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Top 10 Scams on Alibaba.com!

January 14, 2015 by Andrew Minalto - 374 Comments
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top-10-alibaba-scamsEvery second email I receive from my blog readers is about Alibaba scams! It is that serious, yes. I already debunked the myth that Alibaba itself is a scam in my Alibaba Scams EXPOSED article BUT today I want to talk specifically about the most common scammer tricks and schemes you can run into when searching for a supplier on Alibaba.com.

Remember, these don’t apply solely to Alibaba but to all popular B2B platforms that involve a large number of wholesale suppliers from China. But as Alibaba is the most popular platform, I will use examples from there.

So let’s get started!

alibaba-scam-1
Alibaba SCAM Nr.1 – Sending FAKE branded goods!

This is without a doubt the most popular scam taking place on Alibaba! The saddest thing is that most people who get fake goods from a Chinese supplier don’t even realise it until eBay takes down their listing a while later.

How does this scam work?

Basically the supplier will sell you branded goods which are just copies of real products. This usually involves products like:

  • Clothing (designer clothing)
  • Footwear (especially Nike products, Timberland)
  • Electronics (mobile phone replicas, specialised electronics like Shure microphones)
  • Disney character items (bedding sets, mugs, kid’s clothing, toys)
  • Mobile phone cases with Apple, Samsung logos
  • Sports jerseys with team logos (Manchester United, Arsenal, NBA/NHL teams etc.)
  • DVDs, Software, Blu-rays, Fitness training programs (P90X etc.)
  • Cosmetics, fragrances (Max factor, MAC, Dior etc.)
  • And many others!

This can basically be ANY product with a well known Western brand name/logo/registered trademark on it.

How to avoid this scam?

SIMPLE – DO NOT BUY ANY BRANDED GOODS from Alibaba suppliers! ANY Chinese supplier for that matter!

What is a branded product? It’s a product with a well known name on it, like:

  • Apple
  • Nike
  • Sony
  • Pioneer
  • Gucci
  • Etc.

This also includes ANY kind of band, movie character or kids’ character like:

  • Batman
  • Spiderman
  • Frozen
  • Hulk
  • One Direction
  • U2
  • Etc.

All these are also classed as branded goods as to manufacture such goods, you have to buy a LICENCE from the Intellectual Property (IP) holder and pay royalty fees. Chinese manufacturers selling such products on Alibaba HAVEN’T paid licensing fees and simply use any popular images they can find and put them on these products. These are not genuine, licensed items and you can get into serious trouble selling them online.

While it’s true that most products these days are manufactured in China, it DOESN’T mean that Chinese factories sell them directly to everyone via Alibaba and similar platforms. Far from it! Brand owners monitor the entire manufacturing process very strictly and they do not allow any of their products to be sold outside their own distribution channels.

Genuine branded goods in China are actually more expensive than they are here in the Western world due to the high taxes the Chinese government has put in place (to support local business). So contrary to popular believe, an iPhone actually costs a lot more in China than in the UK or US.

Just to clarify, by China I mean Mainland China and I am not referring to Hong Kong based suppliers here. Yes, in HK you can get genuine branded goods BUT you still have to be extremely careful as there are also many types of scams associated with HK based suppliers, which we’ll cover later on in this post.

So if you’re looking for ANY KIND of branded goods, Alibaba is NOT the place to go! You want to look for US, UK or EU based official distributors/wholesalers for such goods, NOT China.

The only exception to this rule is IF the brand itself is a Chinese brand. There are some groups of products where Chinese brands actually lead the market, for example electronic cigarettes. In niches like these, yes, you can get genuine CHINESE BRAND products from Alibaba.

But even then be very careful as guess what? YES! Chinese scammers do also copy even the Chinese brands!! So you always want to get in touch with the brand owner first and ask whether the company you’re dealing with is an authorised re-seller of their goods.

alibaba-scam-2

Alibaba SCAM Nr.2 – Selling BRANDED goods but delivering nothing!

How does this scam work?

This is a very similar scam operation to the first one we covered but with one major difference; in this case once you send your money to the supplier and you never hear from them again. Yep, that’s right – you receive NOTHING in return for your money.

How to avoid this scam?

By following the same, simple rule – DO NOT buy branded goods from suppliers listed on Alibaba.com or from any supplier based in Mainland China!

Scammers are very smart and are always on the lookout for the newest hot product coming out, so they can build an entire website ‘selling’ that product. Even when the iPhone 6 was not yet released, there were already dozens of Chinese wholesale iPhone 6 websites up and running selling it for $300-$400. Or even better – buy 5 and get one free, plus free shipping! What an amazing deal to miss out on!

On Alibaba itself it is very easy – just stick with the rule of NOT buying branded goods and you have protected yourself from these 2 most common scams. But what if you have found a website selling branded stock? Here are few simple rules to follow:

1. If it looks too good to be true, it is. iPhones for $300, MacBooks for $600 – these are typical scammer prices. They’re UNREAL! They want people to believe that they have found a superb deal while in reality it’s a very cheap scam.

2. Check the domain name in the WHO IS database. If registration shows China, you know for sure it’s a scammer’s operation.

3. Check payment methods – if credit card or PayPal is not an option AND only Western Union or Money Gram is accepted, it’s a scam.

4. Check shipping methods – if they say shipping is via EMS, it’s a scam! (As EMS is a Chinese courier company).

5. Product variety – very often scammers sell a huge number of unrelated items, all on one website. With experience you can easily spot such scammers by taking a quick look at the product categories offered. If you see products like these selling on one website with too good to be true prices, it’s a 100% definite SCAM:

  • iPhones
  • Pioneer DJ Decks
  • Designer Handbags
  • Nike Air shoes
  • MacBooks

Usually genuine wholesalers selling designer handbags won’t also deal with iPhones, so this is a clear sign that you have found a scam.

