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New Alibaba SCAMs Exposed: Tips and Tricks for 2021!

August 2, 2021 by Andrew Minalto - 1513 Comments
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New Alibaba scams discussed in detail here.

“Alibaba is a SCAM” – you’ll find this written everywhere online! The truth is, yes, it is possible that you may get scammed on Alibaba.com IF you don’t know what you’re doing. However, with the information you learn in this blog post, the chances of you getting scammed on Alibaba will be very slim.

Is Alibaba Legit?

Just to be clear: Alibaba itself is not a scam. In fact, it’s one of the largest companies in the world, with a market value of tens of billions of dollars. Alibaba.com is simply a platform where buyers and sellers meet. Yes, there are some scammers on Alibaba, just like any other online platform, but that doesn’t mean Alibaba itself is a scam. By that logic, you can say that eBay, Amazon and Gumtree are scams because you can find MANY unscrupulous businesses on those websites, too.

That’s why I find it hard to answer when people email me asking for an Alibaba review, because that depends entirely on the seller. If you’re asking purely for my review of Alibaba as a website, then the answer is I love it! Yes, it is reliable! It’s made sourcing from China, and many other countries, incredibly easy and opened up opportunities for people who previously would never have been able to start their own private label business. So if you’re wondering if Alibaba is legit and safe to use, then my answer is a resounding yes. But of course, that is true IF you know what you’re doing.

And that’s what today’s blog post is all about. I’m going to show you how to spot scams on Alibaba and how to find trustworthy and reliable Alibaba suppliers, using the 15-step system which I’ve used to find suppliers for my own 7-figure Amazon FBA business.

The Myth of the Alibaba Scam

And for me the biggest problem that this “Alibaba scam” myth creates is that it makes people who are new to importing too afraid to even start their research process. They have that one line repeating in their minds “Alibaba is a scam, Alibaba is a scam, Alibaba is a scam….” and that’s why, with today’s blog post, I want to clear the air once and for all. I will give you a step-by-step filtering system that you can use to spot Alibaba fraudsters and avoid 99% of scams on Alibaba and unlock the potential of one of the world’s biggest online marketplaces.

Also, we need to differentiate scams from bad suppliers. A scam is when you buy something and never receive it. Or receive a fake item. That’s a scam. A bad supplier is someone who suddenly changes an item’s price in the middle of the order, has a high defect rate in the final order, sends you poor quality goods, etc. That’s a bad supplier and unreliable supplier and someone who you should no longer consider trustworhty with respect to your expectations, but it’s hard to call it a scam, as maybe they simply can’t produce goods that are up to quality you want. That is a whole other conversation, of course, but this article is specifically focused on obvious SCAMS where the “supplier” takes your money and disappears with it.

Before we get into the actual verification and scam filtering process, let me quickly remind you that you cannot get any kind of branded items wholesale from mainland China. I’m talking about everything from electronics, video games and software to designer clothes, shoes and other similar items. If you’re looking for anything branded, China is NOT the place to go. At worst, you’ll get scammed and receive nothing. At best, you’ll receive worthless fakes.

What is a branded product?

Example of branded product not to purchase: PS4.

By branded products, I mean products that are manufactured by well-known companies, like:

  • Apple
  • Under Armour
  • Samsung
  • Nike
  • Sony
  • Lego
  • Etc.

These are brands that are well known to everyone, and even though most of their products are manufactured in China, you CAN’T buy them wholesale from Alibaba or other similar sites—you simply cannot!

Companies with manufacturing operations in China have very strict distribution policies in place, so it’s not like someone can walk out of a Foxconn factory (they do most of Apple’s products) with ten iPhones or iPads in their pockets to sell on Alibaba. It is simply not possible to buy iPhones directly from Foxconn, even though they’re the ones who manufacture them.

This is NOT how things work in China!!

All of those well-known brands only distribute their goods through official, tightly secured channels. You won’t find these products advertised on Alibaba. If you do see ads for such products, there’s a 99%+ chance that it’s a scam!

Another product type you have to be VERY careful with is licensed products. These are products that carry some sort of intellectual property on them, such as:

  • Disney cartoon characters
  • Images of famous people
  • Sports team logos
  • Olympic logos/themes
  • Video/mobile game characters (Angry Birds, Pokémon Go, etc.)
  • Automotive industry logos, trademarks (Audi, BMW, etc.)
  • And so on!

To produce products with intellectual property designs on them, a manufacturer needs a special license agreement with the IP owner and has to pay fixed or ongoing fees for each item they produce. Most suppliers in China don’t have any such agreements in place, so they basically use these designs WITHOUT the owner’s approval. This is illegal, of course, and purchasing these items can get you in a lot of trouble.

In some cases, large manufacturers will have licensing deals in place, but you should always ask for proof and try to verify it if possible. These will be very rare situations, though, so in general, I recommend you STAY AWAY from any products that involve IP designs when ordering from Alibaba and China in general.

Now, back to Alibaba. The company has actually improved its website and listings significantly in regards to counterfeit and unlicensed products. These days, it’s very hard to find any “branded” items on Alibaba as they have removed most of these listings and suspended the offending advertisers. Years ago, you could do a search for any hot selling product such as consoles, shoes etc. and get hundreds of results full of Alibaba fraudsters. I just tried a similar search and it returned ZERO results.

They now even put up a special message when you make searches like these, warning you that it’s a branded product and you need to be very careful when ordering such items from suppliers on Alibaba.

Anyway, what does any of this have to do with our original topic? Well, the number one rule for how to avoid getting scammed on Alibaba is: STAY AWAY from anything branded! You can only source unbranded goods wholesale from mainland China!

That’s what you want anyway, right? I mean, if you want to source products from China to sell on eBay or Amazon, you will want genuine manufacturers who can supply you with products you can put your brand on, provide custom packaging, etc. There’s only a very small profit in brand-new branded goods for online resellers (in most cases), so it’s not even worth considering if you want to build a profitable business.

Marketplaces are full of sellers offering branded items and because multiple people sell the exact same product, the only differentiator is the PRICE! Whoever offers the lowest price for the item makes the majority of the sales. And trust me, when your competitors deal in tax evasion, grey imports and even stolen goods, you won’t stand a chance competing with them.

Once you eliminate branded goods, you’ll see that it’s actually very difficult to get scammed on Alibaba because most “normal” product suppliers on Alibaba are genuine companies.

And that’s why this is my number one tip for how to not get scammed on Alibaba.

Plus, Alibaba offers a range of tools to help us verify the supplier, use safe payment methods and they cover the whole transaction inside Alibaba’s Trade Assurance platform.

Still, by using the following Alibaba scam-filtering system, you will quickly and efficiently filter out bad suppliers and identify the best of the best! As I said, it’s not enough to simply filter out scams, you also need to avoid bad suppliers as no one wants to deal with defective products, delayed orders, mispacked items, etc.

Without further ado, let’s get straight into the process of finding GOOD suppliers on Alibaba, which will also show you exactly how to avoid scams on Alibaba.

15-Step Alibaba
Scam-Filtering System

This whole system relies on your ability to analyse a supplier’s profile on Alibaba (and outside of it) and to know if a seller on Alibaba is legit. If this is the first time you are using Alibaba’s website, take some time to analyse a few supplier profiles. This will help give you some context for all the information I cover in this post.

Once you become more familiar with the process, you will realise that you can filter out suppliers VERY quickly just by taking a look at their profile. So, there’s a small learning curve involved, but it’s really nothing to be afraid of.

Here are the 15 KEY elements to look at when you evaluate a potential scam on Alibaba.com:

1. Gold Supplier

What is GOLD supplier status on Alibaba? It’s a premium, paid account status for suppliers and it costs several thousand dollars per year. Having this status doesn’t necessarily mean that the supplier is 100% legit, but scammers usually don’t pay for Gold supplier status because they need to change accounts very frequently and this extra cost is simply too much for them.

Scammers usually stick with FREE Alibaba accounts and simply hope that newbies are unaware of this because they don’t understand how Alibaba works.

I personally NEVER deal with any free account suppliers as the concentration of scammers is the highest within this group!

If possible, I always try to stick with Gold suppliers who have at least a three-year track record on the site. Gold supplier status is still the number one thing to look for when searching for reliable suppliers on Alibaba and to avoid scams, especially when used in conjunction with filtering out first-year and second-year suppliers.

To see if a supplier has Gold status or not, you simply go to the product page or supplier profile and look for the number, which also tells you how many years the supplier has had that Gold status. This is the same number you can see in the search results, so if you get a huge list of suppliers for the product you’re searching for, you can identify the most established suppliers right from the search results.

If you see a Gold status supplier in their sixth, seventh or eighth year, it’s a sure sign that it’s an established company. The chances of them being scammers are incredibly slim. Scammer accounts simply don’t last that long. They get caught sooner or later.

There is an Alibaba fraud scam currently going on involving Gold suppliers, though, as scammers sometimes HACK Gold status supplier accounts or buy them from companies that go out of business. This is a very smart tactic because you, as a buyer, could tick all the boxes I cover here, and it could still turn out to be a scam.

