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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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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.


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,

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

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Yes, that’s in case if website sells BRANDED products Pat.


  2. Is it true that Alibaba’s trade assurance doesn’t work for phones? I was trying to order phones and the supplier said that trade assurance doesn’t work for phones.

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Mark,

      First time I hear about this, I don’t think it’s true, no.

      Most likely you’re trying to deal with a scammer.


  3. Hi Andrew,

    What’s the best method of payment for purchasing the freight for samples? I have sellers on alibaba telling me that the samples are free, we just have to pay for shipping. Cool, that’s understandable. But they only accept money from WU and I NEVER do WU regardless of how small the price may be. Just being overly cautious.

    I’ve read your post so I know you mentioned WU is an exception but is there typically other methods of payment to pay for freight when suppliers are sending samples over?

    Supplier is in China, I live in the US so freight cost was estimated $38.

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Alan,

      Usually PayPal is used to pay such small amounts to cover shipping for samples.

      But as some suppliers don’t take PayPal, WU is often used too. Just like you I don’t like using WU at all but if the supplier looks very good and they can’t accept PayPal, WU is your only option.

      You could do wire transfer too of course but the fee will be very high compared to amount you send.


      1. Thanks! I’ll keep that in mind.

        Also, if they’re an “Assessed Supplier” on Alibaba then that generally means that they’re legit and has already had an inspection personally performed by whoever Alibaba sends, correct?

      2. Andrew Minalto

        Yes, that’s correct.

  4. Tim Kretschmer

    What you forgot is the following scam

    highest quality sample, even higher then requested – cheapest shit in bulk order. happens lot in fintess clothing sector

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Tim,

      Very good point, yes.

      Quality of products is whole another issue I should cover in a separate post.

      This is more about pure scams of not receiving anything at all.

      But thanks for your comment!


  5. Thank you very much for this post. It has helped me to understand more about scammers in Alibaba

    1. Andrew Minalto

      You’re welcome Aldo!

  6. Ken Marvin

    Hi Andrew!
    Thank you for doing this! I am contracting with AYSE food trade ltd. the man that I am dealing with claims to be the CEO Omar Atousi.
    Is there a way for me to find out if this is real?

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Where is that supplier located, in China?

      You can do a factory inspection on them and find out who runs the company:


  7. They are 7yr gold
    Accept PayPal and sample is 60 dollars arrives in 7 days my order tota is 2000 I’m just a little worried also I don’t know how the shipping works out?

  8. So I want to buy my stores customized paper bags from alibaba but I have no idea how picking up at a port works or how much they charge or process

    1. Andrew Minalto

      please contact a freight forwarding company who can explain you how this process works, how much it will cost etc. etc.


  9. Hello I’m currently looking for a shopping bag supplier for my clothing a stores in Dominican Republic it’s very cheap to have them made with your logo I have quotes from different companies but I’m a little worried about placing an order since my total is almost 2000 dollars also I asked for a sample and the fee is 100 dollars they said they would refunded after I place the order I don’t know what to do should I get sample and see what happens

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Marie,

      You need to verify supplier, if all looks good, proceed with samples, if they look good, then do factory inspection, if that goes well – then do the full order.


  10. agree with rest but first scams, If one is trying to get branded product from china, he does needs a lesson 😛

  11. Thank you Andrew
    But it’s to late for mw i got scamed a week ago they got me for $605.00
    I wanted a electric tike after they got my money by wire transfer all communication stop have not receive confirmation at all .i was heartbroken.but move on i still looking for a electric tike
    They give the fake ivoice .i have not told anyone other then my bank but there is nothing to be done .i don’t believe now that they were Alibaba.com. of did they get my info some how .but now that i have you guide i am better EDUCATED to how these people are.i believed that i did all my homework but i got an F.
    Thank you

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Tammy,

      Sorry to hear you got scammed and didn’t get my info on time.

      Luckily it’s just for $605. There are people who get scammed for thousands.


  12. Hello Andrew,

    Supplier ask me to pay USD 50 for the samples if I will pay through Money Gram , but if by regular wire the price come to USD 100….is is normal ?

    Thanks & Regards,


    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Jack,

      Did they explain why there’s such a huge difference?

      To me it sounds dodgy…


      1. Hello Again,

        Thank You very much for a quick reply.

        This is what they say ;

        “The courier fee is USD 50.
        For T/T,the bank charge is USD 50.Then the total fee is USD 100.
        For Western union,the total fee is USD 50.

        T/T and western union ,which one will be convenient for you ? ”

        Is it possible that banks in China charge for incoming payments ? I have never seen sth. like that in Europe.



      2. Andrew Minalto

        Hi Jack,

        50 USD fee to accept bank transfer? Ridiculous.

        It sounds like they just want you to pay them via WU, that’s all.

        WU is going to person’s name, not business/company and probably they (for some reason) don’t want this money to go into books.


  13. Hi Andrew,

    I went with a supplier and they say they do not want to pay the custom clearance fees even though it was FOB . The reason is because they say they can’t use their company to export since I transferred the money to their company account in RMB instead of their USD account (which is a personal account and I refused).

    So I say fine, since is a small number (the charges was given by my forwarder, not theirs). This was after the products are already on ship. For the cargo, I have sent someone to do quality check (but not loading check).

    But now they asking if I can re-transfer the money to the personal account since they can’t close the account! This is not a problem, since balancing their account is not my problem, I can simply refuse.

    Now what I’m worried about is they have yet release their Bill of Lading (which is another scam I read from other site). I really do hope nothing goes wrong with my shipment!

