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New Alibaba SCAMs Exposed: Tips and Tricks for 2021!

August 2, 2021 by Andrew Minalto - 1521 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.


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. Hi Andrew,

    Thanks for a great article – such a great response from the public as well, its great to see the varying experiences.

    I am in the middle of putting together a custom branded sporting goods order from Alibaba. I am not sure yet if i 100% trust the seller and in particular the quality. I would like to do a factory audit and use quality control on the finished goods before shipping – can you recommend a reputable company to do these checks?

    Also do you think that it is ever possible to negotiate zero payment until the complete order is checked by a third party and ready for shipping? The total order will be US$17k so even losing a 50% deposit would be a huge blow for me as a first time importer.

    Thanks so much for your help!


    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Anton,

      Thanks for stopping by.

      For inspection services – go to this page and ust pick company with decent feedback and that covers your region and products of interest:


      As for zero payment – no, I’m afraid no factory will do that. If it’s a wholesaler, with all products in stock, then yes. But factories will always take 50% or at least 30% deposit before they begin manufacturing process.


  2. ruby roces

    I ordered instruments from willmedic a diviaon of willing ways enetrprise of pakistan. It was a verified supplier on alibaba and i dealt wt dr fadnan in good faith. I paid thru moneygram as this is faster and he answered everything without delay until the shipment of orders. It was delayed and delayed gor several months as he will promise to send it next week and next week. He funally send only about 1/3 of the amount i originally ordered and paid. He kept on sating he will send anlgain until now after7 months he stopped answering my calls. How do you protect yourself from people who are verified suppliers by alibaba yet they didnt deliver

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Ruby,

      First, I usually recommend staying away from 1st and 2nd year Gold Suppliers and if at all possible, deal only with 3rd year + supplier.

      Secondly, you shouldn’t use Money Gram or Western Union for such orders. Only PayPal, Escrow or bank transfer and make sure bank account details match the compenie’s details you’re dealing with.

      Lastly, before making any such large orders, you should order smaller – sample order first. Scammers usually won’t bother with sending even samples out so potentially you would lose smaller amount of money.

      Hope this helps!


  3. How do I make sure I am paying with the escrow service?

    How do I find out if they are a gold supplier?

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Eryn,

      You need to look @ supplier’s profile – it clearly shows is it a free or Gold member.

      Escrow service – there’s an automated link for Escrow on listings from suppliers that take Escrow OR better ask supplier to send you a custom link when you have agreed on order terms.


      1. Thank you for your help! So glad I found your page

      2. Andrew Minalto

        You’re welcome Eryn!

  4. Hello,
    I have found a company on Alibaba that has been a gold member for 1 year. However, after reading your article I checked their company profile and they haven’t been to any trade shows as they are a new company as of 2013. I checked MadeInChina and they pop up, but do not on Global Sources. When I select to have only companies show that allow Escrow, are gold members and have an On Site Check they stay on screen.
    Does this company sound legit?

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Kevin,

      There’s no one answer to that – they could be real, they could be scam. 10 filter system I share on this page – it’s just a guidance, adbvice – not some strict formula that works 100% of the time.

      If you’re dealing with un-branded goods and this company looks good to you, order sample first and see how it goes. If sample satisfies your needs, place a small trial order and increase orders gradually. This way you won’t risk with lot of money and will be able to verify supplier properly.

      Alternatively, if small orders are not an option, do full inspection on this company before you place your order.


  5. robert fry

    hi. when you ship from china . is tax and vat included in with the shipping cost. thanks. rob

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Robert,

      No, they’re not.

      VAT and import duty you’ll pay when goods arrive in the UK. Amount depends on value of goods,. In most cases it’s roughly 25% of the shipment value, for VAT and import tax.


  6. Adeleke Adelani

    I want to order a piece of wireless router which does not cost more that $100 (hundred dollars). Which one do you advice i use? Alibaba.com or aliexpress.com?

    Thank you for the great jobs you are doing.

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Adeleke,

      If you’re after just one piece, for personal use, you should use Ali Express of course as it’s easier, quicker & safer.

      But why would you want to buy an un-branded wireless router for $100 from China? When you can get a very good, branded one locally – for same money?


  7. robert fry

    hi. I found a supplier and have had samples from them which were good. they asked to pay by paypal which I did. now I want to order 110 pcs they still say pay by paypal . is this normal. thanks rob

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Robert,

      Sure, it’s normal. PayPal is safest payment method when dealing with suppliers on Alibaba, apart from Escrow.


  8. Hi Dan,

    I wanted to thank you for your input you have provided in previous e-mail. It has been helpful. I am very new to this and I have a dumb question, but I am currently using a middle man to purchase my supplies in bulk. He is located here in the United States. I trust him and it seems that he has a reliable souce that he uses. The problem is that I feel if I could just figure out how to do this myself I could cut my cost in half.

    I just don’t know how to get started or if I should just not do anything and be lucky that I have someone who I can work with that I trust and can get me a better deal than if I made the purchases here in the United States.

    I also noticed that no one has provided a main contact person that could be shared with everyone. Is there a reason for that? I figured someone would of post something about a good experience with a supplier they have worked with on a long term basis and provide the name to everyone else.

    Any input you have would be much appreciated.

    Thank you in advance!!

    Have a great day!!


    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Nathan,

      What’s stopping you from doing this on your own? It’s really not that difficult process – you find suppliers, verify them, order samples! It’s pretty easy and straightforward.

      There’s no such a thing as MAIN CONTACT – there are tens of thousands or probably hundreds of thousands of suppliers/manufacturers in China! They all work in their niches and do what they do best. There isn’t ONE, main company that sells everything or knows everything.

