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BBB issues warning on fax scam targeting businesses

Wed, Apr 7th, 2010
Posted in State of Minnesota

April 7, 2010 - St. Paul, MN- The Better Business Bureau (BBB) of Minnesota and North Dakota is warning companies to be on alert for a scam involving shipping orders placed via fax, and stolen credit card numbers.

A company which sells engine parts in southern Minnesota has informed the BBB of a fraudulent solicitation they received recently via fax. The fax requested a quote on a part. The letterhead on the fax was for Great Engine Supply Co, and the address provided was a Minneapolis address. However, there is no company by that name at that address and no company with that name listed in the Twin Cities Yellow Pages.

The company faxed back a quote on the part as requested, which the fraudulent company accepted. At that point the order was increased to three sets of parts and a credit card number was provided. The parts were shipped to an address in Minneapolis, but because there was no business by the name of Great Engine Supply Company at the address provided, the parts were returned to a mail terminal in St. Paul, where they were picked up later by people likely connected with the scheme. In cases like this, the credit card number provided is usually fraudulent or stolen, leaving the company out the cost of the merchandise and the shipping costs.

The Better Business Bureau of Minnesota and North Dakota called the 800 number listed on the confirmation order provided by Great Engine Supply Company. A gentleman with a heavy foreign accent answered, identifying himself as James Alexander. When the BBB asked Mr. Alexander where he was located, the individual on the other end of the line disconnected the call.

The BBB advises all companies to be wary of unsolicited quote requests received via fax or orders from unknown parties for multiple quantities of high-end products.

Businesses should also exercise due diligence in situations where shipping instructions are for destinations out of the country. Other red flags would include if the initial credit card is declined and the customer offers an alternative number, and/or the customer does not question the purchase price and makes no effort to negotiate a deal.

The BBB offers this additional advice to companies who receive questionable faxes requesting quotes for parts or merchandise:

Scrutinize the fax closely; verify the company's identity and address information.

Look for misspellings or grammatical errors. Fraudulent solicitations are often filled with errors of this nature.

If the customer provides a credit card number, ask them to provide the name of the issuing bank and its toll-free customer service number as printed on the back of all credit cards.

Ask the customer for the three or four digit Card Verification Code that is found near the account number on the back or front of a credit card.

Tell the buyer that you will check with the bank and call them back. When you do that, keep good notes. Verify all information the buyer gives. If a buyer objects, explain that these procedures are for their protection, as well.

If the caller still objects to providing any of the above information, abandon the conversation and advise that you are not prepared to do business this way.

If the customer is using a TTY Relay Operator, ask the customer for his/her full name, address and telephone number. Scammers have used this service to defraud companies on many occasions.

Train your customer service workers to look out for and identify suspicious solicitations. If they have concerns, make sure they speak to a manager before filling the order.

Contact the BBB at 1-800-646-6222 if you receive a mysterious or questionable order.

The Better Business Bureau of Minnesota and North Dakota is a private, non-profit organization providing services to consumers and businesses. The focus of the Bureau's activity is to promote an ethical marketplace by encouraging honest advertising and selling practices, and offering dispute resolution. For more information on the Better Business Bureau, visit the Bureau's Web site at or call 651-699-1111, toll-free 800-646-6222.

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