So, how can you spot these scammers? In 99% of cases, scammers will use the Gold status supplier accounts they’ve acquired to sell highly popular BRANDED goods, like PlayStations and similar. Remember, I’ve already warned you that Alibaba is NOT the place to look for such items, so if you see these types of offers, you will know immediately that it’s a scam.

Furthermore, when you start communicating with scammers, you will quickly realise that they’re full of s**t! They oversell to you SO HARD by offering incredible deals, like “Buy two PS4 consoles and get one free”. All with FREE delivery, of course. C’mon! It’s way beyond a too-good-to-be-true deal! Plus, they will only use unsecure payment methods, which we’ll cover in more detail later in this post.

2. Verified Supplier

You can select the “Verified Supplier” filter right from the search page, if you want. I don’t do this, though, as not all suppliers are verified, so if you’re dealing with a product that is not very popular, you could filter out many suppliers who could be good, even though they’re not verified.

What does verified supplier mean on Alibaba? “Verified Supplier” means that a third-party inspection company (such as SGS, Bureau Veritas, TUV SUD or others) have carried out an independent inspection of the company. They check and verify things like:

  • Company profile certification
  • Business scope certification
  • Enterprise qualification certification
  • Product R&D capability
  • Quality assurance capability
  • Aftersales service capability
  • Associated factory
  • Cooperative factory
  • Etc.

If the supplier has been verified, you will see the special verified logo on their Alibaba profile, as well as a list of things that have been verified.

Then, you can click on the individual items to get more information or access visual materials on the aspects that have been verified. This is a super powerful and easy way to see if you can trust this Alibaba supplier and if they’re who they say they are.

I have been in the business of importing goods from China for more than 15 years now and I have seen how Alibaba and suppliers on the Alibaba platform have progressed over the years. A decade ago, all we had to go by was the Gold supplier status—that’s it!

Nowadays, we get so much information, pictures, videos, certificates, verification seals, etc. It has never been easier to spot scammers because the good, genuine suppliers have nothing to hide. They know that people have “trust issues” with Alibaba, so they invest their money into Gold supplier membership, verification, panoramic images, videos and everything else!

As soon as you start researching suppliers, not only will you be able to filter OUT scammers and bad suppliers, but you will also be able to filter IN the really professional, established manufacturers from the short-lived trading companies and other middlemen.

So, please use all this additional information to your advantage. Be sure to check out all the verified documents, images, videos, certification and compare suppliers to find the most professional and reliable ones.

Ok, the next part of my filtering system is:

3. Trade Assurance

Trade Assurance is Alibaba’s own platform for placing orders and managing payments. If the supplier accepts Trade Assurance, it’s another great sign that it is a legit Alibaba seller. When orders go through Trade Assurance, IF DONE PROPERLY, you will get protection for your order and you will be able to use safer payment methods, such as a credit card.

Now, if you don’t use it properly, things can still go wrong with a Trade Assurance order, especially when there are differences in opinion about the quality of the items delivered. To minimise problems, you have to be very specific with your order, have all the item specs written down in your order, stick to the payment deadlines, etc. I won’t get into all the details in this article as I have written a separate guide on Trade Assurance here.

Just like with the Verified Supplier filter, you can select the Trade Assurance filter directly on the search page, under the Supplier Types dropdown menu:

Trade Assurance is definitely a good sign of a trustworthy supplier, but you shouldn’t automatically eliminate everyone else. Some perfectly legit suppliers on Alibaba do not use Trade Assurance. Basically, you have to look at it from the perspective of how many suppliers there are for the product you are searching for. If you get TONS of results, then it can be a good idea to only contact suppliers who accept Trade Assurance.

On the other hand, if there are only seven suppliers and three of them don’t use Trade Assurance, I would consider all seven before making any decisions.

4. Transaction History/Level

Transaction history is indicated by the small, orange diamonds next to the supplier name. These are also shown in the search results. Basically, it indicates how much in sales a supplier has done on Alibaba and, obviously, the bigger these numbers are, the better. It is a good indicator that it is a legit company with regular orders.

Of course this is fairly self explanatory – if I see a supplier on Alibaba with hundreds of thousands in sales, then it’s very unlikely they’re a scammer as after a few people complain of a scam then you can trust Alibaba to take the seller off their site.

I wouldn’t rule out any supplier simply because they have no transaction history, though, as only Trade Assurance orders are included and many companies work outside the Trade Assurance platform.

Just keep this filter in mind as an option for extra proof that you’re dealing with an established seller.

5. Ratings & Reviews

This is a relatively new feature on Alibaba, but it is highly welcomed as we can finally see what other buyers think about the supplier and their products.

It’s great that they also list which product the feedback/review was left for and the buyer’s country. I don’t know how much feedback manipulation goes on within this process, but so far it seems quite believable because the review numbers are not that high and, in most cases, they do seem quite honest to me.

It’s probably not that easy to scam the system with fake reviews as these are from genuine orders that go through Alibaba itself, so it would be a lot of hassle to game the system that way.

Anyway, I wouldn’t base any decisions on looking at the reviews alone—unless they’re very bad, of course! If they clearly indicate that the product quality is low, the supplier made mistakes with the order, etc., that’s a good reason to remove that supplier from your shortlist. As time goes by and the number of reviews increase, this will become a much more useful tool for buyers. Again, bad reviews doesn’t necessarily mean they’re an Alibaba fraudster, but it does mean you should keep looking for a reliable and safe supplier!

6. Factory Inspection

This is a SUPERB way of looking behind the curtain and seeing whether the Alibaba profile of the company matches with what they’re actually doing. One of the biggest problems that buyers encounter is separating trading companies from true manufacturers. An inspection report solves this problem as it will be OBVIOUS from the images in the report if it is a factory or trading company.

Trading companies usually don’t do these inspections at all, and if they do, all you will see is an office building or office space with chairs and desks. However, factory inspection reports will show you their manufacturing plant, the tools they use, their warehouse space, etc.

I have already written a guide on how to do Chinese supplier inspection on your own, but it’s great to see that Alibaba has implemented this into their portal and allows suppliers to do this themselves by uploading inspection reports on their profile page.

One thing to look out for on these inspection reports is the DATE of the inspection. If the report is several years old, a lot of things could have changed with the supplier. They could have moved locations or sold the business altogether. Ideally, I would want this report to be no older than one to two years at the most.

Not all suppliers will have them uploaded, so it doesn’t necessarily mean that they are not a good supplier. I have often done inspections on my own, even paying for them if the final supplier I have picked for a product meets all other requirements, offers the best prices, has great sample quality, etc. Again, you can read more about that process in my Inspection Reports blog post.

7. Certificates

Many suppliers will show off scanned certificates for their products (CE, for example), their manufacturing facility (ISO) and other parts of their business. It’s just more proof that you’re dealing with a genuine supplier.

Also, there will be some products that require specific certificates to import goods from China, so be very careful when sourcing such products and always look for companies who have those certificates on hand.

Be warned, though! There are cases where suppliers use fake certificates, so to be 100% sure, you should verify these certificates. Usually, you’ll find the company/organisation name of the certificate issuer on the certificate itself. You can then contact them and ask for verification of that certificate.

Many testing houses even have online testing facilities that allow you to check such certificates for free, instantly, like on SGS’s website, for example.

Once again this is an expense that most scammers simply won’t bother with and an easy filter to help you avoid getting scammed on Alibaba.

8. AliExpress Store

These days, more and more Alibaba companies are opening AliExpress stores where you can shop safely for small MOQs and pay securely via escrow using your credit card. If a supplier has an AliExpress store, check it out. Specifically, check out their feedback as it can tell you a lot about the product quality, how quickly the supplier dispatches goods, etc.

How do you find out if a supplier has an AliExpress store?

Simply go to the supplier’s profile, then click on “Contacts”. Usually, suppliers will put a link to their AliExpress store under the website links option—if they have one, that is.

And you can take this even further. Quite often, just to save myself some time and avoid unnecessary communication, I use a supplier’s AliExpress store to order samples. This way, you can easily check the quality of the product and, if you’re completely happy with everything, place your real wholesale order by contacting the supplier directly through Alibaba or even through AliExpress!

Yes, you can even get significant discounts when buying in true bulk on AliExpress, so if you want to stick with AliExpress and its escrow system, you can simply negotiate a deal with your supplier there. Just keep in mind that it will always be more expensive than dealing with the supplier directly, as AliExpress takes a cut in fees for each transaction.

Again, not all suppliers will have an AliExpress presence, so don’t eliminate any supplier just because they don’t have a store. True manufacturers usually don’t deal with retail customers, so they typically won’t have an AliExpress store. Often, though, they will have a sister trading company that deals with retail customers, so you can always ask the supplier whether their products can also be purchased on AliExpress or not.

In terms of filtering out any scammers, think about it from their point of view – why waste time with small orders on AliExpress? If you can only scam a few people before Alibaba shut you down then of course you’ll go for as high an order value as possible. That’s why an AliExpress store is another easy sign that you’re dealing with a reliable Alibaba supplier.

9. Live Factory Video

If a supplier has a video on their Alibaba profile, check it out! If it’s produced by Alibaba themselves, it’s a sure sign that the company is real and genuine. If not, use it to look for signs that this truly is the same company they claim to be (logo/company name on office walls, factory footage showing production of the goods they’re advertising, trade show footage, etc.).