To sum it up – branded goods and China just don’t go together. Just stay away from Alibaba and Chinese suppliers altogether if you’re looking for branded goods as you have an extremely high chance of getting scammed and receiving fake goods (or none at all).

alibaba-scam-3

Alibaba SCAM Nr.3 – Unverified Alibaba profile for a UK or US company!

How does this scam work?

Chinese scammers open a FREE Alibaba profile using the details of a legitimate UK/US/EU based company. They pretend to be that legit company to sell branded goods (any goods for that matter, even unbranded) and basically just take your money and never send you anything. These free accounts are NOT verified so there’s no guarantee that you’re dealing with the company whose name is on that particular profile.

How to avoid this scam?

NEVER deal with FREE/unverified suppliers on Alibaba! Simple!

I have said this many times before, you only want to deal with Gold Suppliers on Alibaba and the more established they are, the better. I personally try to stick with 3rd year + Gold suppliers and if you manage to find a 7th or 8th year supplier then the chances of you being scammed are incredibly small, provided you follow the other rules of course.

This isn’t as common but another trick scammers try is to clone the website of a genuine company, but change the contact details and try to scam people this way. The easiest way to spot these scammers is by doing a Google search for that company’s name as usually the genuine website will show up first.

Secondly, they will usually use Gmail or another free email service. Thirdly, when it comes to paying for goods, they will only accept payment via bank transfer to some weird bank account or the same old Western Union or Money Gram only.

alibaba-scam-4

Alibaba SCAM Nr.4 – Sending money to the boss’ bank account

How does this scam work?

When it’s time to make payment for your order, your supplier informs you that there’s a problem with their bank account and asks you to send money to the boss’ account, which is of course a personal account. You may get lucky and receive your order but in most cases they will simply scam you and send nothing.

How to avoid this scam?

This scam can happen even with legit suppliers sometimes when they try to avoid taxes by funnelling money to personal bank accounts. Either way, you DON’T WANT TO DO THIS so simply never send money to a personal account!

And even if there was a slight chance they are still legitimate, if any supplier offered this to me I would instantly stop communicating with them as the likelihood of getting scammed is just too high.

alibaba-scam-5

Alibaba SCAM Nr.5 – Asking for additional payment for customs clearance

How does this scam work?

A few days after you have paid for your order, your supplier will contact you and ask for additional payment to cover customs fees. If you don’t agree to pay, they say that they can’t get the goods out of China. Quite often they may also provide you with fake courier tracking numbers that have fake information about your goods being held in customs.

How to avoid this scam?

There are no such customs fees to pay when exporting goods from China so if you receive an email like this from your supplier, you have already been scammed and can say goodbye to the money you have already paid. Just accept the loss and move on. DO NOT pay anything extra as it won’t make any difference.

Very often these scammers go even further – once you pay that first additional payment, a few days later they will come up with another excuse that requires yet more money from you. They know that you’ve been played twice by them and they’ll try to milk you for everything they can!

As I said, as sad as it is, if you get emails like these, you have already been scammed and there’s nothing you can do about it apart from accept the loss and move on, and just try to learn from what happened.

alibaba-scam-6

Alibaba SCAM Nr.6 – Selling fake DVDs, software, video games, Blu-rays

How does this scam work?

Suppliers list DVDs, software, video games and similar media products. When you receive them, you find out that they’re cheap, pirated bootleg copies, which are illegal to re-sell.

How to avoid this scam?

DO NOT buy such items from Alibaba suppliers or any Chinese supplier for that matter. You can’t get genuine DVDs, software, video games or Blu-rays from China – they will all be pirated copies, nothing else.

This also includes specialised DVDs like Baby Einstein sets, P90X training programs and similar.

Alibaba has done a good job on filtering out such items over the last few years but chances are you can still find some listed there.

And the same rule applies to any China-based websites, of which there are tons online! Just use your common sense and do the same checks we covered in Alibaba scam 2.

alibaba-scam-7

Alibaba SCAM Nr.7 – Refusing to send samples.

How does this scam work?

When you contact a supplier to ask for sample availability and they say that they don’t do samples and only deal with bulk orders.

How to avoid this scam?

While this may not be a 100% sure sign it’s a scam, I would personally stay away from any such company that doesn’t offer samples.

Getting a sample is the first thing you want to do when you have found a new supplier – just to test the quality of the product and in general verify that this supplier is the real deal and can provide you with products you’re interested in. If they don’t provide samples, something dodgy is going on and it’s really not worth taking any extra risk in situations like these!

With most legit suppliers, they will happily send you a sample of their product if you cover the shipping fee. If the product is very cheap, they often won’t even charge for the product. If the product is more expensive, they may charge a premium price on the sample + shipping, which is understandable as they don’t want retail customers to simply purchase ONE item from them at the wholesale price.

Either way, a genuine supplier will have no problem sending samples over to you and if they don’t want to, for whatever reason, look for another supplier!

alibaba-scam-8

Alibaba SCAM Nr.8 – Only accepting payment via Western Union!

How does this scam work?

When you receive the Proforma Invoice, it says Western Union under payment terms, with information on who to send money to. This is a CLEAR sign that something dodgy is going on!

How to avoid this scam?

Do not send money via Western Union to a Chinese supplier!!! Period.

When you send money via Western Union, you send money to an individual, NOT a company, so you don’t really know where your money is going to end up. It could even be that a sales person working in a legit company is trying to scam you or simply that the supplier is a scam altogether.

Either way, the only payment methods you should be using when dealing with Alibaba suppliers are:

  • PayPal (ideal)
  • Alibaba Escrow
  • Bank transfer (wire transfer) to a company bank account (not a personal one).

The only exception to this rule is when you pay for samples. For samples, if the company looks totally legit to you and you’re not dealing with high risk items, you can use WU, yes, as it’s cheaper and quicker than bank transfer.

alibaba-scam-9

Alibaba SCAM Nr.9 – Selling FAKE memory products!

