St. Louis, Mo., Oct. 20, 2009
– Bargain hunters searching for wholesale electronics and clothing on Chinese Internet sites could find themselves up the Yangtze without a paddle. The Better Business Bureau (BBB) warns consumers to be cautious when dealing with Chinese and other overseas online sites that offer brand- name items at drastically reduced prices.
A St. Louis area businesswoman said she recently sent a total of $1,700 to three different online Chinese sites as payment for electronic items she hoped to resell at a profit on eBay. She said she never received anything from any of them.
Michelle Corey, president and CEO of the St. Louis BBB, said Internet reports indicate the overseas wholesale scam is becoming increasingly widespread and often seems to victimize people trying to find low cost, brand-name items for startup sales businesses.
“The people setting up many of these Web sites are thieves, pure and simple, and are interested in nothing more than snatching your money and vanishing,” Corey said.
Many of the bogus Web sites offer elaborate graphics and detailed photographic displays of items for sale at deep discounts. In many cases, entire paragraphs describing the companies appear to be copied from one site to another.
The St. Louis area businesswoman said she was searching for wholesale businesses to buy from when she discovered dozens of listings for Chinese wholesalers on the Internet.
She said she agreed to purchase $956 worth of items including Apple iPhones and Sony PlayStation 3s from www.super-electronics.com.cn after speaking by phone with a representative of the site, which no longer appears to be active. The woman said she hoped she could resell the items for about $2,000.
The businesswoman said she sent a MoneyGram to Xiamen, China, and was promised delivery in five to seven days. She said the representative even gave her a postal tracking number for her order.
The area woman said she tracked the parcel out of China and into the U.S., but became alarmed when records showed it was delivered to an address in Melrose Park, Ill.
The man in Melrose Park who received the parcel told the BBB that the package was empty, except for a piece of paper. He said the parcel was supposed to have contained a designer purse and pair of boots ordered through another Web site.
After learning she was duped, the businesswoman contacted the U. S. Postal Service to inquire about other tracking numbers she had been given by the Super-Electronics representative. A postal service representative told her that, based on the weight of the packages, it appeared that all had been mailed empty from China.
The businesswoman said she also received none of the items she ordered from the Chinese sites www.ibay-online.net and www.shopping-kingdom.com.cn. After sending the MoneyGrams, those enterprises cut off all contact with her.
“I tried to take as many precautions as I could, ask as many questions as I could,” the woman said. “I felt pretty comfortable with these people.” The woman suggested dealing only with factory-authorized wholesalers.
U. S. Postal Inspector Dan Taylor, with the St. Louis office, said a complaint has been forwarded to the federal Internet Crime Complaint Center. Others wishing to file a complaint should go to www.ic3.gov
The BBB also offers the following tips for businesses and others hoping to buy wholesale products on the Internet:
• Do not trust that a business is legitimate simply because it has an elaborate Web site.
• Do not send cash or wire transfer payments for goods. Use a credit card or another method that offers reimbursement if you are unhappy.
• Do not assume that access to a postal tracking number means the number corresponds directly to your shipment. In some cases, bogus companies have given the same tracking number to multiple customers.
• The term “wholesale price” should not be used unless it is the price retailers usually pay when they buy items for resale.
• If you have questions, check with the BBB at www.bbb.org
or at 314-645-3300.