      Just start doing some research on Alibaba and get the ball rolling!


  9. Jerry Cheung

    Dear Mr Minalto,

    I would like to start off by saying thank you for the invaluable help and information you provided us. I bought a few things from aliexpress before and felt nervous, but it turned out great and I want to take it a step forward.

    Some of my concerns are that I am now buying from alibaba and it’s from a seller without much information.
    He is a gold member, but registered on December 26, 2013. From what I tried to research, there is no previous buyer history.
    Another concern I have is that the product brand “Shoyoroll” is very known and highly sought after, I was wondering if this is a red flag considering you said to stay away from those brands.

    I understand sometimes these companies are new and just entered the market, and if this is one of those cases, can this one be trusted? I don’t wish to spend a few hundred just to have it lost.


    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Jerry,

      Thanks for your comment.

      I’m not an expert in martial arts brands & clothing but from the research I did, it seems that this company is selling various brand items which very likely are FAKES! I can’t say for sure as some of these may originate from China? But from the looks, most of these are Western brands, Japan or Korean brands. So most likely they sell fakes, yes but without buying a sample and comparing with original, it’s really hard to tell.


      1. Jerry Cheung

        I’ve requested some additional pictures to make sure he actually has the product and he came through. Although I realize they can be fake and therefore mean less quality, I am can live with that as long as it is not a scam. Although you probably advise against this seller, do you think it is a scam? or just fakes?

      2. Andrew Minalto

        I really can’t comment that Jerry, as I said, I’m not familiar with the martial art brands so don’t know if they’re fake or not.

        Sorry about that.


  10. Hello I have question have you order with Aliexpress? You said that you should pay with Escow but when you go to pay there is only options to pay with cards and bank accounts on Aliexpress?

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Dan,

      There’s a built in Escrow feature for ALL Ali Express transactions. You pay with a card (or any other supported payment method) and that money goes into escrow – on hold. You release it to seller once you have received and checked goods.


      1. Oh ok thank sorry another question would you recommend buying at aliexpress if so what would be your filters there?

      2. Andrew Minalto

        Hi Dan,

        On Ali Express I just look @ feedback really and how long the seller has been on Ali Express selling.

        I have NEVER been scammed on Ali Express! I don’t look for branded goods, I don’t look for memory cards and other high risk items and always use courier for delivery. People who are having problems with Ali Express in most cases use free, slow, un-traceable shipping methods which cause all kinds of problems.


      3. Oh ok would you consider ePacket a courier because some there have that as a deliver choice and what others?

      4. Andrew Minalto

        I haven’t used ePacket myself but it looks ok, 3-5 day delivery time, online traceable.


  11. Hello!

    thank you so much for your helpful advice. Being a first time buyer at ali-express i have but 4 concerns.

    Following your steps, i have managed to narrow down many suppliers that did not meet the criteria you set, however, i have problems verifying the following sites:

    1. sylvia zhou’s store Store No.822408, website: http://www.aliexpress.com/store/822408

    2. Wu Children Clothing Store No.117788, website: http://www.aliexpress.com/store/117788

    3. Babyhouse2013 Store No.520070, website: http://www.aliexpress.com/store/520070

    4. E-Best Industry (HK) Co.,Ltd. Store No.913211, website: http://www.aliexpress.com/store/913211

    please verify the following suppliers on ali express before i make an order by e.m.s or dhl as advised for smaller orders.

    in future how do you determine a store on ali -express is legit, since they have limited or no info on their contact information, are sometimes not listed on b2b companies like global express and charge very high or low courier fees on dhl etc than others.

    Much grateful, please help,

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Ida,

      Thanks for your comment.

      ALL 4 shops sell FAKES, stay away!!! You can’t get genuine, licensed stock from China – forget about it.

      Read this guide to learn why:



  12. I want to buy a machine from China which I found on ALi Baba.
    both suppliers are asking for payment via TT and will not accept payment via Ali Express.
    I offered to pay the full 100% rather than the 30% but via a third parity.
    Both have refused
    Can anyone shed some light on these two companies ?


    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Abdul,

      No one can tell you for sure if these companies are legit or not. And even if they’re legit – it doesn’t mean anything when you buy such complex machinery… They could send you wrong spec or refurbished machine or broken machine or send nothing.

      You should get someone – a sourcing agent – who could help you find supplier and machine that fits your needs and check everything before you pay, and check everything once again before machine is sent out to you.


  13. Hi Andrew.

    Been reading through your blog and it has been very helpful.
    One question, I’m in the negotiating process on alibaba, the seller states I can pay using pay pal which is good news, but one thing, the pay pal account is a personal account not a business account. I know in your blog you state not to send money via bank transfer to a personal bank account, was just wondering if the same applies to pay pal accounts.
    Your feedback would be much appreciated.

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Harry,

      Thanks for your comment.

      No, same rule does not apply to PayPal accounts. As long as I remember, I think I have only seen personal PayPal accounts for China Mainland based companies. Maybe they even can’t have PayPal company accounts, not sure.

      Either way, this is fine and as long as everything else is spot on, shouldn’t create any problems. Make sure that you fund transaction with your credit card so you always have that option on initiating a charge back if something goes wrong.


  14. Go to China and look for reliable sellers that is the only way to know they are legit. If you are a businessman then at east that proves that you can invest your money then why not go there?…Take a vacation and scout for good suppliers build friendship then settle transactions tell them you will order online the next time you order. Smile 🙂 Peace to everyone.

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Mj,

      Thanks for your comment!