How does this scam work?

A supplier sells storage products (memory cards, USB sticks and similar) for great prices but when you receive them, you find the capacity is actually much smaller than advertised. For example, you buy 64GB USB drives and receive 8GB ones instead.

How to avoid this scam?

You have to be extremely careful when buying memory products from China as this scam is very, very popular. Everyone knows that the more GBs you get in the product, the higher the price is. But not everyone checks the REAL size of these products! Often, with this scam, the first people realise what has happened is when they get negative feedback from their customers on eBay!

To minimise the risk of getting scammed in this way, here are a few rules to follow:

1) Deal only with established, 5 year + Gold Suppliers.
2) Order samples and check the memory size for each product.
3) Make your first order as small as possible, check the size for all products and only if everything is fine, increase your orders gradually.

As for testing the actual capacity/memory size – it’s not enough that you put the card/USB in your computer and see that it shows 64GB. Scammers are smarter than that – they modify the electronic chips within the product so that it shows the inflated/fake memory size when it’s plugged into your computer!

What you need to do is use specialised software to check the actual memory size OR simply attempt to transfer the maximum capacity to see if it fits or not. So for example if you have 64GB USB sticks, transfer a 63GB file to it – and yes, this would take a LOT of time so if you’re serious about buying and reselling such products, I strongly suggest you invest in some decent diagnostics software.

Lastly – the same NO BRANDED GOODS rule still applies here! Don’t buy SanDisk, Sony and similar branded memory products from China, they will all be fakes! You can only buy unbranded memory products or your own brand memory products from China.

alibaba-scam-10

Alibaba SCAM Nr.10 – Invoice made to a personal bank account.

How does this scam work?

Very similar to the boss’ bank account scam – on the proforma invoice you’ll find that the bank account you need to send money to is a personal one and not the company’s account.

How to avoid this scam?

NEVER send money to a personal bank account!

If wire transfer is the only payment method available, make sure that it’s the company’s bank account ONLY and ensure that the company’s details matches what you see on their Alibaba profile.

Sometimes it can be different though – when a manufacturer uses a sister company, registered as a Trading Company, to deal with all export orders. In such cases, you should still be able to verify this information on their Alibaba profile or company website.

Conclusions

Well there you go – The 10 Most Popular Alibaba Scams! There are of course many more, smaller scams going on, but if you learn these 10 and stick with the rules published in this guide, you’ll reduce your chances of getting scammed to an absolute minimum.

Here are some final, general guidelines to follow when dealing with suppliers on Alibaba:

1) Do your homework. Follow my Alibaba SCAMS Exposed guide to filter out only the BEST suppliers. Cross check your supplier with all 10 scams listed in this post. Communicate with them, ask as many questions as you need to, order samples first and only when you’re 100% sure that this is the real deal and a genuine company; place your first real order.

2) If it looks too good to be true, it IS! I wish more people would follow this simple rule. Too often people get distracted by these impossibly low prices and the thought of the amazing profit they’ll make clouds their judgement… and the result is they’re easy pickings for the scammers out there.

As a general rule of thumb – you WON’T see miracle low prices on Alibaba unless you’re working with massive buying power (like ordering 10,000 units of the same product). In most cases you’re looking at an ROI of 20%-50% when re-selling these imported items. Sure, there are always exceptions but IF the price offered to you is ten times lower than what that item is selling for on eBay, then that’s a clear sign that something dodgy is going on.

3) If you don’t know what you’re doing, just don’t do it, seriously. I know that we all want to be successful and we all want to make good profits BUT some people forget that it takes some time and education to make the right decisions in business. If you’re totally new to this, don’t rush things by placing orders in your first few days. Take your time and gain some experience, even if it’s just via communication with your suppliers.

4) Any business comes with some sort of risk and importing is not an exception. You can follow all the guides in the world and still get scammed. That’s the sad reality and it’s something you have to accept when doing business of any kind. So please don’t use money that you can’t afford to lose (I’m talking about loans, credit cards etc. here).

5) Make informed decisions. Do not let your emotions rule any decision! I know how tempting it may be sometimes to just go ahead with the order, even if some things don’t quite add up. Don’t do it! Stick with my guides and do not make exceptions on your own! It’s better to let a potentially good deal go, than to be sorry later on when you get scammed.

Alright, that’s it for today! I really hope this post will be valuable for many people starting an importing business. If you have any questions or want to share your personal experience when dealing with Alibaba suppliers, please leave your thoughts in the comment box below this post.

Good luck with your importing deals!

Stay alert.

Best Regards,
Andrew


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  1. Hi Andrew, I am in the middle of a huge night with Alibaba’s dispute meditation department.

    Hi Andrew,
     
    I am writing to you with hopes to have your assistance in resolving an issue that I have been dealing with since the 26th of October, 2018. I don’t know which way to turn or what to do next.  I placed an order in the amount of $3,242.90 with a supplier and paid with Trade Assurance. The trouble began when the supplier kept insisting that he did not receive the bank transfer. I provided him with confirmation that I sent the payment with the bank details through Alibaba. He then advised that it was the incorrect bank account and he couldn’t get the payment and I must ask for a refund and meanwhile send another payment to the bank account that he provided to me that is not on Alibaba. At the time I was not aware that he was asking me to break, the policy set forth by your company. I filed a dispute, submitted all the text messages and chat images for evidence. The supplier told Alibaba that he delivered the goods to my agents warehouse in Yiwu City. He sent texts first stating that the driver left the goods at the front door on the 5th of November. He then wrote that the goods were delivered to my agent at Warehouse 1 according to the logistics company. He cannot and has yet to provide any evidence that anyone from my agent’s warehouse signed for goods. I also have texts messages from The supplier on the 9th of November stating that he is still waiting for me to send the second payment while waiting for the first to be returned from Alibaba so that he can arrange for delivery. The document that the supplier’s logistics company presented as evidence is either a fake or his delivery company sent the goods to another location.
     
