• Try to obtain a physical address rather than merely a post office box and a phone number, call the seller to see if the number is correct and working.
• Consider not purchasing from sellers who won't provide you with detailed contact information.
• Check with the Better Business Bureau from the seller's area.
• Check out other web sites regarding this person/company. Don't judge a person/company by their web site.
• Be cautious when responding to special offers (especially through unsolicited e-mail).
• Be extra cautious when dealing with individuals/companies from outside your own country.
• Make sure the transaction is secure when you electronically send your credit card numbers.
• You should also keep a list of all your credit cards and account information along with the card issuer's contact information.
• If anything looks suspicious or you lose your credit card(s) you should contact the card issuer immediately.

Investment Fraud

• Don't invest in anything based on appearances.
• Just because an individual or company has a flashy web site doesn't mean it is legitimate. Web sites can be created in just a few days. After a short period of taking money, a site can vanish without a trace.
• Don't invest in anything you are not absolutely sure about.
• Do your homework on the investment to ensure that it is legitimate.
• Do your homework on the individual or company to ensure that they are legitimate.
• Check out other web sites regarding this person/company. Don't judge a person/company by their web site.
• Be cautious when responding to special investment offers (especially through unsolicited e-mail).
• Be extra cautious when dealing with individuals/companies from outside your own country.
• Inquire about all the terms and conditions.
• If it sounds too good to be true it probably is.

Nigerian Letter Scam

• Be skeptical of individuals representing themselves as Nigerian or foreign government officials asking for your help in placing large sums of money in overseas bank accounts. (TradeStaff: More recently, this SCAM letter format has been used by individuals from Benin, Ghana, Pakistan, Russia and other countries - none are to be trusted).
• Do not believe the promise of large sums of money for your cooperation.
• Guard your account information carefully.