      Well, going to China can of course speed up the process but only if you have some serious cash ready to invest in stock. Going blindly is not worth it really – you’ll need someone local, translator who can show around, help with communication etc. If you go to big trade shows like Canton Fair, expect huge masses and most suppliers won’t spend much time with small time buyers.

      Surely, if you have at least $20k-$30k+ to invest, going to China can be an option but as most people start with way less than that, they’re better off searching for suppliers on Alibaba and just invest $100-$150 to do inspections on selected suppliers.


  15. Andrew,
    Great article. question: I am a start-up business selling my own brand of martial arts equipment. I contacted several gold suppliers and decided on a 5 year. I paid a couple himndred bucks to get samples of my “prototype” equipment (with my own logos, details, etc..) They were really nice quality. Time to place the full order…I got a proforma invoice for the full production run. The terms were 60% to begin production (via WU or bank transfer), then the remaining 40% when ready to ship (DHL or EMS-they shipped DHL for the samples). Mind you, this is Alibaba, not Aliexpress. The manufacturer is in Pakistan not China. Here comes my concern. I paid the 60% via WU and was given a 5-6 week timeframe. E-mail communication has been good. Today, I received an e-mail from a “very slightly different e-mail address” requesting I send the balance today via WU – they noted that the “TO:” name had changed. I contacted the manufacturer via our “old e-mail chain” (with the original e-mail address) and asked for confirmation. I got a response from the original e-mail address saying, yes, that was them (my concern was that the new e-mail thread was a “hack”) and that I should go ahead and send the money. I questioned him regarding the Bank Transfer-vs-WU and the response was that their bank account had reached “Tax-Free” transaction limit and that Bank transfer would cause them to be taxed at a high rate. Is it correct that bank transfer is really no more secure than WU? Either way, what do you make of this? I contacted them again and asked them to send pictures of the gear ready for shipment and am currently waiting on those…. Thoughts?

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Eric,

      I hope it ends all good for you…

      You should have never paid via WU in first place, no matter what supplier says. Yes, bank transfer is as safe as WU in terms that they both can’t be reversed BUT with bank transfer at least, you know exactly where you send money to – is it personal or companies bank account, check if all details match etc.

      With Western Union payment – you send money to some individual in Pakistan and God knows what he does with it. Yes, he could “give” the money to company he works for but he could also simply disappear with all your money.

      Anyway, as I said – let’s hope this is not the case and everything will end just fine.


      1. Also, I ntoe that there is no “investigator” feature for the Pakistani market?!

      2. Andrew Minalto

        Hi Eric,

        Unfortunately I have no real experience dealing with suppliers in Pakistan so can’t help you with that…

        Let’s hope it all works out for you.


      3. I was able to find an inspector (out of China-but regional) that can do a pre-shipment inspection before I send final payment.

      4. Yes, I am hoping…Note that, there are ZERO Pakistani suppliers (at least in the Martial arts market) that do Escrow, and ZERO that take credit card. Not sure why that is. Note also that Pakistan is the world’s largest exporter of these particular products. So, in those cases…what are your suggestions (if any)..The Chinese manufacturers have much lower quality of product, presumably because they are “relatively” new to this market….Hoping for the best.

  16. Dear Andrew,

    Lots of thanks for your guide to aware about the scammer about alibaba.com

    I want to start a business and for that I have searched for some machineries in alibaba.com

    Finally I have selected that my machine is available with Zhengzhou Ali-Partner Machinery & Equipment Co. Ltd. and they are 2 years gold members of alibaba.com.

    I’m seeking your guides whether I can place the order to them.

    Their payment term is 50 % booking by T/T and 50% by seeing the faxed B/L by T/T or by Western Union.

    Please guide me.

    With regards,

    Kiran Deb Mondal

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Kiran,

      Thanks for your comment.

      If that’s the ONLY company you can find that supplies item you’re after, first thing you should do is get an inspector over there to inspect that company:


      You should know that it’s a trading company and NOT manufacturer, which means they act as middle man and maybe not as professional/educated on these machines as a manufacturer would be.

      Whatever you do, make sure you do pre-shipment inspection too, to make sure correct item, brand new and in working condition is being sent to you.


  17. Thank you very much Andrew Minalto for this great post! It really helped me a lot. =)

    1. Andrew Minalto

      You’re welcome Tim!

  18. Hi, thank you for your article.
    Stumbling upon Google and found your website.
    Because I got story too.

    I bought a Xiaomi smartphone from ALIEXPRESS.com, as a first time buyer I felt very happy, received the phone yesterday, the shipment almost took a month, and turn out to be a fake one. It is functioning but the specifications are way below the original (bad AnTuTu Benchmark score, app crash, can’t download nothing, bad camera, etc). I hope that I can get my refund. This is my first time experience buying from ALIEXPRESS.com and I got scammed.

    The link is here : http://www.aliexpress.com/item/In-Stock-Original-Xiaomi-Red-Rice-WCDMA-Quad-Core-MTK6589T-1-5GHz-MIUI-V5-Xiaomi-Hongmi/1572840119.html

    and my order is here : http://www.aliexpress.com/snapshot/315678157.html

    I don’t know what to do but to expect having my refund.And spreading the word, tell people about this ali express site so that what happened to me will not happen to other people.

    Be careful again if you want to buy stuffs online. I just wanna say NEVER BUY ANYTHING FROM ALIEXPRESS.com.

    It cost me USD 210. Not that much, but I just feel so sad that I didn’t get my original favorite phone.

    I hope no more people get scammed by ALIEXPRESS.com.
    It’s just sad.