    I have submitted over thirty images of evidence. I have shown that the was dishonest and tried to conduct business with me outside of Alibaba. I placed other orders with suppliers through Alibaba and they were delivered to my agent’s warehouse with no problems. My agent’s company have very strict procedures to follow when receiving inventory because it is a big place with several large warehouses.
     
    I have done everything that I was supposed to do and obeyed your Trade Assurance agreement. Each time after I wait the required amount of three business days to receive an answer, I get the same response. I cannot believe that my claim and all the evidence that I have provided has been reviewed carefully. The supplier has only shown one piece of paper from his logistics company. He cannot provide proof that the goods were received by anyone at my agent’s warehouse. That’s because they simply were not.
     I went to Alibaba because I trusted that this would be a secure place to source products because of your Trade Assurance guarantee. I cannot afford to lose money.

    It was only after this problem started that I investigated more deeply and read their customer feedback. This is my fault. Unfortunately, I had to learn the hard way. All of the feedback on the company’s profile is negative. With stories just like mine.  How are they allowed to continue trading with such negative reviews? I have no idea what the result of those buyers was.  I have shown through my correspondence with the supplier that he tried to get me to do business with him outside of Alibaba, and the only thing that I was told by the customer service representative is that he was warned not to do it again! 
    As of today, the matter is still pending. The last email I received from the dispute team states that they will call the suppliers logistics company again and I must wait.
    Do you have any advice to offer? I feel so helpless.
     

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Robin,

      Thanks for sharing this with us.

      Obviously, it’s sad to hear about stories like these but unfortunately, I can’t do anything about it… you have to deal with Alibaba directly and try to resolve the situation, what else I can advise you?

      Also, I have never said or promised that Alibaba is a 100% secure place to deal with. Heck, I have multiple posts about Alibaba scams on my blog which obviously shows that there are scammers out there and if you’re not careful, you can get scammed. This is part of the importing deal, part of doing business – there are risks associated with this and you have to understand them very clearly.

      I really wish I could help you somehow Robin but I can’t. I just hope that Alibaba will side with you and you get your money back.

      Andrew

      1. Hi Andrew, you are truly a god send how you unselfishly give your time and assistance to helping people like me. It’ is indeed difficult and sometimes we only
        learn from our mistakes. I was so adamant to not only get my problem escalated, I was able to find Daniel Zhang, the new CEO to Alibaba along with Jerry Hu the VP of the Hangzhou location. I sent emails to both of them with all the evidence attached. I also wanted them to know that the supplier should be removed so that he couldn’t continue doing this to others. And while I cannot confirm if it helped, as I received no response from either of them.(other than Mr. Hu connecting with me on a business social platform), I received a phone call today from the dispute department that I will receive a full refund (less a small
        amount for bank charges). I wanted to write back to thank you for your unbelievable prompt reply. And also to warn others with hopes to avoid the nightmare that I went through. My only saving grace is that I did pay through Alibaba’s Trade Assurance. I STRONGLY ADVISE everyone to thoroughly investigate suppliers, pay close attention to customer feedback and heed the words of caution that Andrew has shared. Good Luck to all. And again, thank you so very much Andrew 🙏🏽

      2. Andrew Minalto

        That’s great to hear Robin! 🙂

        Thanks,
        Andrew

  2. I want to order Fingerlings from alibaba and the company listing is in US. The price is $3/unit. The minimum order is 100 units. I only can pay it via WU and the address is from Georgia. From the photo of fingerlings he send i think the products are good. Is it a scam?

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Nicola,

      Yes, of course, it’s a scam! You can’t get such genuine, branded goods from Alibaba. You will either get fakes/copies or nothing at all.

      If they only take WU as a payment method, that means you won’t receive anything – not even fakes. They will simply scam you.

      Thanks,
      Andrew

      1. Andrew ,

        great page very useful information. just as an FYI on this subject I worked one of these who assured me they had the product . He first tried to get me to pay bitcoin then some other options all similar. when I finally totally rebuked these options he then tried to get me to send WU to a person in Nigeria. All the while listing their selves as a US company.

      2. Andrew Minalto

        Yeah, ANY offer that requires you to pay via bitcoin, WU, MG or similar – they’re are all 100% scams!

  3. Is this scam Im trying to buy a bulk oRder of chocolates like kitkat selling price is$2.00 US FOR Kit Kat chocolate 127g= 40 pcs/carton and 750/box minimum order AND IM ORDERING 5000 BOX and delivering in Philippines and paid them for clearing in custom and deliver to my warehouse

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Sounds like a typical scam to me, yes.

  4. Jonathan Conley

    hello, have you heard anything about assured suppliers out of Canada but payment was made to UAE. I paid yesterday morning and received tracking info from a golden circle logistics. today I received an email stating product was on hold at customs and I need to pay another 1500 usd to get it cleared for duties and taxes. I don’t have a good feeling. should I be worried

    1. Hi Jonathan,

      Did you eventually get your order? Just to follow up with your experience, as I have come across the same Assured Suppliers. Your advice will be greatly appreciated. Thanks.

    2. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Jonathan,

      Yes, you should be worried – you have been scammed.

      You will never see your money again and won’t receive any goods either. Please DO NOT send any additional money to those scammers!!!

      Andrew

  5. Sir Andrew, good day..it might been i was in way of scam? coz as it now didn’t response message. In the first place they made unfortunately 6 unit of cdj-2000 NEXUS2 + 1 djm-2000 mixer as the order but my ordered was only 1 unit. Now the 6 unit are available of my country as the customs clearance and the last once payment is for the delivery charge that was already paid. And now supplier or as agent they are some payment 30% of the total units to be delivered, but i him that my ordered was not exceeded as 1 unit..until now the agent did not attempt my call. How i could report the agent? Otherwise the agent send me a passport copy..if there is problem to post into social media? GADGET-TRADE LIMITED CORP. from GEORGIA.