And this also applies to the images a supplier uses in their profile and product listings. I’m always wary of suppliers who use stock images in their profile or listings. Only one thing crosses my mind: they have nothing to show!

Trading companies are usually the ones who do this. They only have a few office images, stock product images and some mysterious, blurry factory images, so you can’t really understand what is going on there.

My ideal supplier has tons of pictures showing their factory, the entrance to the factory, the reception desk with a logo on it, etc. The more images there are with the factory name or company name showing, the better! These are all great signs that you’ve found a reliable Alibaba supplier that you can trust.

10. Website

If a company owns a proper, standalone website in English, that’s another good sign that you’re dealing with a reputable company. You should also do a “Who Is” database check to find out when the domain name was registered. In this case, the older the better.

But don’t expect world-class website design here! Most Chinese supplier websites are very basic, even old-fashioned, and they load very slowly. This must be something to do with the internet connection speeds in China or their hosting, but it’s okay. In fact, it’s completely normal.

On a side note: even if a company has a decent website, I usually stick to dealing with them through Alibaba. Sometimes, there can be exceptions. For example, sometimes the sales agents on the website’s live chat are much faster to respond than those on Alibaba. This is most likely because they view a website lead as being much higher in value than an Alibaba lead, where they get lots of time wasters.

So, yes, if you need to make contact and the website has live chat, do try to use that option. But mainly this is just another indicator of a genuine long running supplier.

11. Trade Shows

Whether it’s on a company’s Alibaba profile or their website, look for trade show information.

Scammers, in general, DO NOT attend trade shows, so if you see trade shows listed for the up-coming months or past trade show information with pictures, it’s another good sign that you’re dealing with a legitimate business.

However, always try to verify this information on the official trade show website (for example, China’s biggest trade show is called Canton Fair). As you are now aware, some Alibaba fraudsters like to make things up, so you can’t blindly trust everything they say and show. Make an effort to verify all information on your own before you believe it.

12. Google Search &
Global Sources Profile

Do a quick Google search of the company’s name. Quite often, you’ll find links to their profile on other Chinese B2B websites, such as Made-in-China.com or GlobalSources.com.

If the company has a verified profile on Global Sources, the chances of them being a scam are reduced to an absolute minimum because Global Sources takes its verification process very seriously and has extremely stringent requirements for authentication.

So, depending on the number of stars that a supplier has on Global Sources, you can be sure that you’re dealing with a real company.

While you’re doing your due diligence on Google, do another search for “company name + scam”. Usually, this will pull up any forum posts or scam reports associated with that company.

13. Invoice/Bank Details

When you’re already in the negotiation process and receive your first pro-forma invoice, always check the company name, address and bank details. It should be exactly the same as on their Alibaba profile.

NEVER send money to a personal bank account! This is the most common scam played out on Alibaba: the supplier will tell you that they’re having a problem with their business account and will ask you to please send the money to their boss’s account. NEVER do that! Money that goes to a personal bank account is usually money down the drain.

Scammers will also often try to use different companies for receiving money. If the company name on the invoice is different to what you’re dealing with on Alibaba, be very careful. It could be that they have a legitimate sister trading company set up for dealing with international clients, but you definitely need to ask questions and get answers that 100% confirm what they’re saying.

14. Payment Options

If the only payment methods a supplier accepts are Western Union and MoneyGram, run away! I would never even consider dealing with such a supplier. While not all suppliers in China will accept PayPal or use the platform’s Trade Assurance, a bank transfer to a company’s account should be a default payment method that is always available to use.

If they also accept Trade Assurance, a letter of credit or PayPal, even better! But never use a supplier if the only payment options are Western Union or MoneyGram!

The only time that I’m happy to use Western Union is when paying for samples, and that’s only because it’s quicker and cheaper to send small amounts via WU than to do a bank transfer. But even then, I’m also prepared to lose that money if everything goes wrong (I’m talking about small amounts here, always less than $100, usually less than $50).

Nowadays, however, there are very cheap ways to pay for samples and get mid-market exchange rates without going near Western Union or MoneyGram.

With companies like Wise,​ your money is always converted at the mid-market exchange rate, making them u​p to eight times cheaper than banks​ when paying international invoices.

Setting up the payment is simple, too. You sign up for a free account, set up your transfer by entering your supplier’s bank account information, state what currency you’d like to pay them in, and then fund your transfer. The funding options include bank transfer and debit/credit card. Your supplier won’t need to do anything. For them, it’s just like receiving cash into their bank account.

With over five million customers and co-founded by the first employee of Skype, you can be assured that your money is sent securely. However, just like with a normal wire transfer, your money is not protected if your supplier turns out to be fraudulent, so it’s best used when you’re paying a supplier you trust.

You can find out more about TransferWise in my post ​here.​

15. Product Selection

The last filter on my list is product selection. By that, I mean the types of products the supplier has listed on their Alibaba profile.

For scammers, the strategy is simple: they have a limited time to use the account before it gets banned, so they will try to list all kinds of unrelated but very popular products to lure people in quickly. They know that they can’t use brand names in their listing texts and titles (because Alibaba filters them out), but they can still do it by uploading images of branded goods, which are much harder to spot.

It’s not uncommon to see a scammer profile on Alibaba that sells iPhones, Nike’s and PlayStations all under one roof. Again, you already know by now that branded goods on Alibaba mean it’s a 100% SCAM! But you still have to be cautious and do your due diligence, even when you’re searching for unbranded goods.

True manufacturers will usually offer one type of product, cover one product group, or deal with groups of similar products. They won’t offer socks along with electronics. Yes, there are trading companies who do this, and they can be totally legit, but our goal (in most situations) is to find product manufacturers, not trading companies. So, I would recommend staying away from profiles that have all kinds of unrelated products listed.

Another reason to be cautious is that a genuine Alibaba supplier profile could have been hacked. For example, consider a profile that sells gardening hose products. A scammer hacks it and lists a few highly popular products that are in the household goods category (say, TVs and other related products). For them, it’s an easy way to lure people in. They’re using a legit profile, so they can ask for payment via Western Union, MoneyGram or a personal bank account and scam the buyer while hiding behind a legitimate business.

So as a final filter always take a look at what other products the supplier is offering on Alibaba and use that to spot any potential scams.

These situations are very rare, though. If you avoid branded goods and follow my 15-step filter process, the chances of you getting scammed are down to almost zero.

Conclusion

So, how do you feel now about getting scammed on Alibaba? Is Alibaba safe?

After reading through all of the steps in this blog post, I’m sure you’ve come to realise that it’s the people who don’t investigate suppliers or who don’t know much about the platform who get scammed on Alibaba. I mean, we have so many tools and so much information at our disposal.

You have to be very greedy and avoid every red flag and common-sense warning to fall for those scams.

Just stick with this guide and you will avoid 99.99% of scams. There are, of course, many smaller filters you could also use, like watermarked pictures. If a supplier has their own watermarked pictures on their Alibaba product showcase, it’s another good sign that they are a legit supplier because scammers usually don’t have the time or resources to get unique product pictures.

You also have to consider the communication style and how aggressively the supplier is offering incredible deals (offers like: Buy 2, get 3, FREE shipping, etc., which are all clear signs of a scam!). In short, use common sense! If it looks too good to be true, it definitely is!

Sure, you can get unlucky. No one is protected 100% and risk is part of any business, but in general, you’ll stay safe and avoid scams on Alibaba if you follow the advice in this blog post.

Let me quickly remind you once again that there is a difference between getting scammed on Alibaba AND simply getting a bad supplier with low-quality stock or a supplier who is lazy, unresponsive and doesn’t want to hear about your problems after the sale is made. There are good and bad suppliers everywhere, be it China, the UK, Argentina or anywhere else!

That’s why you should always start with a sample order, just to test the product quality and the supplier’s reliability. If you’re happy with the sample order, then you can place your first real order. I recommend you keep your first order to a relatively small amount and increase it gradually. Why? Suppliers often send out a perfect sample. If you place a massive first order and they send you a lower quality product, you’re stuck with a lot of it.

Ideally, you would do a factory inspection before you place your real order if an inspection report is not already available on the supplier’s profile page. This way, you can verify that the supplier is actually what they appear to be and reduce the chances of you getting scammed.

Verification is also important if you want to deal with manufacturers ONLY, as many trading companies advertise themselves as manufacturers when they’re actually just a middleman and don’t have any manufacturing facilities. An inspection report will reveal the truth!

Well, that’s it for today. I really hope you enjoyed my “review of Alibaba” and that this helps you to stay out of trouble and avoid scams on Alibaba! As I said, there are not that many scammers left on the platform at all, but if you avoid branded goods and follow my 15-step process for how to avoid scams on Alibaba, your chances of getting scammed are reduced to an absolute minimum.

To educate yourself more on this topic, please check out my TOP 10 Scams on Alibaba article to familiarise yourself with the telltale behaviours of a typical scammer, which will teach you how to spot scams on Alibaba from a mile off!