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Andrea,

      Thanks for sharing your experience with us.

      If only you would do some minimal research BEFORE that purchase, you would know that you CAN’T buy BRANDED products from China.

      China is only good for un-branded stuff…


  19. http://www.aliexpress.com/store/218197

    Can someone please take a look at this, I’d like to order from them but do you think it’s legit?


    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Sarah,

      It looks ok to me, feedback is good.

      Use courier shipping option and you should be fine.


  20. Many people who have lost their money thru AliExpress/Alibaba say the company told them they refuse to post neg feedback about any seller unless the seller agrees to it! How can you say the site is legit?

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Chris,

      Thanks for your comment.

      I’m sorry, but where did you get that? You can freely leave negative feedback on AliExpress, leave 1 star reviews etc. You don’t have to ask seller’s permission for that.


  21. robert fry

    hi Andrew. your 10 rules is great . I followed them but still unsure to follow my leads. don’t know if you can help with these 2 companys . yiwu carnival garment ltd. plus also Guangzhou city sanyuanli yaxin leather. has im a first time buyer. your thoughts would be welcomed. thanks rob

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Robert,

      If you find companies that meet all 10 criteria, you can order samples pretty safely. Even if there’s a small chance of dealing with a scammer in such situation, you’ll lose maximum of $50 or so in shipping costs.

      Importing carries risks – be ready for this and just make your first sample order.


  22. I have been contemplating on this but i said no let me share this with you and get your own view it.

    I have been chatting with the sales representative of SHENZHEN LANYU GROUP LIMITED. they supply memory card OEM. they gave me there price quotation and their communication perfect. But where am not too Ok with is that they only accept Western Money,Money gram and Bank transfer. and they don’t accept payment via Escrow services.

    So i ask for their Bank account details. the account name is same as their business name which sound Legit but i still need you to help me make some check to see if in your own opinion there are OK.
    Account details giving to me is

    Beneficiary name: Lanyu Group Limited
    Beneficiary a/c number: 112-316781-838
    Beneficiary bank : HSBC Hongkong

    The sweet part is that they even gave me their Phone number, which i can use to get in contact with them +8675583171934. then number tally with the number in their website and in their Alibaba website.

    Please, i need you own review of this Supplier please.

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Abdiel,

      Have you made a small sample order yet with them?

      That’s what you should start with.


      1. Abdiel

        I tried doing that but they told me that the minimum number of items i can order for sample is 100pcs. what do you say about that? if they can’t agree to sell a sample for me to make my own assessment of their products.

      2. Andrew Minalto

        Hi Abdiel,

        I would never deal with a company that can’t sell me one sample to test product quality etc.

        Only deal with companies who can provide you with samples.


  23. Holly Morris

    Hi Andrew
    first of all thankyou for your article i found it very helpful
    Secondly I am looking to start a small online clothinh boutique and found an wealth of great stock on the ali express app. I was wondering if you could clarify a few questions i have..
    on ordering a sample on the app once you press buy now it took me directly to putting in debit/credit details with no options for payment is this normal? and is this covered by the escrow service?

    also if it tells me 60 days processing time does that mean im waiting 60 days before the order is even proccessed for delivery?

    lastly i have opened a new bank account with a debit card and only neccesary funds purely for alibaba transactions would you say this is wise?

    many thanks

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Holly,

      Thanks for your comment.

      1) I have never used the Ali Express app on my mobile, so don’t know how it works and what it shows.

      2) Yes, processing time means how long it will take for seller to dispatch item to you. 60 days is wayyyy too long obviously, you should buy from sellers who have 1-3, maybe 5 days max processing time.

      3) Yes, that’s a good idea.

      I would recommend you ordering from the full website on your computer, not the app as chances are app has some glitches etc., that shows wrong processing time.


      1. Holly Morris

        thankyou 🙂

  24. I started reading all of these posts and then decided to skip down to the bottom after reading so many negative things about AliExpress. I’m just a normal consumer who randomly shops on this website as I please and have made over 25+ orders with AliExpress. My co-worker and I spend our lunch hours shopping on their websites and aside from incorrect sizing information, neither of us have ever been scammed. The longest we have both waited for shipping was about 20 days but we have ALWAYS received our orders and we have never been incorrectly charged. One time they did lose my order temporarily and that seller sent me a gift box of cute accessories to compensate. I just thought I would share my positive experience with this website! Thank you for posting this article!

    1. Nice experience Kelly.

      Thanks for relating this to us.

    2. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Kelly,

      Many Thanks for stopping by and sharing your experience with others, this helps a lot!

      I know this is the reality – while millions of people are making purchases on Ali Express hassle free, they won’t go online and write about their good experiences. Only people who have had problems usually do this, hence the skewed ratio of good and bad feedback here.

      This is totally normal. For example, take a look @ PayPal’s page on Trust Pilot:


      If you read comments there, you would think that you’d NEVER want to deal with such company!!! But again, those are only bad experiences, which are in small minority compared to hundreds of millions of people who use PayPal hassle free (including me).

      Anyway, Thanks again Kelly for your comment!


  25. Jacqueline

    Hi Andrew,

    My name is Jacqueline from South Africa, please assist i need to stock brazillian hair online. which company or factory do you prefer as they a lot and its my first time. i am scared to be scammed as i’m trying to open a small business to sell and get a profit.

    kind Regards

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Jacqueline,

      Thanks for your comment.

      Unfortunately I personally don’t deal with Brazilian hair products so can’t recommend you any specific, tried & verified supplier.

      What you simply have to do is start doing your research on Alibaba – search for the product, filter out best looking companies using my 10 step system. Then get in touch with best looking suppliers, get quotes, samples etc. etc.