    Please i need help or suggestions..thank you

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Enrique,

      You have been scammed 100%! DO NOT send any more money to them – you will not receive anything.

      Andrew

  6. I know this post is about Alibaba, and it would have been great to have found this sooner, but I bought a £750 scooter off of AliExpress, the consumer site. The front wheel arrived welded bent, and cost £300 to send back. UPS, the courier I used, had difficulty contacting the seller, and they refused to respond to my messages. I’m not sure if you have any experience in AliExpress’s return policy, but the return details provided were different to the details I found much later at their Alibaba store. It seemed UPS got in touch, because they finally messaged me saying I had to pay customs taxes or the scooter would be sent back. (Which I found would cost £320). It seems like a legit event that could happen, but the seller has been suspicious ever since I bought the scooter and I don’t know how this would affect the automatic refund as the seller might escalate the claim if I go with returning it to UK.

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Kento,

      Don’t know what to suggest really – I have never bought anything like this on AliExpress (for obvious reasons), so have no experience with the dispute process on Ali Express.

      Andrew

  7. There is another kind of scam also existing, where there is a very low price is quoted on the alibaba website – the moment you create the order, the seller changes the order to higher price and adds a big amount for shipping. So, this is a kind of click-bite and if you forget to verify the final price and give order, your money is gone. Be aware !!! – fortunately though Alibaba cautious us with saying that the order is modified but it is all of our responsibility to make sure that the quoted price does not change. I was skeptical for the too low price of the phone but anyway created an order for min order of 100 to see if the seller is genuine. Immediately the seller LKM technologies changed the price of my order to 50% higher price, saying “but there have small mistakes of price please check our price list ” – which has a grammatical mistake and then price increase immediately alerted me to not pay for the order. Everyone beware of this.

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Thanks for sharing this with us Avis, yes, this is quite common strategy sellers use on Alibaba.

      Andrew

  8. Hello Andrew.
    Thanks very much for all your posts about Alibaba. I’ve spent my morning reading them and your replies to comments.
    I’ve been semi scammed by a supplier I met on Alibaba before. I did the necessary checks, and asked for sample, the sample was perfect, then I made my bulk order but I received total opposite of sample, they sent very low qualities. I was unable to sell those products, because every buyer that bought asked for a refund. And I lost thousands of £
    I’m about to try buying from China again, but every supplier I found on Alibaba wants to chat over WhatsApp. Is it advisable to chat with them over WhatsApp please?
    Thanks

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Eunice,

      Thanks for your comment.

      Communication via WhatsApp is ok, I also often use it or Skype to communicate with suppliers as it’s just easier to use than Alibaba’s message system.

      As for quality of items you order – you do want to do pre-shipment inspection to avoid situations like these:

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

      This is the only way to check goods BEFORE you send 2nd payment and before goods are being dispatched from China.

      Thanks,
      Andrew

  9. I put out an RFQ, before I saw you didn’t recommend those, and was receiving texts from suppliers and was communicating back and forth with someone from “Shenzhen Global Supplies LTD”. It was going fine until I asked him to send the sample order on Alibaba. He kept saying that they were a gold supplier, but I couldn’t find the company on Alibaba, Global Sources, or through Google. So at least there have been no scams reported. But he kept insisting on using WE or MoneyGram. You said for samples, WE is fine, but since I couldn’t verify the business on Alibaba, I told him I didn’t trust the company to do that. When I asked for the company’s website, he said they didn’t have one up. But they had been in business for “a long while” and had their image to protect. What image? They’re invisible online! Here’s the kicker. When I asked for his name, he said it was Smith. Mmmmmhmmmm.

    I didn’t see you mention any examples of suppliers posing as Gold supplies through texts, so I thought I’d share that interesting experience. But now I know why you don’t recommend RFQs.

    1. Andrew Minalto

      It sounds like a typical scam to me, glad you did not fall for it! 🙂

      Andrew

  10. Hello Andrew.
    i found an supplier on alibaba with 7 years gold member, accepts Trade Assurance Order and it’s assessed supplier, and has almost 3 diamonds, even accepts paypal.
    the thing is that i want to buy refurbished iphones/samsungs from them. the final cost of the product here in uk will be about 10-15% less then on UK market.
    can it be true?

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Ion,

      If they’re based in HK, it could be true, yes. But not from Mainland China.

      BUT still – chances of you getting scammed are very, very high so I would proceed very carefully, do as many checks as you can and start with very small order.

      Andrew

  11. Artur Maniero

    Hello Andrew,

    I curently have a running Trade Assurance Order.

    Everything was normal: supplier opened the draft order, then I asked for modifications and they did, I have made 30% downpayment via T/T in their CITYBANK account and production has been done (according supplier).

    I was granted with CCIC free inspection once I qualified for that at MARCH EXPO. According supplier, inspection will be made tomorrow or the day after tomorrow.

    Products were purchased FOB registered in the Proforma Invoice attached to Alibaba’s Trade Assurance contract, once my importation brokers could get better price of sea freight then offered by supplier.

    Everything was fine, but today the supplier e-mailed me saying One Touch (Alibaba’s import/export service provider which has to make customs clearance once my order is above USD 5.000,00) has a lot of problems and they can’t use them. Also they said we cannot use our forwarder otherwise they cannot guarantee they can prove products were shipped and may not receive the money (balance payment) from Alibaba.

    They say if we want to go on with our forwarder then it can’t be a Trade Assurance order.

    I just can’t understand and the contract or Alibaba’s rules say nothing about it.

    Is there a actual problem with One Touch? Is there actualy a risk of the supplier not getting paid?

    I do not want to give up Trade Assurance.

    Can you help me?

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Artur,

      I’m very sorry but I can’t help you with this – I don’t work at Alibaba, I don’t know you, I don’t know your supplier etc.

      You will have to work this out between you and supplier and if you need further help, you will need to contact Alibaba.

