Oh boy, I wish I didn’t have to make this post… EVER! But it’s so sad watching people getting scammed on Alibaba on a daily basis that I have no choice but to sound like an old record and repeat stuff I have already covered in my previous Alibaba Scam posts.
You would think that in 2020 people would be a little wiser to these things, right? You would think that all the “cleaning” Alibaba has done over the years, the Trade Assurance platform, the safe payment methods and everything else would completely eliminate scams, right?
Unfortunately, that’s not the case. I do believe that there have been some improvements over the years, BUT I’m still getting emails from people EVERY WEEK who are looking for help because they have been scammed by someone on Alibaba.
So, I recently placed an order on Alibaba (I already know I got scammed). I’m new to this. I don’t know why I did it, but I did.
I bought the “Buy three PlayStation 4s and get two free” deal. Well, I made the first payment of $800 and he provided me with a tracking number and everything. Now the items are “on hold” at customs.
They (the suppliers) are asking me for another $1,480 for the items so they can clear the packages at customs. Then, they asked for another $1,700 and then another $2,000 because they “accidentally sent me 20 units” instead of five. Now I don’t know what in the world I just did. I feel like a total deadbeat. I just want my refund and to cancel everything.
He said if I don’t pay the last payment of $2000, I will not get my money back or the goods. Mind you, the $1000 and the $2000 is” refundable” after payment is made and once I receive my goods.
There’s no way, so basically, I have paid for five units and now I’m getting 15 units for free “because of the inconvenience,” he said.
P.S: I paid him through Bitcoin crypto.
I’m sorry, but I can’t help you. Not anymore.
You have been scammed by one of the oldest schemes in the book…
Buy THREE PS4 units
and get TWO FOR FREE!
This is the first “angle” scammers use to get naive people on the hook! They offer a couple of FREE units if you buy X number of units. And the price for these units is always extremely low, just like in the example from the email, which was $800 for three PS4 consoles. That’s just $266 per console, including FREE shipping from China, which is COMPLETELY UNREALISTIC!
Then you get two free consoles with your purchase, which means you’re buying five PS4 consoles for just $800 or $160 per console, with FREE shipping from China. Let me tell you, shipping alone for that size/weight box might cost you $160 via DHL!
So, the price alone is extremely suspicious and should raise major red flags, but “normal” people—who are not familiar with how these scams work or what kinds of margins there are on items like PS4 consoles—are falling for these obvious scams every single day.
You would be lucky to find PS4 consoles for $300 a unit if you are buying in such small quantities, and even then, you would still have to pay shipping on top of that.
In general, China is NOT the place to source branded electronics. While there are some legit suppliers based in Hong Kong, it’s still a very risky game to play, and if you don’t have a lot of cash behind you, don’t even think about going after “deals” by buying PS4 consoles from China.
Send money for
As soon as you send that first payment, scammers are fully aware that they have GOT YOU, and they will do everything they can to maximise the amount of money they can trick out of your wallet.
The next step is that they inform you that your goods are stuck at Customs and you need to send more money to release them.
If you don’t pay, you don’t get the goods. SIMPLE!
And these scammers are very smart. Years ago, they used fake tracking numbers or even sent you a small/empty parcel so they would have a valid tracking number to send to you. Nowadays, they’ve taken it to the next level. Scammers have even created fake courier websites, which look exactly like a real website (DHL, TNT, etc.). This allows them to fully control what information you are shown.
When people check their shipment on this “fake” website and see that their items are indeed being held at Customs, they make the next payment.
Now, obviously, you could easily prevent this scam from going any further if you just checked the real courier website! Usually, the tracking number you were given won’t show up. But even if the scammers send you a fake/empty parcel and the tracking number is real, you would still see that the WEIGHT is off. Usually, it will be much lighter because scammers won’t waste hundreds of dollars on sending you a package that weighs the same as the products you ordered.
And that’s not all! Once you pay the money for Customs clearance, the scammers get really aggressive in their approach. At this point, they will try to get as much money from you as possible! The most common trick they use is…
…Oops, we sent you
15 EXTRA units!
This is such nonsense that it’s hard to believe that people actually fall for it, but I know they do—EVERY SINGLE DAY!
Basically, the supplier will tell you that they “accidentally” sent you more units than you ordered. Just like the email example before, in which they claimed to have sent 15 more PS4 consoles than ordered!
Just think about it for a second. Who on EARTH would send you 15 more PS4 units by accident?! All the way from China? It’s such a ridiculous scenario that I don’t even know what else to say. This nonsense should be raising all kinds of red flags for you.
Usually, scammers will tell you that you only have to pay for half of the extra units (or some percentage of them), and the rest you can keep for free. It’s a “thank you” gift for the inconvenience. Yeah, right! LOL! They will give you THOUSANDS of dollars of electronics for free, just like that, because you’re a nice person.
The whole situation is total NONSENSE! None of it adds up, but people still fall for these scams on a regular basis. If I get these emails every week, just imagine how many people out there actually are getting scammed. Thousands of people lose MILLIONS collectively on these scams every month!
I have been in this business for more than 15 years now and the scam itself has remained pretty much the same. Nothing has really changed, apart from the introduction of the fake courier/tracking websites.
One extra advantage that scammers now have is Bitcoin. In the good old days, scammers used Western Union (WU) or MoneyGram (MG) to receive the money. As you can’t reverse these payments, they were completely safe for scammers to use.
The only downside was that they had to provide a person’s name and the city to which the money would be transferred via WU or MG. At that point, many people bailed out because they didn’t want to send money to a person in Nigeria, for example, which is where a large portion of these scams originate. It created that little bit of friction that made it difficult for scammers to operate. But not anymore.
Now, they simply use Bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies! Completely untraceable, completely anonymous.