      That’s how product sourcing and importing works.

      No one will just come and share their best suppliers with you. It’s something you have to do on your own.


  26. Do you recommend consumers use alibaba to source products like furniture made in and sold in retail showrooms in the US? I learned that Restoration Hardware is making their very expensive salvage wood table in China now. I saw the same table available on alibaba from Hangzhou Lestero Home Deco. Co., Ltd. and wonder if it safe to purchase from this company? I was able to verify a few of the things on your list, but can’t find where they list payment options or complaints. Also, their trade show record is active in 2012 and blank for 2013. Does this indicate a problem?


    I’m completely new to Alibaba- if the company is legit, should a newbie use a trade agent for a one-time purchase from a company or will a freight forwarding company be enough?

    Grateful for your advice,


    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Alex,

      If this is your first importing deal, you’ll need some sort of assistance. ideally use a sourcing agent that can go to factory, verify everything, check goods before dispatch etc. And then use freight forwarder for sea freight shipment and customs clearance.

      I can’t tell you whatever it’s safe or not to purchase from that company as further checks need to be done. They’re only 2nd year Gold supplier on Alibaba and as you say – with no recent trade show record.

      If you really want to order from this company, get inspector over there to do full factory check for you.


      1. Hi Andrew,

        I was reading your recommendation to use a sourcing agent in China. Is that the same as the Alibaba inspection agents? Any recommendation on where to locate good sourcing agents?

        Many thanks!

      2. Andrew Minalto

        Hi Tina,

        No, these are not same.

        Inspection services just check companies, you have already found. Sourcing agents on the other hand will help you find those companies and products in first place.

        Here’s one good place to start with:



      3. Thank you – you’ve been very helpful!

      4. Andrew Minalto

        You’re welcome Tina!

      5. Hi Andrew,

        Thank you very much for the link. It seems this site is based in the UK, any such service for US retailers? In addition, could you please explain the pros and cons of (1) finding companies through Alibaba and use an inspection agent vs. (2) use a sourcing agent to source the products? Thanks again for your valuable insight!

      6. Andrew Minalto

        Hi Tina,

        I don’t know any specific US companies but you can do a Google search for these and get plenty of results.

        In general, using sourcing agents is easier BUT only if you can find a good, reputable company who takes good care of you. Many of thee sourcing companies won’t want to work with small orders, some mess things up etc. and leave you with wrong items or delivery issues.

        When you do your own research, find companies, do inspection via inspection services, you keep 100% control on everything and if something goes wrong, it will be only your fault and not someone elses.

        Ideally, if all sourcing companies would produce results they promise, it would be the easiest/best way for newbies to get into importing.


  27. AliExpress IS a feeding ground for scammers and the company don’t care as long the money comes in.
    Its impossible to email AliExpress, and the complain-function is sending people in circles all the time.
    I have benn scammed and AliExpress is at no help at all, OK I should have checked better, but how much checking do an average buyer have to do?
    Today I warn everyone “don’t trade on AliExpress/AliBaba” don’t trade on china-sites, there is no security, its a scammers paradise.
    So AliExpres made me antichina, make me avoid all Chinese food, goods etc. from that country.
    Congratulations with that AliExpress, a Chinese face in the world 😉

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi There,

      Thanks for sharing your experience and sorry to hear about your bad experience.

      Both Alibaba and AliExpress sites carries risks and that’s the price we all have to pay if want to import directly from China.


  28. fiona thomas

    hi i am looking at buying some spa pedicure chairs from Healthtec nanhai xiarun massage equipment co.ltd
    all good constant email back and forth for several days asking questions and they alsways reply promptly they are on alibaba and ali express everything seems to be good i have just emailed them with payment concerns they have said 30%T/T as deposit and balance before shipping they said they would take photos and email to me??? so you know anything about this mob?

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Fiona,

      Thanks for your comment.

      That’s a standard payment procedure – 30 or 50% up-front payment and balance paid before dispatch.

      I can’t find that company on Alibaba though – you sure it’s exact and correct name?


  29. I used Aliexpress for the first time last night. Today my bank called and said there was an unauthorized charge on my credit card at a Walmart in Virginia today. I think its more than a coincidence, don’t you?

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Caylynn,

      Thanks for your question.

      Don’t know about that, did you pay directly via secure SLL checkout on AliExpress? If so, then there’s no way
      of them getting your card details.


  30. Hi Andrew…after considering your Top ten steps to recognize a scammer in Alibaba. after making a concrete research on this supplier which Goes by the name JImpower Trading LTD. it seems to have all the qualities you mentioned about knowing a good supplier.
    But to your own perspective is this suppliers legitimate?
    I have sent him series oh mail via their representative and the responses have been fantastic, what your take on this.

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Abdiel,

      Thanks for your comment.

      At first glance they look ok but as branded items, memory cards are involved, you have to be EXTREMELY careful. Yes, they’re HK based and yes, you can get genuine branded electronics from HK but still – there are plenty of scammers in HK who will scam you or send fakes.

      My advice would be to place a small sample order, pay via PayPal and check goods for authenticity.

      If all looks good, increase your orders gradually and look for ongoing product quality (no fakes).


      1. Abdiel

        I very grateful for your Sincere, Frank and Candid advice, thanks alot!!!

        I will do as you said, Thanks alot!!!

      2. Andrew Minalto

        You’re welcome Abdiel!