      I haven’t used Trade Assurance in a very long time so don’t know exactly what’s going on with it lately.

      Thanks,
      Andrew

  12. Dear andrew,

    I have a supplier from alibaba who have made contact with me and he offers scrap/waste metal copper wire millberry for very low price than the LME today. Current LME price for copper is €5500 per MT. And this guy asks $3000 per MT. The Origin of company and product is China. And i think its a joke/scam. Because when i offer him payment method L/C against export documents, inspection certificates etc…with loading&unloading vessel supervision by SGS or bureau veritas at the port of destination, he gets annoyed for unnecessary costs. He says he works only with TT payment or 10% tt 90% lc. So when i ask him send me the third party Quality/Laboratory inspection certificates from SGS or Bureau Veritas, this is how he replies: “Unfortunately Company does not send out past documents to clients. This is because each client will have their own set of documents sent from Seller’s bank to buyer’s bank after shipment is made for the LC to be paid. Moreover, it is not authorized by INCOTERMS to give out past documents to third parties without the consent of the principal client”. Sounds logical isnt it?
    As we continue again he asks 10% TT payment against PI and covering costs for preparing order and the transport.

    I want to believe him, they have very professional website with pictures with logo and warehouse and waste metal products with pictures on there website, i cant find any negative comments on internet. But my alarmbells rinkled at very last moment when i saw this such big company with 10000m2 yard with machine/cranes with only contact details of this guy. Like he is the only worker. No departments, no other managers/directors to contact.

    Normally i dont do business outside EU. I know the local/domestic markets here. if someone offered me this price here in EU, i would laugh in his face. But when it comes from emerging markets you always want to think different and give it a chance. Does it sounds good to be true!!!!! or am i to scared and suspicious.

    And i know that many scams happen in the scrap/waste metal market from payment to the products itself. Because it takes lot of experience to trade it. And even experienced traders get scammed.

    With kind regards,

    1. Andrew Minalto

      If it looks too good to be true, usually IT IS too good to be true!

      It is most likely a scam, yes.

      I’m not an expert in scrap metal but a commodity like this should not be selling under market’s value in any country. At least by that high percentage.

      Andrew

  13. Thank you very much for your article: here is what the supplier is telling me: I bought different items from different suppliers and one is agreeing to send all my goods in one shipment. All my payments were made through trade assurance.
    Now the supplier who is sending the shipment send me this message: “Here is a situation where I need your help.
    We received all your paymeny via Alibaba,now all your payment is in our Alibaba One Touch account.
    Alibaba has a rule for the seller:
    when One Touch account receives foreign currency, declaration at Customs has to be made with the title of One Touch.
    The problem is that our declaration agent made a mistake of Customs declaration title, they made
    Customs declaration with the title of our company instead of One Touch.
    Therefore, we need your help like this:
    First, you start the Alibaba Trade Assurance Order dispute which asks us to refund your payment (the reason can be this: can not reach agreement with the seller regarding payment amount), after this, we will refund all your payment;
    Second, after you receive the refunded payment, we would like you to wire us the payment to our bank account via T/T(telegraphic transfer), after we receive the payment, you have to close the Trade Assurance Order so that all the process is complete. Please kindly do us a favor!”
    here is the message he sent me. Is this a scam?? please give me some insights. i don’t even know if my goods really left China. He will not deliver the Bill of Lading.

    1. Never close a trade assurance order if you don’t have the product yet! It is clearly a scam.

      By ordering via TA, sellers don’t really get hold of your money until you close the order after you received the product.

    2. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Rihana,

      Thanks for your comment.

      Obviously it is hard for me to tell whatever it is a scam or not, purely based on this BUT it does sound like a scam to me, yes.

      Something is dodgy going on there and if you haven’t done inspection on goods, most likely they’re trying to scam you now.

      Andrew

  14. I got scammed from Alibaba. After sending an RFQ request, the supplier sent me some catalogs with beautiful prices on smartphones. Luckily, i’ve only ask for 1 item ( i had the feeling “it’s too good to be true”). I have made the payment via Western Union. According from the person who’s dealing with me (Jones Anne), his boss is coming back from the Chinese New Year, the item will be shipped after the money has been received. The money was collected BUT and the story ended from there. Jones Anne has changed her email from gmail to hotmail (i’ve notice on second scam email). Now, since the payment, there are more scammers sending me more catalogs just like Jones with a similar formats. I have kept all the communications and payments for evidence, HOWEVER, ALIBABA, WILL NOT ALLOW YOU to submit a fraud incident if the company/email address etc. does not exist on their database. There is a leak in the system that sends the RFQ inquiries to the scammers. These CHINESE TRAITORS are disgrace to their country.

    1. Emmaculate

      OMG!!!! Am actually communicating with Jones Anne and the price catalogue its just too good to be true.

      Thank you so much John

    2. Andrew Minalto

      Sorry to hear about that John but you should do some more due diligence before trying to buy branded smartphones from China.

      It’s the most classic scams of all out there.

      Andrew

  15. natnael tsegazeab

    hey Andrew, I was looking for your post and all your replies. your post is very helpful and you’re kind on replying to comments. i’m new to Alibaba, I’ve found the product i’m looking for too quick. after chatting with the supplier for a long time, we agreed on everything except the payment system. I told him that it’s risky for me to pay directly to personal account then he drafted trade assurance for me. do I have to worry now? I mean, is alibaba trade assurance 100% faithful?

    1. Andrew Minalto

      You should never pay to personal account, no.

      Trade Assurance is safer, yes, but you still have to know how it works to use it properly. Read this guide to learn more:

      https://andrewminalto.com/trade-assurance/

      Thanks,
      Andrew

  16. Hamidullah Kaiza

    just to say thank you, very useful

    1. Andrew Minalto

      You’re welcome! 🙂

  17. Hello
    Must I own a registered company in my country before buying from alibaba to avoid difficulty in claiming them….