If you have any questions, I’m here to help! Please leave your comments below the post and I will personally answer them within 24 hours, Mon-Fri. I’m happy to share my knowledge and 15+ years of experience with anyone who is new to this process and needs help.

Lastly, if you would like to learn more about importing products and building an Amazon FBA business using your own branded goods, check out my Amazon Sharks program:

It’s got 20+ hours of video lessons on how to start a successful Amazon FBA business that take you from A to Z. Branding, importing from China and everything else you need to know is covered in great detail in the course. You will also get my personal support, various bonuses and free updates for life. So definitely check it out here.

Good luck with your importing and stay 100% SCAM-free! 🙂


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1,513 Comments
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  1. Hey Andrew,
    I’m about to buy 5 containers of solar panels. You think it’s common to require balance paid in full prior to shipment. Should I be afraid it they won’t accept a Letter of Credit for at least part of the payment?

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Chris,

      Of course – if it’s your first order with a supplier, everyone will ask for full balance paid prior shipping.

      L/C can be used, yes, if the supplier accepts it but not everyone will.

      So make sure you have done full factory inspection, verified supplier + pre-shipmen inspection on your order to see that everything is legit.

      Andrew

  2. Shimon mamruko

    Hi andrew,
    Unfortunately I didn’t read this article -and I was scammed by 3,300$.
    Is there anything I can do?

    Thanks!
    Shimon

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Not much you can do, no.

      If you paid via TT, WU or MG – that money is gone for good.

  3. Christine Ryan

    THANK YOU SOOOO MUCH FOR THIS!! I was about to make my first purchase. I inquired on Alibaba and was rerouted to a company in the US.
    The area code was.from Illinois, but it was clearly a satellite call, with a delay. The person on the line had an African accent, and would not take PayPal. Area code from Illinois, African accent, telling me he’s from Spain, and payment address in Kentucky. Then he.began to pressure me, and said Money gram was required to “speed up the order.” He almost had a temper tantrum . I was JUST about to pay when I thought of checking about scamming online. And so I asked him to all me and I’m so glad I did.
    THANKS AGAIN.

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Christine,

      I’m very pleased to hear that! 🙂

      It was a 100% scam and good for you that you did not send any money yet!

      Andrew

  4. Luka Peljhan

    Dear Andrew,

    I wish I would of read your words before my first deal here. I was actually so “stupid” that I trusted the seller who had cheap merchendise, that I payed him in advance in crypto currency and ofcourse instead of getting the items now I am getting various excuses why the goods did not arrive yet and that they sent too many of the items and i need to pay more before the transport goes on (like it is on hold until I pay more…).

    How does Alibaba deal with those scammers, do their profiles get deleted? I have sent a report but did not get a reply yet in 24h.

    Thanks for the article again, lesson learned.

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Lesson learned indeed….

      Was it a FREE Alibaba profile or Gold Supplier?

  5. Jack Sinclair

    Hi Andrew,
    For my small clothing business I am looking to buy 50 shirts from a manufacturer and they seem to checkout when it comes to being “legit”, but something is throwing me off. They are asking me to pay for the 50 shirts before a sample is even produced and when I asked if I could only pay for the sample, they dodged it and told me basically I had to pay for the 50 first. What do you suggest I do?
    Thanks so much,
    Radical Roost

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Jack,

      That does sound fishy indeed…

      Sample is sample – it should be just one unit.

      I would recommend you look for a different supplier.

      Andrew

  6. Marlon Alvarez

    Hi Andrew,

    I have some doubts, i’m trying to purchase an electronic food truck from china to import here to the US. I was told by the customs broker that i need to make sure the food truck meets US Vehicle Standards but neither does he or me know what that means. Do you know? I also google it but i couldn’t understand it. Also i ask the supplier if they ever exported to the US that electric food truck and they said no. So i’m guessing it might not meet US Vehicle Standards. If you can help please. Thank you!

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Marlon,

      Just don’t do it, seriously.

      You will get in so much trouble, costs, and plus there’s a chance of you getting scammed.

      Alibaba is not the place for you to buy a food truck.

      Andrew

  7. NewbieRiskTaker

    Andrew, have found your site most helpful. About ready to make a very sizable purchase of almost $30k and my first purchase on Alibaba. Everything about the supplier seems legit and to follow your “rules”… is through Trade Assurance, I ordered product inspection, they have had an Onsite Check, etc, etc.. and we are paying nearly $700 extra just for an extra layer of protection by paying thru Visa. The one thing giving me pause before sending the funds is simply that:

    -Trade Assurance order details show companies proper company name and address etc.
    -Trade Assurance Purchase Contract at TOP of contract shows everything matching exactly what is on their Alibaba store in terms of address, and what is anything Alibaba-wise.
    -However, where I am having pause is that in section 4.8 of the same contract, it is the “Beneficiary” info for payment. It has the proper company name. It is a Citibank account. BUT, that listed beneficiary address (not to be confused with beneficiary *bank* address) states a Singapore address. It is an address of a major financial center that is 21 stories tall and legit financial center… but is this reason for red flags?

    I had intended to send payment today, but will probably wait to see how they reply since I have inquired with supplier and awaiting their reply.

    Certainly appreciate your opinion at your earliest convenience in the meantime, thanks!

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Very hard to say or give advice in such situations as I don’t know all the details and I can’t take the risk telling you YES or NO! There are no guarantees…

      I would wait for what supplier has to say about this and then just use common sense.

      But I see that you have made some good checks, including inspection etc. and if the product is not high risk product, it should be all good.

      Andrew

  8. Lacy sooner

    So I placed my second order with a seller. We’ve been working out details for a month. She didn’t ask me for money until last week. She sent an invoice to my email and when i opened the email, PayPal came up and said sign in. I sent her a message and told her to have her accounting dept to send to my paypal with my email. She did, but i just noticed the payment is to her. I have an invoice from the company, but the actual payee was in Chinese and I couldn’t read it. I went back and copied and pasted to google translate and it was her name. It’s only been two days, what is your suggestion?

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Lacy,

      Thanks for your comment.

      It’s very hard to give any definite advice here as situations can be different and at the end of the day it all comes down to supplier – how genuine and legit it is.
      describe it.
      Usually I say NEVER send money to personal accounts in China, only ones in company’s name. But this advice is more applicable to normal bank transfers. With PayPal it is slightly different and sometimes suppliers will have PayPal accounts under personal names.

      Now, this does NOT mean that they’re 100% legit. I’m just saying that this fact alone wouldn’t prove it.

      As always, I recommend you do a pre-shipment inspection on the goods so you know at least they’re for real:

      https://andrewminalto.com/pre-shipment-inspection/

      And do throughout supplier verification of course, even before you do inspection.

      Thanks,
      Andrew

  9. Gary Davids

    HI Andrew
    Thank you so much for providing this kind of information .
    If i order some basic product such as kitchen cleaning pad , and ask them to pack as my brand name . do i get any trouble to selling on amazon ? since the patten is not mine and there are tons of same product listed .
    also, the supplier page indicated the Shanghai port , does it mean i need to taking care after to ship from shanghai port to Los Angeles ?

    Thank you

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Gary,

      Thanks for your comment.

      You can do that yes, it’s called Private Labelling. As long as the product is not patented you can simply put your brand name/logo on the product and/or packaging and sell it on Amazon.

      As for shipping – yes, usually you want to use a freight forwarder to handle shipping from the port in China to your address. Supplier can also arrange shipping for you but I recommend you use freight forwarder to avoid any hidden fees.

      Thanks,
      Andrew

  10. Do you need a registered company to buy on alibabi? Or can you make personal purcheses?

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Paul,

      No, you don’t need a registered company to buy on Alibaba – individuals can do business there too.

      Thanks,
      Andrew

  11. Hi!
    Thank you for article, it’s very helpful!
    I want to make my first order on Alibaba.
    Find assessed supplier and he sent me proforma invoice in Excel file in email and invoice to Paypal.
    In Invoice in Paypal I see only total. All the other information in Excel file in email.
    I think this supplier is trusted but want to ask you is it normal way that all information not in Paypal invoice but in Excel file? Can I use this Excel file in dispute if something going wrong?
    Thank you!

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Artem,

      No, you won’t be able to use that Excel file in any disputes.

      But yes, it is normal to have a detailed invoice sent separately (usually as a PDF document) and then simply have PayPal request for the total amount.

      Thanks,
      Andrew

  12. Hi Andrew,

    New to this all! Just wondering whether you can buy wholesale from aliexpress, without alibaba involved. I have been told that only consumers are able to purchase from aliexpress while alibaba is for retailers?
    Thankyou!

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Louise,

      Anyone can buy from AliExpress and you can buy in wholesale quantities there too.

      Nothing stops you from buying 10, 50 or 100 items from Ali Express.

      It usually has discounts on higher quantities too.

      Andrew

  13. Hi Andrew

    I run a party supplies business and occasionally purchase via Alibaba.

    I’m currently talking to a business that supplies confetti but am dubious about placing an order.

    I requested payment via PayPal & they’ve said they don’t have it set up and would prefer Visa or MasterCard. I usually prefer to only pay via Paypal!

    They’re a 1 year gold supplier. I usually try to deal with only 2+ years.