  31. Hi Andrew,
    Great post! Thank you so much for sharing. I recently cancelled some orders on aliexpress because the seller had taken so long to ship them out, and it was rejected and the orders were sent out immediately! lol. Does this mean that some sellers need to be constantly reminded to ship out orders that have already been paid for? Also, a seller just told me that they were yet to re-stock some designs of jewellry that I had already paid for and I was wondering if they weren’t incompetent. Am new to aliexpress and would appreciate your take on this. Regardless of these, Aliexpress has been really a great online shopping site,imo.

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Olive,

      Thanks for stopping by.

      Yes and no – depends on the seller really. You must watch out for the dispatch time listed in listings as some sellers have crazy time frames of 10 and more days (they’re probably just middle man who hold no stock).

      But yes, if they don’t dispatch order in stated time frame, simply cancel it (they have no rights to stop that as long as they haven’t dispatched it yet).

      Each seller is different – that’s why you always start with small sample orders to see how professional and fast they’re.


  32. Thanks for your reply.

    Why Aliexpress suppliers don’t give their phone numbers?
    How does the email sysytem work?
    Sometimes they ask my email address? I receive emails from suppliers both for my personal and Alibaba or Aliexpress message center,sometimes either they send it to personal email only or Ali message center only.

    I have one more question ,Would it be safe to pay by debit card for the samples?


    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Priya,

      I don’t know why they don’t give their phone number – most likely because they don’t have a call centre for support.

      I have used VISA card for dozens if not hundreds of orders on AliExpress with no problems at all.


  33. I just want to thank you for this post. Just what I needed to read 🙂

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Thanks very much Kate!

  34. Hello,
    I have made an order today on aliexpress.com and after 4 hours it comes a message on my e-mail adress that :

    Thank you for shopping on AliExpress ! Unfortunately, your payment could not be verified and Order No. 61089824191443 has been closed for security reasons.Please be assured that the payment for this order was not deducted by AliExpress.

    To avoid order cancellation, please follow the below steps to submit a claim:
    1.Sign in to AliExpress
    2.Go to My Orders and locate this order
    3.Click “View Details”
    4.Click “Want to Claim”
    5.Submit the following documents:
    •A copy of your personal ID/passport or driver’s license
    •A copy of your card and bank statement if you paid with a credit/debit card or a copy of your bank statement if you paid with your checking account

    Just a gentle reminder – a bank statement is a document that shows all the money that went into or out of your bank account during a particular period of time. If needed, you can contact your bank to get this document.

    For security reasons, please conceal the middle digits of your card number. However, please make sure that we can locate the card holder’s name, card issuing bank as well as the last four digits of the card/account number.

    Once your card information is verified, you can place your order again.

    2014.02.13 05:01

    This is an automated system email. Please do not reply to this email.

    I think this is a scam !
    how can anybody sand a copy from his bankcard, passport or personal ID. ?
    Normaly you must protect your data and bankcard and not give anybody a copy of it.
    when a person knows your personal bankcard data, than he can buy everythink he wont from tha internet .
    I think that aliexpress and no other internet seller hase tha right to ask you for a copy of your bankcard or passport.
    instead to send this data to aliexpress, we shold all go to tha police whit this e-mails.
    the e-mail wose send me from : ” transaction_service@service.alibaba.com

    1. I agree with you that this is a scam. there is no reason that they should need a bank statement, it is almost like they are saying give us everything we need to complete an identity theft.

      I will NEVER use this service.

      on a side note; I don’t know if you will ever see this, as the last response I made to Andrews response to your comment was deleted


      1. Andrew Minalto

        It was not deleted Jody but put on hold until manual approval.

        All comments by new users go through this stage as I have to fight spam comments somehow.


    2. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Lucian,

      Thanks for your comment.

      Do you know how many scammers each day make purchases online with stolen credit cards? If you know this, then it shouldn’t surprise you that Ali Express has some security limits in place to protect themselves from scammers.

      This is actually a very common practice in USA too, when I deal with wholesale companies there they often ask for wire transfers only OR if pay by card, various documents are required to prove I’m the actual card holder.

      As that email says – you should BLANK OUT all the sensitive data – leave just 4 last digits shown on your card, you don’t have to scan the BACK of your card where security number is. No one can use your card knowing just last 4 digits of it….

      If you’re really worried, you can always buy a top-up credit card and use that for Ali Express purchases.

      Lastly, if you don’t feel confident doing these security checks, don’t buy from Ali Express.


      1. Andrew I just got a letter similar to this… this is not a “common practice in the USA too” I make purchases in the USA and anyone who asked for a copy of my bank statement is an obvious scammer.

        don’t know if you noticed the line there from poster;
        Just a gentle reminder – a bank statement is a document that shows all the money that went into or out of your bank account during a particular period of time. If needed, you can contact your bank to get this document.

        Why would they need a statement that show “ALL THE MONEY THAT WENT INTO OR OUT OF YOUR BANK ACCOUNT?

        don’t know how this could be anything but a scam


      2. Andrew Minalto

        Hi Jody,

        This is usually asked to verify the address and nothing else.

        Utility bills are also often accepted for this purpose.


  35. Hello,

    I wanted to reach out and let you know I found your articles to be very high quality and incredibly helpful!

    I also wanted to find out if you offer any sort of advertising or link placement on your site? If so, could you send me some sort of pricing information if possible?



    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Debbie,

      Thanks for stopping by!

      Great to hear you find my blog valuable and interesting!

      At the moment I do not offer any paid advertising on my site, sorry.


  36. hi I would like to know if hanaco limited in uk London is legit to make business, any help would be appreciated

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Leo,

      Thanks for your question.

      If you’re referring to this company:


      They look totally legit to me, with a office in London.