    And secondly, how authentic are goods sold at alibaba.
    Thanks

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Jeff,

      No, you don’t have to have a company to buy from Alibaba – individuals an also use it.

      Did you read the article? You can’t buy BRANDED goods from Alibaba, they will be fakes! There are no authentic goods on that platform if you’re looking for well known branded items.

      Andrew

  18. Hi Andrew great article.Thanks.I am looking at Ps4 and xbox one controllers.The companies say they are genuine.Do you think they are not.Thanks Graham

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Of course they’re not! It’s a scam.

      You CAN’T buy genuine branded products on Alibaba!

      You’ll either get fakes or get nothing at all.

      Andrew

      1. I should have read this before I done got scammed 800usd n telling me that I have to pay 5500 more for bill of entry good thing I didn’t pay the entry

      2. Andrew Minalto

        You’re welcome!

  19. Hello Andrew

    I’m from México and I recently started with the import business, I want to import toys, I look for sellers in the USA and I found that they want payments in Nigeria because they don’t have in Stock or things like that, only payments with Western Union or Moneygram. As you said the prices and the profits are very attractive so I done the transfer (fortunately the payment didn’t pass ) but before I sent them a photo with the pay done so they sent me a tracking number that I checked in the Website of the delivery company (roseyexpress.com)
    Since we start with the transaction I told the sellers that I wanted the shipment with DHL for security and they said me “when the package arrives DHL delivery you”
    the first page of shipments looks false, they have no privacy policies and many things are copied and pasted images, it’s supposed that the package arrives today if it’s true and I have my things
    I’m going to contact the sellers for the payment…but as I’ve seen the situation, it’s probably a scam. Thanks for the advices and sorry for my bad English 🙁

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Silvia,

      Thanks for sharing this with us.

      Of course it’s nothing but SCAM! You would NEVER see any goods if you send money to them.

      Glad that you didn’t 🙂

      Andrew

  20. Holly Queen

    Hi Andrew,

    Thank you so much for the article. I am a first time importer trying to use Alibaba to import toys. I have contacted and been in touch with several suppliers but have yet to place a trial order. I have reassessed every one I have been in contact with and dropped several based on the suggestions in this article. But I have come across a scenario with at least two or three suppliers that check all the boxes that I’m unsure about. The scenario is that they say they have trade assurance but then tell me they have a minimum of $3000 or similar (over a couple thousand) before they will use Trade Assurance for an order. Is this something I should be weary of? My orders will likely be from 1-3K starting out as I want to test them out as well as test the market for the product.

    How can I protect myself from problems with suppliers if I am planning on making smaller more frequent orders?

    p.s. – Most of the suppliers offer Letter of Credit as well – but I read this is generally not used for amounts under about $6K.

    Thanks in advance for your help.

    Holly

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Holly,

      Thanks for your comment.

      My advice would be to work with suppliers who take PayPal for smaller orders if you don’t want to risk with wire transfers.

      With PayPal you get good protection and suppliers in China know that they can’t really mess things up when PayPal is involved.

      Andrew

      1. Holly Queen

        Thank you!

  21. Hello,
    Great content! However, there are actually some suppliers that tick all the boxes, but still offer branded products. For example, this one https://www.alibaba.com/product-detail/Original-Xiaomi-Scooter-Mini-2-Wheels_60659612134.html?spm=a2700.7724838.2017115.325.39f7e80chwgOeb
    Do you think this 7 years Golden Member also sells a replica?
    Would appreciate your feedback.
    Thanks,
    Jana

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Jana,

      It’s very hard to say…

      Xiaomi is a Chinese brand so it could be that supplier sells genuine items but they could be fakes or scam altogether..

      I would probably do inspection on them before placing any orders.

      Andrew

  22. Hi Andrew, im planning to order remote controlled toys from alibaba. the suppliier im hoping to deal with is an assessed supplier with 1 yr gold and has the company video as well. and has 1 diamond transaction level. he is almost all the time active in chat(99% responsive) (too good to be true though) there was a button saying ”order free sample”. but when i asked for free sample he said no free samples, have to pay $25 for the sample via credit card. he offers trade assurance and many other payment methods as well. i wanted him to deliver the sample to a friend of mine in china.
    my questions are
    1) is an assessed supplier always trustworthy? how did he become an assessed supplier with one yr gold?
    2) are the payments through credit card secure for samples?
    3) is this really too good to be true?

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Asu,

      1) There’s no such a thing as “ALWAYS TRUSTWORTHY” when it comes to suppliers on Alibaba, there are no 100% guarantees EVER!

      2) Yes, as safe as credit card payment can be on any website.

      3) What exactly do you mean by this?

      Here’s the thing – from the sound of it, you’re scared to pay $25 to receive a sample from a good looking supplier? If that’s the case, I really doubt you should be in the business of importing/wholesale as it involves taking risks all the time. If you can’t risk and lose $25, you should be doing something else.

      Thanks,
      Andrew

  23. Hey Andrew,

    I read your post last night, and I’ve got to say that I really enjoyed reading it. It gave me a lot to think about, and there’s a lot of practical advice here. I’m looking forward to reading your other posts regarding Alibaba when once I’m done reading through the comments on this one. They make excellent case studies taken from real-world situations.

    I had the same concerns on purchasing memory cards as a material for a product I’m developing. For the reasons you listed, do you think it’s worth the time and monetary investment to find a memory card supplier on Alibaba? If so, do you think it’d be a necessary precaution to validate the true capacity of each memory card I receive from the supplier before I load files onto it for my products? I only ask because validating the memory cards would not only add a lot of time to production, but it would also be taxing on the memory card. Memory cards only get so many reads and writes before they begin to fail, and the development process requires that I read and write a lot of files to it.