    They’ve had an onsite check & supplier assessment completed.

    I’ve tried to do some due diligence. I cant find a website with the same domain ending as their email address. Their telephone area code is correct for their advertised location. There’s one photo of a trade show at which they’re advertising as having exhibited at.

    I’ve looked at some of their certification. The company name on their certificates is similar but not identical to theirs, with the same General Manager name.

    Should I run a mile?!

    Many thanks

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Its very hard to say/give any advice based on this information, sorry…

      My first reaction is – the product is really no that unique or difficult to source – so why not just look for more established supplier?

      But if you want to work with this supplier, I would do a factory inspection on them first:

      https://andrewminalto.com/china-factory-inspection/

      Thanks,
      Andrew

      1. Miss B

        Hi Andrew

        Many thanks for your speedy response!

        It’s a very specific shape of confetti that I’m looking for for one of my clients. It’s not run of the mill so I’m trying to find a supplier that can create custom designs & these guys are saying they can do a custom mould.

        I’ve asked them if they are happy to accept payment via Trade Assurance and what they can offer sample wise so will see what they come back with.

        I will either get a factory inspection arranged or look elsewhere I think…

        Many thanks

  14. Hi Andy

    Quick question I have been told that bank puts a charges on the top of the goods price for the payment made. can you clarify pls.

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Mik,

      Yes, of course – there’s a fee involved in making international bank transfers.

      It is usually a fixed fee, not % and you know exactly what the fee will be before making the payment.

      Thanks,
      Andrew

  15. Hi Andrew,
    Excellent article!
    I just heard about kitset houses for sale on Alibaba. I’d like to ask if you know of any site that has reviewed these houses or sellers? Google hasn’t turned anything up for me.

    Thanks!

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Sorry, can’t help you with that one.

  16. Rachel Pitman

    Hi Andrew, I hope you can shed some light on my problem. I’m having problems paying for an order on alibaba. I paid my supplier for the samples through card and they came through fine no problems. However, I’ve put in a bigger order and now it’s declining the payments, I rang my bank and they said it’s not being declined on their end and I tried several different cards— still no luck. My supplier agreed to accept payment via PayPal. However, when I asked her to put all information in the invoice (items, how many of each, company address etc) because the one she originally sent was very vague, she said that it didn’t allow that much information in the invoice. I made the invoice myself on PayPal and sent it to my personal account and it was fine and working with all the added information of the stock (colours/numbers etc). Do you think that the she is trying to scam me? I don’t understand why she won’t add all the relevant information that I’ve askef and is saying that it’s not possible when I’ve tried it for myself and it worked. If this information is not on the PayPal invoice will it affect anything if the products don’t show and I need to make a claim?

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Rachel,

      Thanks for your comment.

      It does sound a bit dodgy to me… But maybe they just don’t have those tools available in PayPal?

      In general, scammers don’t accept PayPal as they can’t scam you with PayPal payments – you can get your money back if things go wrong.

      So I would ask supplier to simply send you commercial invoice separately – as a PDF file with all the details you need. And then you can simply make payment via PayPal.

      Thanks,
      Andrew

  17. is it possible for a company to be a 8th year gold member, but doesn’t offer trade assurance

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Yes, it is possible.

  18. Hi ! I just pass my firt order ( small one to starts 10 pcs) ~ 240$ with a reliable supplier, 5 years gold, accept paypal, trade assurance .. we talk on alibaba messenger to start, and continue on whatapps and confirm the order on whatapps, so I pay by paypal..? Is it ok to do it this Way?
    And should I have to pay some other fee like custom ? ( im from canada)
    Thanks

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Bryan,

      Yes, for such super small order it is ok to pay directly via PayPal.

      And yes, you’ll most likely pay taxes when goods arrive in the Canada. Shipping company will then inform you about this.

      Andrew

  19. Hello,

    I am new to Alibaba.com and I was planning to buy something that would cost me $15,000. I had to put a 30% down payment and the seller only offers the Pre-Shipment Trade Assurance. After making the deposit payment I would like to cancel the order because I am not sure that I can trust this seller, I am afraid that I can loose the remaining balance because only the deposit would be covered. I’ve requested a refund that was declined by the seller and the alibaba.com. What can I do next, how can I get my deposit back. My order will only ship after the full payment is made.

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Alina,

      What payment method did you use?

      But in general – deposits you can’t get back! That’s why they’re called deposits – you pay this money so manufacturer can buy raw materials etc. and do the production. If you ask for your deposit back now, manufacturer is out of pocket for your order as probably already started the manufacturing process.

      Andrew

      1. Hello Andrew,

        Thank you so much for taking the time to respond to me!

        I did pay the down payment with my debit card.

        Thank you,

        Alina

      2. Andrew Minalto

        If it was a debit card (and not credit card), the payment can’t be reversed anymore.

  20. Hi Andrew,
    Nice article, it’s really informative.
    I found some very cheap brand names on AliBaba and they say it’s original. Should I believe it? An original ps4 for 150 dollars? Or should I get a sample and check it? Is there really authentic brands on AliBaba? I have a feeling it’s a scam, especially because the payment method is western union and money gram.
    Thanks!

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Mike,

      And what do you think? 🙂

      Of course it is a 100% SCAM!!! You can’t get PS4 consoles for $150 on Alibaba and no where else for that matter.

      Alibaba is NOT the place you look for such branded goods.

      Andrew

  21. Hi Andrew,
    I have a potential supplier that is a 9 years Gold supplier.
    Their premises has been checked and they’ve been verified by a 3rd party
    They have trade assurance (though they don’t want to use it. They say the order is too small)
    They’ve done a reasonable amount of business (transaction history)
    Their website is a godaddy site registered in 2008 (how old they say they are)

    BUT… they refuse to do the transaction through Alibaba (they say Alibaba doesn’t like to deal with things less than a $1000) and that paypal hasn’t been used for chemicals since 2006 – both of these statements were redflags for me. I offered to pay the extra fees for paypal even. Then she flat out told me her company doesn’t use paypal.

    Is it common for a well established company to occasionally jerk around `small fish`? She seemed reasonably willing to accommodate before the payment part. Could it be that its just too little to consider trade assurance?? Its $230 – the company is Health Sources Nutrition Co., Ltd. (anhui)

    Thanks in advance Andrew!

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Mark,

      I quickly checked that company and at first glance they look all good to me (that is not a guarantee).

      But obviously $230 is a VERY small order for a company like this, very small. They’re spending more time with you that they can get in return from your order. As it is such a small order, I would personally just take the risk and use bank transfer for it. You won’t go bankrupt if it all fails, right?

      Thanks,
      Andrew

    2. So… they have the seal for a 9 year gold member… but in the company profile Alibaba verifies that the company was established in 2010? Also their website dates to 2008. Are these date discrepancies a red flag?

      1. Andrew Minalto

        Not really, no, at least for me that wouldn’t be the biggest issue.

  22. HI Andrew, Great Information in your article! I am new to the import scene and am looking to make a deal with a 5 year gold company on alibaba who is verified. Everything seems legit, I checked the company website start date as you recommended and it lines up with their 5 year gold status. What scares me is they want me to send the deposit directly to their bank ($1050.00), which does match with who they are, and bypass alibaba. They say it’s to save them on “tax” which really might just mean “fees” because my order would be less then the normal MOQ.
    Does this All sound kind of normal to you?
    Thanks, Mike

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Mike,

      It is a common practice but of course it is risky for you.

      If you’re not willing to take the risk, maybe agree on paying the Alibaba fee, at least for your first order, so it goes through Trade Assurance?

      Thanks,
      Andrew

      1. mike m

        Well, Thank You for the helpful tips on your site Andrew! I have made a few transactions on Alibaba since my original post here and have not had any issues. Thanks Again!
        Mike

      2. Andrew Minalto

        Good stuff Mike! 🙂

  23. So is it normal to go through paypal? I see under the transaction level bit you say that most payments are done outside the Trade Assurance. I was ordering a sample product and was brought to email to do discuss things. Through there they asked if I wanted to do paypal. I wanted to keep it through the website for safety, but it wouldn’t accept my credit card. I feel like I will get my sample, but I’m worried if we do this for the bulk product I won’t have the same kind of protection as the trade assurance policy. And maybe this is a way of them scamming people. Gaining their trust with the sample.

    The company is a 3 on transactions and they are a 5 year Gold Supplier but I don’t see anything about supplier assesments.

    I just want to be a little more prepared for when the real money comes out. Would love some thoughts. Thanks

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Sal,

      Yes, it’s perfectly normal to use PayPal when dealing with Alibaba suppliers, ESPECIALLY for samples.

      In fact, PayPal is my PREFERRED payment method as it does give you protection by default plus very rarely suppliers who take PayPal play tricks/scam you (as with PayPal it’s very hard to do – PayPal will side with the buyer in case of something goes wrong).

      And for samples PayPal is actually the most commonly used payment method.