You can be Nigerian Prince and operate a scam selling PS4 consoles from China and no one would ever know where or to whom their money actually went.
And I believe that cryptocurrencies help them to scam significantly more people.
Even though I’m open-minded about cryptocurrencies, the proliferation of these simple scams clearly demonstrates that there is a DARK side to these anonymous payment systems.
You can rave about crypto all day long, but you have to agree that it does serve criminals very well. Just think about all the child pornography, weapons, drugs and human trafficking businesses that operate under the anonymity that cryptocurrencies provide.
Anyways, going back to this scam, it was a classic three-step scheme to scam THOUSANDS of dollars out of a person who initially thought he was buying three PS4 consoles. Scammers know that once they get the person on the hook, it’s much easier to get more and more money extracted from them. This is because many people get this far and feel like there is no going back—if you don’t pay, you don’t get your goods, right?
As I said, every single week, I receive multiple emails telling the same story over and over again. Here’s another example:
I was in contact with a 2-star non-verified merchant. The deal was 10 Nintendo Switches + 5 Free, with 10 games of my choice.
The merchant was charging $1000 USD for this.
We made an agreement that I would pay him $400 upfront and will pay the balance once I have sold the units.
Of course, I knew this didn’t sound right, but I gave him the benefit of the doubt because the rewards could be much more than the losses.
I paid him $400 in Bitcoin, and he claimed to have shipped the items.
He sent me this tracker with a tracking number. The tracker showed it was in transit, but there was no telephone number and some of the links were broken.
Then, the same day, he requested another $350 for taxes and duties. That’s where I drew the line.
What do you think?
He also proceeded to send me multiple screenshots of text messages and photos of people holding their received packages. I found this to be quite humorous and couldn’t believe the lengths some of the scammers go to. Our conversations were also very volatile and the information kept changing.
Obviously this is a scam, but are there any instances where these kinds of deals might be legit? I highly doubt it.
No, rest assured that these kinds of deals are NEVER legit.
Basically, it’s exactly the same kind of scam we already covered with the first example. Luckily for this person, they didn’t pay any additional money for “Customs clearance” and the overall deal was smaller, too, so their loss was only $400.
But let’s take a look at the initial deal again: 10 Nintendo Switch consoles + 5 FREE consoles + 10 FREE games. All for just $1000—and you only have to pay $400 upfront! The rest you will pay once you sell the items.
How dumb do you really have to be to fall for such an obvious scam? And I’m sorry, but if you do fall for such scams, it is your fault. If you even did the bare minimum of research online, you would quickly discover that these deals don’t exist and they are all scams.
Well, I guess most people prefer to learn the hard way.
Why is Alibaba NOT
stopping these scams?
I do believe that they’re doing the best they can. They are NOT interested in supporting scam operations—and why would they? It damages their reputation and they don’t get any fees/money from these transactions anyway because the scammers don’t use their Trade Assurance payment system. The scammers always ask for payment by Bitcoin or WU/MG instead.
A few years ago, Alibaba started to filter out a lot of brand name keywords for fashion brands and other branded items. This cleaned up the site quite a bit. With PS4, Nintendo Switch and similar products, however, it’s much harder as there are tons of LEGIT items you can buy on Alibaba that are closely related to these keywords, such as stands, cables, decals, cases and other accessories.
So, Alibaba can’t simply ban/remove all of these search phrases/keywords as buyers would no longer be able to find silicone sleeves for PS4 controllers, for example.
The biggest problem is that scammers have become more advanced in the way they use Alibaba’s accounts/system.
Previously, they mostly used Free/Unverified accounts, which did help prevent some people from potentially being scammed because those free profiles and accounts looked suspicious. That said, even in 2020, lots of people are successfully being scammed using free Alibaba accounts—it still works just fine.
Anyway, what I notice now is that more and more scammers are using GOLD/verified accounts. Usually, they’re just one year old, but sometimes they can be established for three, five, seven or more years.
How do they do this?
It’s obvious that the scamming business is going well for them if they can get thousands of dollars out of a single victim. So, they invest that money back into their business!
They set up fake companies, pay for Gold status on Alibaba and then use that account for, say, one month or whatever time frame they can until Alibaba bans them. Then they simply move on to the next account. Rinse and repeat.
More advanced scammers manage to buy old/established companies accounts on Alibaba and use them to scam people!
Scammers with smaller budgets simply HACK their way into other Alibaba accounts! Yes, they add them as users so they can create PS4 and other similar listings under legit company accounts. This happens all the time, and until people start to report it, scammers will successfully operate in this way for weeks or maybe even months.
So, it is what it is. Scammers will always find a way! That’s how they roll, and it would be naive to believe that it will ever change. People see these scams on Alibaba and blame them for all the evils on the planet, but it’s not just Alibaba! Scammers are operating fake eCommerce stores, eBay accounts, Amazon accounts, etc.—you can even get scammed on the high street, too! This is nothing new.
I believe that the only way to stop these scammers is to educate people. These are such simple and obvious scams that there’s no reason why they can’t be completely avoided by following some simple rules. When that happens, the scammers will die off peacefully… or, most likely, they will move on to newer and more advanced scams!
I really hope you never fall for any of these scams after reading this post. There’s basically ONE simple rule to follow:
If it looks too good to be true, it is. IT REALLY IS! That’s it.
Oh, and it also helps to know that you CAN’T buy branded electronics, designer clothing and similar items on Alibaba. You simply can’t—there’s no such a thing! These brands do not sell their items through this platform or allow their items to be sold through this platform. You will either get scammed or receive FAKES!
Obviously, it’s your right to believe otherwise, but if you do, please don’t send me emails asking for advice on what to do after you have been scammed. There’s nothing you can do. You will NEVER see that money again.
Now, get on with your life. You have been warned.