  37. Julito Yranela

    Beware of Henan jinxin machinery commercial and trading company ltd. I bought a steam bun machine from them. I followed your advice and still got screwed I was sent a used machine with no directions and a cut power line. So I called them no response for 2 weeks
    I complained to alibaba tough luck. Oh the agent was emily Kong I doubt if this is her real name

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Julito,

      Thanks for your comment.

      With such business/industrial machinery, you always want to use a pre-shipment inspection service. It costs just $100-$150 and would eliminate such possible scenario when you receive defective/used machine.

      The problem with such orders is that you can’t order any samples, due to size, weight and cost of these machines, so effectively you’re taking risks when going forward with an order from a supplier you haven’t dealt with.

      Hopefully the machine works at least and you can make use of it.

      Still, continue contacting supplier and try to resolve this matter. It’s Chinese New Year holidays right now and that could be the reason why they haven’t answered your emails yet. If a specific sales rep. doesn’t answer you, get in touch via the main company contact email. Could be that an employee is already gone by now.


  38. Anupreet Gulati

    I don’t own a credit card, and for some unknown reason can’t use my maestro debit card either.
    I borrowed an uncle’s credit card and made a payment of about $11.

    The next time when I used the same credit card for $113, it says the payment wasn’t verified. I do not feel comfortable in asking him to provide me with his identity proof, and he himself said that wasn’t required.

    The money hasn’t been refunded either. Even though it has just been 2 days, and it says it takes about 7-10 days, I am still worried about losing such a large amount.
    I don’t know how to make the payment.

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Anupreet,

      Thanks for your comment.

      Are you talking about Ali Express?

      If you don’t have a VISA card, you still have some alternatives, bank transfer and western union being most popular. You can learn more about these payment options here:


      If you don’t want to validate your uncle’s card, then simply ask AliExpress to cancel this transaction and refund money back to the card.


      1. Anupreet Gulati

        Sorry for not having mentioned about the site name.

        The problem has been temporarily resolved. Would get to know by this month end.

        Thanks a lot. 🙂

  39. Hello Andrew

    Thanks for your reply.I am bit confused with Alibaba supplier. (Guangzhou Cappuccino Leather Co., Ltd.)
    I couldn’t fit the supplier with 10 steps filter system. They are in 5th year gold member but year of establishment in 2012.CTI Test report dated 2010 I don’t know about this report..The website name come as Topmart fashion. could you please help me?
    Thank you once again for your time and advice.


    1. Andrew Minalto

      They sell 100% FAKES, stay away!

      You can’t get BRANDED goods from China in wholesale, forget about it! You’ll get scammed or receive fakes.


      1. Thanks for your reply.

        Why Aliexpress suppliers don’t give their phone numbers?
        How does the email sysytem work?
        Sometimes they ask my email address? I receive emails from suppliers both for my personal and Alibaba or Aliexpress message center,sometimes either they send it to personal email only or Ali message center only.


  40. Hi Andrew
    We are interested in importing around £7,000 to £10,000 of garden giftware from China rather than buying from wholesalers in the UK. We emailed a company some weeks ago for pricing information. Since then we have learnt about Alibaba and find the company is 2 years gold verified and passes your other tests. Looks gegit. Before sending pricing information they wanted to know our VAT number. Our turnover is such that we are not VAT registered (and would prefer to keep it that way for as long as we can). Why do they want to know our VAT number and how can we move forward with this supplier without it. Is this typical for Chinese manufacturers? The types of products we are interested in aren’t listed in Aliexpress otherwise I would use that to purchase some samples.

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Tris,

      Thanks for your comment.

      That’s actually first time I hear a Chinese supplier asking for a VAT number… you sure it’s VAT number they asked for or it was EORI number?

      Can’t see why would they need to know your VAT number….

      And of course, you can still import and buy from China if you’re not VAT registered, it doesn’t make any difference to Chinese part.

      Did you asked them why they need your VAT number?


  41. kaya cheshire

    I was just wondering if i could get some advice,
    great article by the way!

    I’m quite new to buying wholesale, but wouldn’t say i was naive.

    I have bought 6 lots of wholesale stock from Alibaba over different periods of time.
    My most recent stock, half of the fashion items were not the colour ordered in the picture and
    i have lost out around £100 as its stock i won’t be able to shift.
    I have emailed the seller explaining the situation, but am unsure where to go from here.

    Its been 5 days since i emailed the seller.

    many thanks,


    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Kaya,

      Thanks for your comment.

      Most suppliers in China are on holidays right now and that will be most likely be the reason why you haven’t heard back from them yet.

      Give it another week and then contact your supplier and try sorting out this issue either via an exchange, partial refund or credit for your next order.


  42. Hello Andrew
    I new to the Alibaba and Aliexpress and your articles are very helpful.
    I am am dealing with 2 Aliexpress suppliers and one 5th year Gold member in Alibaba.
    Hope I can trust 5th year gold memeber but I am not sure about the Aliexpress suppliers.How can I check them as they give only their names instead of company name? Could you please help me to find out whether these suppliers are reliable?


    for the Alibaba supplier they are not a accessed supplier but they are 5th year gold supplier.because of the gold member I can trust this supplier.Am I right?


    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Priya,

      Thanks for stopping by.

      Both Ali Express sellers have decent feedback, so very un-likely they’re scammers.

      With Alibaba supplier – Gold status is good but carry other checks as pointed out in my guide to make sure you minimize risks of being scammed.

      And lastly, most importantly, with all these suppliers – start with a small, sample order and increase your orders gradually. That’s best way to keep your potential loses to minimum.