      Thanks,
      Andrew

  24. Good Afternoon Andrew,
    I found your website to be very informative. I personally have been dealing with Chinese manufacturers for some years now. Started before Alibaba came into existence and still dabble here and there when ever I get one of my “great” ideas. I have read through the comments here and it appears a lot of people don’t understand what they are dealing with….manufacturers and wholesalers….it’s a whole different world from buying retail. They old saying “to good to be true” has always applied. You want a laptop? Go to a store….same with a bike or a phone….there is NO FREE RIDE folks. I was raised in retail and more than anything else a relationship needs to be established with the company you are dealing with…they don’t want your onetime order…..they want a relationship and a steady flow of business from them to you. This is a business that deals in bulk and resellers do a whole lot of research and are very diligent if they want to be successful. It’s not easy and it’s not for everyone….I could go on all long about this. Good day to you Andrew, Suzanne

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Thanks for your comment Suzanne, you’re absolutely right! 🙂

      Andrew

    2. One more thing for people importing bulk merchandise from foreign countries……..there are Customs agents that get a reasonable fee to take care of the red tape and the complications of Customs…..Use them!

  25. Hi Andrew, I read your article. I was wondering if can help me with it, please: I have recently purchased one trial order for 200 pcs with Trade Assurance, and today the supplier sent me this email: The product yesterday already shipping to Amazon. But we are make a order in alibaba have a problem. Need you help us to confirm it.
    We go for this shipment need to separate customs declaration, but we said before is not separate customs declaration.So now I need to modify the delivery time, and then trouble you received an email later to help us make “confirmation but don’t remit” . is ok ?
    Or alibaba refund to you, you again payment to our TT, ok?
    Which way do you want to make it?

    So, what do you think about it? what must to be my next step?
    Thank you!!!

    1. Andrew Minalto

      I don’t even understand what they say in the message so can’t really help with any advice…

      1. Rosalin

        Me neither. Now she changed the delivery time and she asked me: “could you make Cancel the order, but not a refund? Because the products already sent to Amazon.”

        She says: They shipped the products in a single customs declaration, but alibaba now require separate customs declaration, but the goods is sent, can’t separate customs declaration, for the sake of your account credit and my account on alibaba.We need your help to confirm. ”

        I have checked the tracking number in UPS and says: The package is awaiting clearing agency review. / The package is at the clearing agency awaiting final release. Alternate Tracking Number 1ZE7295X0476549953.

        She tries to confuse me to cancel the order and keep the money, or at least get us trade assurance, rigth?

      2. Andrew Minalto

        This sounds like a scam attempt to me, with a fake tracking number or something.

        DO NOT cancel your TA order!!!

        Andrew

  26. It is possible to be scammed by a gold supplier? (2 years)
    So i just made the first Payment to move on with the order, i tried to make all the research around the company and everithing seemed ok so i moved on with the payment with paypal (registered with the company email)
    but after i did it, i googled the phonenumber of the seller (marketing dpt) i found the same contact phonenumber /whatsapp/skype on a different alibaba product (wich is kinda related but a total different company) but with an email address of a page no longer exists (@solutionindy.com)…
    i dont know what to think please help

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Conan,

      It’s impossible for me to tell what’s going on there….

      Could be group of companies? Or say an employer who worked recently in that other company…

      You should ask the supplier and see what their explanation is.

      Andrew

  27. Andrew,

    I’m dealing with a Trading Company that suppots Trade Assurance, but messaged me that they don’t accept paments through Alibaba, only Paypal, credit card, Western Union, TT. They have a Gold Key Supplier rating on PayPal.

    They also said that I can send the payment as “friend or family” by PayPal to avoid the 4.4% fee. They seem legite in my due dilgence, but the Trade Assutance issue and offering to send a “friend or family” is worrying me. They also don’t have a lot of sales listed on Alibaba and my understanding is the listed sales were made through Trade Assurance.

    They are verified also on Alibaba.

    What do you think?

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Steven,

      I don’t know whatever they’re legit or not BUT NEVER send money as gift via PayPal!!! (to avoid fee).

      As these payments don’t come with protection by PayPal.

      So this does sound dodgy to me…

      Andrew

  28. Andrew,

    Thank you so much for the incredibly informative article.

    I followed the above advice as I was sourcing some heat-shrinking tubing, and I have been going back and forth with “Guanghai Electronic Insulation Materials Co., Ltd.”. Their Alibaba profile and website seem legitimate, and the contact there was very helpful. We ordered some samples and received them, and they meet our expectations.

    However, today I wanted to dive deeper into the company, and while I was doing so I found a page on their Alibaba site that displayed the contact info of the person I had been talking to, except his email address was different. This different email address ended in “eeletech.com”. I was curious so I Googled it, and found out it’s a company that makes selfie sticks and other electronic stuff. However, it appears that their website is no longer functioning, as all links lead to the Guanghai Alibaba site for electronic insulation.

    This made me even more suspicious, so I used whois.com to search the domain of both Guanghai Electronic Insulation and Eeletech. The Guanghai site was registered as recently as November 2016, which concerns me by itself because their Alibaba profile claims they have been a manufacturer for 7 years. When I searched the Eeletech domain I found it was registered to HICHINA ZHICHENG TECHNOLOGY LTD. A quick google search of this company brought up a bunch of results regarding scams. Apparently HICHINA has over 300 domains that all seem legitimate but are actually scams. Even though the Guanghai domain is not registered to HICHINA, the connection between the two has me concerned. Am I way overthinking this, or is this a company I shouldn’t do business with?

    Thank you again for all of the helpful information,

    Jared

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Jared,

      Thanks for your comment.

      I can’t really give you a definite answer without doing a full investigation on my own BUT in general – IF things look suspicious, look for alternative suppliers!

      Heat-shrinking tubing is not a unique or hard to find product – there are hundreds of suppliers that offer these products on Alibaba, so just contact other suppliers, get samples etc. and go with a company that are “clean”.

      Thanks,
      Andrew

  29. Hi Andrew

    Thanks for this article and post.
    I have done most of what you stated, ordered from a 6 year Gold Supplier and paid by PayPal. Filed a report with PayPal, got nowhere.

    The company is Houdeled.com, Guangzhou Houde Lighting Appliance Co., Ltd.
    I would like to share my story with your readers;

    I have not filed a report with Alibaba yet, because I paid with PayPal. do you know how I should file with Alibaba since it was an offsite burchace?

    If anyone is thinking of doing business with Houdeled.com, Guangzhou Houde Lighting Appliance Co., Ltd. Think again!

    More than likely you are doing your due diligence trying to determine if Houde Lighting Appliance Co is a good company to do business with, or if you will have problems with them, the products that they say they manufacture, or the Houde family staff. Well you came to the right place here’s why:

    First I get a price for the products we decide to order, and then they used the old bait and switch the product and charge us more money for the same product.

    Then after we paid in advance we had to wait months for your order. They claimed it was a mistake in manufacturing paperwork. Then once we received their product it was fond to be defective, so if you order from them you may end up suffering the following dilemma many others have.

    After you receive the order and find out that the products were defective, they will try to extort more money from you for the replacement of the defective products. Then they will say that they made new products for you, and hold it for ransom, until you send them more money. After accepting there ransom demands, they will stop responding to your emails, and you will not receive the new products.

    Bottom line this company conducts themselves in a bad business like fashion and practices false and deceptive business practices, they keep thinking of new ways to scam you out of more money.

    This is a true story of the dilemma we has had with them. We received defective products, and were never refunded, and never received a good replacement of the defective products, the company made lots of guarantees, bait and switched the original order with cheep substitutes, then tried to extort more money, and even held the replacement good with a ransom demand for more money.

    If you are thinking of doing business with Houdeled.com, Guangzhou Houde Lighting Appliance Co., Ltd. Think again!

    Dealing with China Companies is a crap shoot. We relied on the emailed communication between us and the company to be reliable, everything was shipped insured, so we knew we would receive the products, which we did, but all there emailed communications turned out to all be false. They gave us there assurance and guarantee, (which even covered “what if we received defective lights, and they said it would all be replaced at no costs to us”) which all turned out to be 100% false.

    All we can do now is hope that our experience in dealing with Houdeled.com, Guangzhou Houde Lighting Appliance Co., Ltd. and post on sites like this and http://www.houdeledreviews.com/ in order to Help someone else from getting ripped off and do business with another LED light manufacture and hope that there products are made better and will arrive with no defects.

  30. Dear Andrew

    I have been facing this strange problem while trying to place orders on alibaba, using trade assurance. My suppliers draft the order and everything is perfect but when I click on send initial payment I see an error stating “credit card payment not supported for this order”. Now I am unable to place any orders as the payment isnt being processed. i used my credit card just fine day before yesterday to make a payment for $900. Alibaba support is not at all helpful, they say the payment has been blocked for security reason to protect your payment., kinldy use a different card. But I am unable to do anything on the payments page as the add card option is greyed out. I have tried creating a new account but still the same issue. Any advice on what the problem might be?

    1. eddy van bavel

      I tried using my mastercard while shopping in alibaba, the symbol for mastercard was advertised, I had the same email, saying for security reasons it could not process, the reason was the seller only used a Citibank account to do business, he email me with a paypal account to buy his goods. so far nothing to worry about,

    2. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Sam,

      I’m sorry but I have never experienced this and obviously can’t provide any support on Alibaba’s behalf.