    I found a supplier that provides 16GB, Class MicroSD cards in a reasonable price range: https://www.alibaba.com/product-detail/OEM-TF-card-1GB-4GB-8GB_60666408590.html. I’m new to Alibaba though, so I’m naturally skeptical. Their profile seems to check out with my research: 6-year Gold Membership, 50-unit min order quantity per order (minimizes risk for initial orders), are OEM instead of claiming to be a name-brand, they offer trade assurance, free inspection, and PayPal is listed as an accepted method of payment.

    My only concerns are:
    1) The profile lists 4GB as the only capacity in a few spots (I need 16GB and 64GB)
    2) If PayPal will actually be accepted if I decide to buy

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Travis,

      Thanks for your comment.

      While dealing with memory cards is definitely tricky, you can get genuine un-branded cards from suppliers on Alibaba. To minimise risks, try looking for a well established company (10 years+), with really good profile images, videos etc. A company that SCREAMS – we’re legit! This also probably means to NOT look for cheapest prices, at least if you want to get TRUE size for each card you order.

      And then simply start with a sample order, then small trial order of say 50-100 units – do inspection in China, so that each card is tested for capacity, pay via PayPal and you should be just fine.

      Thanks,
      Andrew

      1. Travis

        Alright, I’ll reach out to a few suppliers I researched last night. Thanks again for everything!

  24. Andrew,

    I’m currently in the process of purchasing my first bulk order on Alibaba. I asked my supplier if they would use Pay pal for first order. At first she said yes we can use pay pal, 50 minutes later she said we no longer accept pay pal only trade assurance. I received an order contract that only covers $1,500 of a $5,000 order for Pre Shipment coverage. I asked her to change it for the full amount and to post shipment coverage for first time order, she rejected this.

    My questions are should I be concerned with the supplier declaring only Pre-Shipment coverage and only 1/4 the amount? If something was to go wrong when I receive the order what I am covered for? Do you consider this a potential SCAM?

    Any advice would be great,

    Thanks

    Marc

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Marc,

      I personally don’t like the sound of it, no…

      Not saying they’re 100% scammers but if they’re not willing to accept full order value cover, what’s the point?

      I wouldn’t do this.

      Andrew

  25. Oliver Santesson

    Hi Andrew Minalto!
    The suppliers i’m ordering a sample from have three branded products on their shop, one from amazon store, one from italian luggage company and one from xiaomi (luggage), however they say its not for sale and only for showing that they can produce similair products, could that be true or is it a scam?
    They have 2 year gold status, paypal , normal website, a company introduction video and a third party verification. However no trade assurance.

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Oliver,

      It could be true, yes.

      Hard to say of course – probably they use those products to get listings in search & new customers.

      If everything else look ok, their explanation make sense.

      Andrew

      1. Oliver Santesson

        Ok, thank you Andrew!

  26. They sell smartphone with very cheap price 350$ for Samsung s7 brand new on Alibaba. Is it a scam?
    “Am sorry we don’t have those payment (only WU or MG)
    We can make an agreement whereby we can ship the items to you first and send you tracking code via DHL and airway bill receipt also which after you get the shipping details you can make the payment that way we have made the first step and shipped the items so you make the payment so that way you can have more confidence in our company”
    What I would do, Andrew?

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Lee, of course it’s a 100% SCAM! Stay away!!!!

      You can’t get S7 phones for just $350.

      Not even close that price. And not from Alibaba.

  27. Steve owens

    If alibaba knows western union or moneygrams are scams, then why allow that form of payment

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Steve.

      They’re as unsafe as bank transfer which is the most common payment method.

      Also, there’s no way you can prohibit use of WU/MG – Alibaba can’t control what you communicate with supplier etc.

      For Trade Assurance orders obviously it’s not allowed.

      Andrew

  28. I’m having a similar issue with an Ebay Seller lotus.online. They sell smartphones at great prices. They are listed as shipped from USA, US but seemed to be shipped from Hong Kong. They have a 97.7 positive rating and I purchased a Motorola turbo 2 which was sold as brand new in sealed manufacturer’s box.
    After the purchase I started going through the actual reviews and found that a fair amount of negative reviews were regarding issues with the device. Many of the positive reviews seem generic being posted by the seller for unlock keys for devices.

    I sent an email to the seller questioning the integrity of their devices and why there is no manufacturer’s warranty and got the following response.

    “In order to control the purchase cost, we didn’t buy official warranty.
    But we provide 90 days warranty from our supplier.
    All of our phones are original and brand new ones with original box sealed and original accessories .
    If the phone has any problem within 90 days . pls email for us to change a new phone or full refund .
    Mandy”.

    Is this a scam? Are the phones safe? How do you verify if it’s a genuine product?

    Thanks!
    Nervous and lost
    Nat

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Nat,

      There are always risks of receiving fake or say refurbished phones from eBay sellers, especially ones that ship from the HK.

      If you’re not willing to take these risks, just buy from a reputable local seller or Amazon.

      Andrew

  29. This page just saved me some money and taught me a ton. I was a little suspicious about the suppliers of Yeti and now my suspicions are confirmed and I learned a lot of other things to watch out for.

    1. Same here, once I laid this info on the scammer he/she ran !!!??

    2. Andrew Minalto

      Good to hear that Glen! 🙂

  30. Bwalya Kangwa

    Hi, I wanted to order something on alibaba, how do I check if one is a 5 year+ gold supplier?

    1. Andrew Minalto

      It does say how long a supplier has been Gold supplier on their profile page.

      So just check their profile page.

      This information is also shown in the search results, right next to supplier name/info.

      Thanks,
      Andrew

  31. i was looking for drones on Alibaba and someone is selling DJI MAVIC PRO FLY MORE PACK for 1200 USD per piece, They retail for about 1500 USD, they have 60000+ sale transactions and 4 years gold supplier, they also accept Paypal, They specialise in selling drones, so is this a scam or real? it seems pretty legit because of their rep. Can you please tell me. it would be greatly appreciated. the company is called Skyline Toys & Gifts.