  43. Hi Andrew,

    I’m new to the Alibaba service and found your article to be very helpful. Could you please tell me more about the Alibaba quality agent service?

    Separately, in your opinion, is Shenzhen Too-Star Technology Co., Ltd. legitimate? Here’s a link to their website: http://too-star.en.alibaba.com/

    Thank you!

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Tina,

      Thanks for your comment.

      Not sure what you mean by “Alibaba quality agent service”?


      1. Hi Andrew,

        I believe I saw you described “quality agent” in one of your earlier responses to another reader – thought I’d inquire about it.

        Separately, have you used the Alibaba inspection service? What is your opinion of the service ? Is it worth while?

        Lastly, what is your opinion of the company I described before?

        Thank you very much for your input!

      2. Andrew Minalto

        Hi Tina,

        I think you’re referring to same Alibaba inspection service here.

        YES, it’s great and worth every penny. I highly recommend doing inspection with each supplier, before placing order.

        That company looks ok but they sell fake/un-licensed products. Stay away from such products, they’re illegal to import and re-sell.


  44. Flora Rong

    By the way Andrew scamming works both ways, being a Gold supplier ourselves on Alibaba we have come across purchasers who will try and extort a product from you without payment. once a product is shipped the cost of retrieving from overseas is a waste of time. LC are not really feasible under $20.000 USD. the Escrow system in Alibaba is not conducive to good business practice. As a company why should we fund a purchase for up to 120 days which can happen on the existing Escrow system. Escrow might work for Aliexpress were you purchase a few hundred dollars but it’s certainly a different issue for $10,000 USD and Alibaba is pushing this hard mainly as it’s a revenue raiser for them much like PayPal or Amazon and selling it to buyers as being safe.

    We sell successfully on Alibaba using 30% deposit and payment on shipping trusting partners works both ways, the idea is to build trust then trading terms can be more flexible for the purchaser.

    The problem we face like most companies is the stigma from the shonky suppliers, but being a first year Gold supplier on Alibaba ( sorry according to you stay away from us) we have found that the biggest problem is the spammer purchasers and the fake RFQs. what is amazing is purchasers actually think things cost nothing if they come from China.

    Also a lesson for the people about business in China 85% of products shipped from China aren’t supplied from factories that have a export liscence. This means that it’s likely you won’t pay into a bank account that would accept USD that matches the company name. Is this a problem not really those Gold suppliers you talk about that have 10 years do business this way.

    Remember one thing in China most of the companies that you do business with are not the same as you do business at home they only look at the order in front of them not the longer term partnership. is this strange yes but no if you consider the issue . The purchaser is a non face half a world away they make promises to purchase 1000 units to leverage the best price and then buy ten units and you never hear from them again.

    It’s logical at home in the UK you can go knock on the door on the other side of the world what can you do..

    In summary I agree and disagree with what you say Andrew a little common sense goes a long way when purchasing from a distance but if you follow your guidelines to the letter you would never do business outside your own country.

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Flora,

      Thanks for your comment and sharing your experience as seller on Alibaba.

      I can totally understand that buyers can scam you too, especially when Escrow is used. Still, many companies on Alibaba are happy to use Escrow service and I always pay in companies bank account when dealing with wire transfers.


  45. Andrew, I am in the research stage for a import/export start up. I have yet to do any business on Ali. But I have found your info VERY informative & helpful. Just wanted to thank you for what you have done.

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Great to hear that Ray! 🙂


  46. Thank for your article.

    I have contacted a few different companies on Alibaba and they always tell me to contact them via what appears to be a personal email address. Is it customary practice for sales agents in China to use their private email address as a point of contact?


    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Baxter,

      Thanks for your email.

      Yes, this is quite common, especially if company you’re dealing with don’t have a website outside Alibaba. And even if they have a dedicated website, very often sales reps will use yahoo and other email addresses.

      Just make sure details on invoice are correct, bank details match company details on Alibaba, if you pay via wire transfer.


  47. Thanks for the reply on heng tang bamboo and wood crafts. I went to place and order and their site says western union or TTonly.What is TT? Thank you.

    1. Hi Vegas,

      TT stands for telegraphic transfer (wire transfer) which is basically bank to bank transfer.

      It does not offer ANY protection – once you send the money, money is gone for good. If they scam you, you won’t be able to get your money back.

      That’s why for first orders it’s always better to use PayPal.


  48. Andrew could you comment on a company named, Hengtang bamboo and wood crafts factory.

    Thank you

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Vegas,

      Thanks for stopping by.


      7th year Gold member on Alibaba, un-branded, low risk items – looks ok to me.

      Start with a small sample order, pay via PayPal and see how it goes.


  49. Fatima Ally

    Hi has anyone ever used this supplier – Suzhou Hedy Clothing Co., Ltd. on alibaba.com?

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Fatima,

      Thanks for your comment.


      First year company (I never deal with such new companies), probably using stolen product pictures.

      Don’t know what else to add – I personally wouldn’t order from them simply for the reason they’re so new to Alibaba and deal with high risk items – clothing! You can of course risk and order one dress but why not simply find a more reputable, established company?


  50. Many of the products i intend ordering, have names; android and blackberry phones. Is this what you mean by products with branded names? Is aliexpress the right place to order these from?

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Cosmas,

      Thanks for your question.

      YES, Blackberry phones are BRANDED goods and you should stay away from them on any Chinese platform! Those won’t be genuine items but fakes/copies.

      This doesn’t apply to Android phones though as they can be Chinese brand or un-branded phones (totally ok) with Android operating system installed on them. This is fine.


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