      You’ll have to sort this out with Alibaba directly.

      Andrew

  31. Alibaba Trade Assurance seems to be a real SCAM. It works so: You see advertisements everywhere “Let Us Protect Your Orders from Payment to Delivery” , but it is not working, you will not get any refund. There are number of reason for that. Alibaba dispute team defends only Chinese sellers, but not buyers. It looks they have reasons to do that, that is big business. We can publish detailed information of our case when we applied to refund because the seller did not fulfill his obligations. In our case seller has Gold status and good rating, but anyway did not fulfill the contract.

  32. Hey man. I’ve been trying to find a graphics card supplier and I’ve stumbled upon a 7 years gold supplier who had an onsite check and claims to support Trade Assurance. He however refuses to use Trade Assurance when asked. Instead they insist that they only payment options available are Western Union and money gram . They say the are located in United Arab Emirates and that my order will be at my doorstep 3 days after payment confirmation(I live in central Europe). He also claims to have graphics cards for sale even though their company produces optical lenses according to their alibaba profile. They also include ridiculous discounts for said graphics cards “buy 10 get 8 free” kind of deal. It’s 100% a very successful scam right? I’m saying successful because they can afford to pay for the gold status for 7 years. I reported them to alibaba.

    1. Jan,
      What the scammers do is hack the profile of 7-year gold supplier and put the graphics cards on the front page. Look closer, and you will see that the products offered by the genuine owner of the profile are not graphics cards.

      1. Andrew Minalto

        Yep, exactly!

        That’s a very classic scheme.

    2. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Jan,

      Of course it’s a scam, 10%, stay away!!!

      And stop wasting your time looking for such products on Alibaba – they will ALL be scams.

      Andrew

  33. Thanks for this insight. Very helpful article. I have been in conversations with Suppliers through Alibaba and they always reply back to my gmail. Outside of the messaging system within. Is that normal?

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Anna,

      Yes, that is normal and common practice.

      It doesn’t really make any difference.

      Andrew

  34. Lisa Nixon

    I want to buy baby milk from them but they want ,western union payment. My friend bought from them and had to go to New Jersey to pick up her items,when they said they would deliver to your door. but-she still owes them money. Which company is best Alibaba or express? i want o but A2 plantunm milk very popular .

    1. Andrew Minalto

      You want to buy baby milk, from China?

      Seriously???

      1. Mike Rovison

        I am seriously laughing out loud!

      2. Andrew Minalto

        ha-ha! 🙂

  35. Hey Andrew, I have a supplier that will sell 5 yeti branded coolers for half the price that we can get them here in the states. Too good to be true?

    1. Andrew Minalto

      yes, exactly – too good to be true.

      1. kimberly

        Andrew, my heart is broken. i own/run a no kill sanctuary, and noticed that many people were selling very low cost animal products on ebay. well, going down the lone farther i learned they were buying from china. well, i did some research and communicated with a seller from china who assured me that all the products his company sold were fully tested, and i would get a COA (certificate of analysis with each order). so i ordered an item. FAKE, it killed 10 dogs in 30 minutes. they were dying so fast i was literally running back and forth trying to dose activated charcoal into them, and or peroxide to make them puke. no way to stop this. the item i bought is supposed to be very safe on dogs as it only affects animals with shells like fleas. well, whatever poison they sold me, it wasnt what i ordered. i kow i was an idiot for ordering from overseas. i live with this everyday. i break down and just sob every day. the guilt is killing me. what i saw that day is engraved in my mind and heart. PLEASE do not buy any chemicals from anywhere overseas if you plan on using it for anything that lives! or they may not live anymore!

  36. Thanks for this Andrew!
    I did a google search and found your write up.. but I’m still unsure if the seller is legitimate.
    He has a lot of things going for him..
    Trade Assurance, 1yr Gold status, accepts PayPal..
    but he also sells branded products at hugely discounted rates, apparently with all the original documentation, warranties, etc.. and minimum order of 1 piece too!
    The only negative thing (if any) is that he takes more than 72 hours to respond to queries (based on the response percentage)
    …so given that, and your write-up, I’m still uncertain if it’s safe to trade with him (via PayPal)

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Mishu,

      What kind of branded products? What brands?

      But 99% that it is a scam.

      Andrew

      1. it’s an msi brand laptop.
        ..so what you’re saying is that even though the supplier accepts PayPal and alibaba Trade Assurance and is Gold Supplier and on site checked..
        it’s still 99% chance the laptop is fake?

      2. Andrew Minalto

        I say that it’s a 100% SCAM!!!!

        You can’t buy branded goods on Alibaba, especially branded electronics like MSI laptops.

  37. Jennifer Wohl

    Hi I read your article. I am only wanting to order one thing a bicycle. Was concerned that the bike would weigh more than what was stated and which seller assured me was correct. And would like to know I could get a full refund without me having to pay the shipping as I can imagine shipping would be high. So it actually says aliexpress. Anything you can tell me to help me out! I could send name of vendor! Sorry never ordered from them before. Use to Ebay, Amazon, and other companies in the Us.

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Jennifer,

      DON’T DO THIS!!!

      Shipping, import duty/VAT/customs fees – you’ll pay so much extra that it’s simply not worth doing it.

      With bulky items, China is the place to go ONLY if you order in BULK, not single items.

      Andrew

  38. Thank you! Well presented, objective, relevant and very insightful.

    1. Andrew Minalto

      You’re welcome Jessica! 🙂

  39. Hello Andrew awesome info thanks,
    negotiated a deal with a 2nd year gold supplier with a limited transaction history, has aliexprexx store with only 9 transactions only positive, when i said lets do the transaction through trade assurance she responded. “Mel, with this 500pcs, we would like to go with PayPal as the qty is too small.” (only a $700 order)
    Does that seem legitimate or sketchy?

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Mel,

      Well, it is quite common for suppliers to refuse Trade Assurance for small orders (like yours).

      So it’s nothing unusual, no.

      Thanks,
      Andrew

  40. Catherine Hoang

    Hey Andrew,

    I did make an order of shoes from one supplier located in Sichuan. The supplier i bought is sticked with 3rd year-Gold supplier and Trade Assurance. I also did check alot of their feedback before making transaction. I made deposit 50 percent of contract fee (7.000 usd) to their bank account.
    In our invoice, they’d committed to send their good after 25 working days since my deposit at May 10th 2017. However, about 1 month gone late, they not yet send to me. They’ve changed alot of staff working with us and they also can’t make sure the quality of goods like the sample sent to us before. I made cancellation to this order and required them to give me money back. They said NO. I feel i am cheated with this order and they don’t care their reputation on ablibaba when i said to them i will claim this case to alibaba support for offfline Trade team. I wonder whether or not alibaba can help me to do this case out.

    Thanks for your answer !

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Catherine,

      If you made the transaction via Trade Assurance and it clearly stated dispatch time, then you need to open a case with Trade Assurance and take it from there. You should be protected by Alibaba if they can’t deliver on time.

      Thanks,
      Andrew

      1. Catherine Hoang

        Hi Andrew, thank alot for your reply

        Unfortunately, i didn’t make transaction via Trade Assurance. The supplier is labeled with 3YR GOLD Supplier and Trade Assurance, and i thought that is enough reputation. I paid them via their bank account. I still keep their invoice in which there is dispatch time, and it is so lag behind.

        Alibaba Offline Trade Team did receive our dispute for this case. They said to me not worry about that they will process it. But I still worry about my money, it is big amount. Do you think Ablibaba can help me out.

      2. Andrew Minalto

        I don’t think they will help you, no, sorry.

        You can only get protection if you place your order via Trade Assurance.

        Andrew

  41. Brian Evans

    Hi Andrew
    Great information in this article. I did pretty much all you said on here, bought from a gold supplier (albeit 1 year) used Trade Assurance and paid through Alibaba. Unfortunately though the electric wheelchair I bought does not work and I have pursued through Alibaba’s dispute process and find them very thorough. They actually agree with me that I have a valid case and have threatened to remove the supplier from their site. The Company however are still refusing to honor their warranty and Alibaba have just gone quiet, be interesting to see if they follow through.

  42. Thank you for the information.

    1. Andrew Minalto

      You’re welcome! 🙂

  43. Hey Andrew,

    Thanks for taking the time to right this article. I had just a quick question; I’ve been in contact with a supplier, I had screened a product, negotiated a fair price but when it came down to payment I had suggested to the seller that I wished to use a credit card or even e-checking so I would be covere under Trade Assurrance but she insisted on Paypal. I ended up not wanting to go that route as I had read that Paypal transactions done through alibaba don’t qualify for buyer protection the same way ebay and other sites might. Basically if I recieve a package within 45 days and open it, I can’t file a “not as described claim”. Does that sound right to you? Or have things changed in that regard? I’d appreciate your thoughts..

    Thanks

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Justice,

      Thanks for your comment.

      Hmm, first time I hear about such rules… In general PayPal is very good method to use as I have seen PayPal reversing large transactions in favour of the buyer for goods not as described, without even asking to send them back to supplier.

      And suppliers know this and very rarely you’ll have problems with suppliers who take PayPal.

      You can read more about how PayPal protects your purchases here:

      https://www.paypal.com/webapps/mpp/buyer-protection

      Thanks,
      Andrew

  44. Hello, Andrew. Thanks for this informative article!!

    This is my second time using an Alibaba supplier and my first time using Trade Assurance for the transaction. We’ve been negotiating this deal for a couple of months and I’m ready to buy. He sends over the invoice and I see a $75 “insurance” fee. When asked what it is, he says that fee is for Alibaba customs clearance and that if I pay directly to his bank account then I won’t have to pay that fee just a $28 bank charge.

    I’ve searched and searched and see nothing about a customs clearance fee from Alibaba. In fact, Trade Assurance is supposed to be free for both buyer and seller. I’m thinking this is some type of bank fee associated with him using Alibaba.

    The guy has a good reputation on Alibaba and he seemed like a stand-up guy but this tiny bump in the road is making me skeptical now. I’m already spending over $3000 for the product and shipping PLUS the credit card processing fee on my end to pay him. I’ve already told him I disagree with the extra fees and we’ve gone back and forth a bit but I need to settle this.

    My questions are: Have you ever heard of or paid this insurance fee? Is this legit? Also, should I be paying his bank charges? Is this common practice?

    Your input and guidance would be greatly appreciated.

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Will,

      Thanks for your comment.

      In theory yes – Trade Assurance is FREE but in realty many suppliers do add extra fees when TA is involved. You can only communicate with supplier and resolve it best way you can as no one else can really help you with these situations. If the supplier is really good, I guess $70 on a $3000 won’t make such a big difference for you anyways. But if it’s a deal breaker, and supplier doesn’t change his mind, then you will simply have to look for a new supplier.

      Thanks,
      Andrew

  45. Hi Andrew,
    Thanks for sharing this information to the world, I really appreciated it. Would you help me, I received my product (clothing) which mafe me unhappy, some stuff broken and so bad quality. they have trade assurance, gold supplier, and I paid thru MasterCard. what am I supposed to do now?

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Astari,

      First of all you need to contact supplier and tell them that you’re not happy with the quality of items you have received and ask them to resolve this situation. If they’re not willing to do anything about it, open a case within Trade Assurance portal and take it from there.

      If everything else fails, do a charge back case with your credit card company to get your money back.

      Thanks,
      Andrew

  46. Friend Oftruth

    hello again, Andrew

    Just had to write a quick note, after tucking my donkey tail back into my shorts and hiding my donkey ears under my hat. I feel like an…er, a donkey! Here I was thinking, “Oh, I must encourage this person for their thoughtfulness toward others and the great amount of time they have taken to answer the countless questions – a tedious task… and he’s not complaining. Wonderful…I will encourage him and applaud his efforts. Oh man…

    So why do I feel like the donkey? Well, AFTER I wrote my comment to you, I was checking out some of the links you posted in certain replies back to others. Stumbling upon one site, I see: About Me/Andrew Minalto.

    Imagine my surprise lol…good grief, you didn’t need my encouragement at all haha, you’re doing just fine. And you have a beautiful wife and daughter by the by! (I pray God puts a hedge of protection around your marriage, your family and all that concerns you all).

    Anyway, I merely had to awkwardly apologize for thinking you were some kind of newbie that had knowledge and wisdom about Aliexpress (Alibaba) and with a good heart set out to help and inform others, which I felt was generous and thoughtful and let’s encourage this person!

    lol bless ya Andrew and your family. Forgive my ignorance; I truly did not know who you are or any of your history; i just saw a good heart and wanted to show gratitude, appreciation and to encourage. I didn’t send this for publishing Andrew, but more to privately let you know that I truly did not know…anything about you…lol (i know u know what i mean)

    Be safe (you and yours) and thanks again, Andrew for all your hard work.

    Bonita P

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Thanks a lot, really – you made my day! 🙂

      Andrew

  47. Friend Oftruth

    dear Andrew,
    I would like to take a moment to thank you for such a level-headed, in-depth review of Aliexpress aka Alibaba. You confirmed many of my thoughts such as taking time to check out the reputation of sellers; the feedback from legit customers on product quality, delivery time and basic professional (or non) interactions (if any has taken place).

    There are times that I will think of a couple of questions to ask a seller, such as sizing (clothing) and ask them to convert it to my country’s sizes, or is the product sized small or large…well, you get what I mean. I ask logical questions to see: (1) how quickly they respond (2) how accurate or how detailed the response (3) professionalism, and if they seem to value your business. It is just to get an idea of the sellers attitude, care for their reputation, concern for customer satisfaction, etc.

    Your review is written “straight from the hip” (lol – for lack of better expression at moment), informative and balanced (meaning it does not seem biased in any way, but (as stated) straight up).

    Andrew, you are spot on when you say that Alibaba (Aliexpress) is as Ebay or Amazon or such type of platforms. Again, it comes down to a little detective work (pass me the magnifying glass, Sherlocke) to keenly check the reviews, whether most are positive or negative, how long the company (seller) has been with Alibaba (or Ebay etc).

    Well, I seem to be repeating much of what you said but reworded (lol – not intentional) but you confirmed exactly what I had thought myself. Thank you Andrew for taking the time to share your knowledge and wisdom with others to aid in decision-making.

    It is true that so many just put “[company name] legit or scam (fraud) into Google search bar and viola, they see the words “scam, scam, scam and slam the door on a website without really grabbing that magnifying glass and putting their nose to ground (or laptop or smartphone lol small joke…very small joke).

    I found that Aliexpress (Alibaba) has some wonderful sellers, very professional, offering good quality products at amazing prices. I’m very new with them, but if readers will take heed to your heads up about it all, guaranteed there will be some happy buyers.

    Well, thanks for letting me ramble, Andrew. Keep up the good work! Kudos

    Bonita P

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Thanks very much for your detailed comment & feedback!

      I really appreciate your kind words 🙂

      Andrew

  48. Hi Andrew,

    I ordered over $6000 worth of tableware sets from a manufacture on Alibaba. Before I made the order, I requested samples and they look good. I have been in touch with them for almost half a year by now and here comes the issue:

    The seller and I originally discussed about shipping out the goods on March 23rd. We are using a freight forward of their choice. However, we later decided to ship it on April 6th instead. The seller told me that they made an operational mistake and linked the order with the shipping date March 23rd when we first discussed. Now that date has passed and they later tried to correct it to April 6th on Alibaba. The system wouldn’t let them do it because it has passed the due date(March 23rd). They told me that they have been in touch with their Alibaba manager to fix this. However, they were told that there is no way to update the status now since they have violated the shipping terms. The shipment is already on its way and is scheduled to arrive here in 3 days. They said that the Alibaba manager told them that the only way for them to still get paid from Alibaba’s account is if I cancel the order and ask for zero refund. There is no way for they to update the current order’s status to shipped now because of that mistake.

    I don’t know what to do now as it worries me to cancel the trade assurance order! What would be your suggestions? Any help is much appreciated!!

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Cathy,

      Do not cancel the trade assurance order, if goods have been already shipped.

      If they arrive in 3 days, just wait for them to arrive. You haven’t done anything wrong, you have nothing to worry about here.

      But don’t cancel order as it “could” be a well played trick to get them out of TA agreement.

      Thanks,
      Andrew

      1. Thank you so much for your advise Andrew!

        The supplier has only sent me the bill of lading and is holding on to the commercial invoice until I’d cancel the order. Without it I can’t clear custom. They are saying that if I go clear custom and pick up the goods, I can cancel the order and ask for the full refund. Since the current order status can’t be updated to shipping on their side now(due to the above operation violation), Alibaba would refund me in full and they can potentially suffer great loss.

        My gut tells me not to cancel the order too so I guess waiting to hear back from Alibaba would be my best alternative?

        Thanks,
        Cathy

    2. By the way, I tried contacting Alibaba’s client service. She told me that she doesn’t think the seller would be unable to update the status (which makes me even more worried) but is not sure. She asked me to file a dispute so the right team would be able to look into this. I filed it 2 days ago but it takes 3 days before the Alibaba team would even start getting involved.

  49. Roger Llewellyn

    HI thanks for all this great information.
    What about shipment consolidation in China. I want to buy from several suppliers and have them ship in one box.

    I have one supplier who says yes they can do that but it all sounds s bit dodgy that they will take other companies product and considate for me? I have purchased from them and they do seem to be quite a large company.
    Could this just be the member of staff I speak with being helpful .. OR ??

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Roger,

      No, some companies are happy to consolidate such shipments for a small fee or even no cost at all.

      Obviously this concept comes with additional risks of goods getting lost, stolen, you getting scammed etc. so I would only do this with established, trustworthy suppliers I have been in business together for some time now (at least 3-4 orders).

      There are also mail forwarding companies in China that can do this for you, check out this guide for more info:

      http://andrewminalto.com/taobao-part-one/

      Thanks,
      Andrew

      Thanks,
      Andrew

  50. Seller offers moneygram, WU, and bank transfer as forms of payment. How am I safe using a bank transfer?

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Shawn,

      There’s no protection when you send money to supplier via bank transfer.

      Once the money is gone, it’s gone.

      Andrew

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