    Gosh, exporting is really a non-stop thriller.

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Eric,

      Yes, problems like these can happen to anyone and even with what seems like a totally legit company.

      You really need to get that Bill of Lading. If they refuse to give it, it could be a sign of some sort of scam.


      1. Hi Andrew,

        Thanks for the reply.

        Usually, how long does it takes for them to release bill of lading and what are the procedures involved?

        It seems quite vague in this area since all the website just say “Then your supplier should release the bill of lading”.

        I was like: “huh, like how?”

  14. Hello, a gold member who has been on alibaba for 7 years want me to send 300 dollars to them via miney gram for an iphone 6 sample. Does this sound leget. I see res flags but theyve been around for 7 years. India seller btw. Not chinnese.

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Brian,

      $300 for an iPhone 6?

      Are you serious?

      It’s a SCAM! You can’t get iPhones for that price and Alibaba is NOT the place to look for iPhone suppliers!


  15. Hi andrew,

    This is my first time using Alibaba. I plan to buy solar charge controller from Shenzhen Hehejin industrial co. Ltd. (www.Y-solar.com). In alibaba their status is 1 year gold supplier. After having communication with them, we’re making a price deal by email and whatsap then they offer the transaction made directly to them (not under alibaba anymore) payment recomend use paypal. the reason is because they can give better price when shopping directly to them due to courier cost.
    Is this common happened when we go through the supplier and they offer direct sell ? Which one is recommended (proceed through alibaba use trade insurance or directly to them)?

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Najib,

      This is quite common practice but you still have to be careful, as they’re only 1st year Gold supplier.

      Def. start with sample order and see how it goes.

      As these are technical products, you want to make sure quality is there plus have to have solid agreement in place with supplier on what happens with defective items, how you deal with items under warranty.


      1. Thank you for your quick response,
        I will check more details about thr product warranty and try sample first.

  16. Hi !
    Thanks for this informative post.

    I’m new to Alibaba and I asked for 6 sample of hinges. We agreed on a price and I placed a trade assurance order, paid by credit card and the supplier validated it.

    They then sent me :
    “Please be informed that we got a problem with shipping by the way of trade assurance. So please cancel this order immediately. We will contact with you by email, and deal with you by the other way. We really hope for your comprehension. Thank you.”

    “We have a problem with the courier from alibaba. The price is so high, higher than we made for you. So we would like to use our forwarder to ship to you. We really hope for your comprehension, any inconvenience for you will be so sorry. ”

    The seller called Dongguan Shengang is a 3 years gold member.

    What should I do ?

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Alexadre,

      You should probably just cancel that order and get your money back.

      Then you can arrange another sample order directly with supplier or look for other suppliers, if this one seems dodgy to you.

      Hinges is not exactly a high risk product, so it could be that they made a genuine mistake in shipping costs calculation.


      1. Alexandre

        Hi Andrew

        Thank you for your express answer it’s reassuring.
        I opened a dispute and will see what happens !

        Good continuation

      2. Andrew Minalto

        no worries, you’re welcome Alex.

      3. Alexandre

        Well it looks worst and worst in my opinion. As soon as I opened a dispute they played dead. The 5 days are over now and I escalated the dispute.
        Looks like I may have to pay 200$ for a quality inspection fee (to alibaba) even if it’s not the problem (they refuse to send the product, not a quality problem).

        So wait and see.

  17. Ok I wish I had found and read this first! Here is my story. About 2 weeks ago I reached out to a company on Alibaba called Beauty Centre Inc AKA SKS Cosmetics. They are located in the UK. We had started out messaging thru Alibaba message center than I was told to email them for further business. I reached out to them via email inquiring about the price on several different brands. My total for all was $825 but was told that $800 would be accepted plus I would be receiving 55 more pieces since I purchased 330 total. I made payment of $800 to a Jimmy White which was located in the USA?? I thought that was extremely odd. After 2 days of not hearing anything I sent email to a Philip Logan who I had been dealing with asking about status. I received a reply that I needed to send additional payment of $200 per their shipping company to ensure protection coverage for my goods?? I was upset and refused but he kept telling me that it was for my own benefit and that they were sorry this happened but assured me of getting my money back by the DHL carrier. I called DHL of course was told that their carriers do not carry cash to give receivers refunds of course I already knew this. However, I sent payment anyway again to this Jimmy White person cuz I wanted my stuff and than a day after I received email with tracking for advent freight service. I checked tracking and it seemed to be legit as it hit Canada than all of a sudden it showed arrived in Greenland than next day Iceland departure held by customs. I reached out again to Philip asking what was going on and he replied that he’s so sorry but customs is demanding $650 to release my goods?!? At this point I was very upset and I told them exactly how I felt and how they are nothing but a scam and that I filed a complaint with alibaba supplying them with all supporting documentation to back my claim up. They kept saying sorry and that he would contact his boss to see what they can do. He responded back me saying his boss will pay for $350 but I need to pay the $300 and my goods will get released ASAP. Sooo their I go again sending money gram of $300 but this time to United Arab Emirates. I than checked the tracking a day later and it says released by customs in transit. I guess I would like to know Andrew is if this Advent freight is made up tracking system of some sort. I know I got jipped but I’m hoping my goods are on their way and the status I’m showing is true.

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Sandra,

      Thanks for sharing this with us.

      I’m very sorry but this is a classical scam – you will never see those goods or your money again…

      Costly mistake made by trusting wrong people.


  18. Julie Futoran-Ulsted

    Hi Andrew,

    First off, thank you so much for this article. It’s been very helpful to read; I really appreciate your insight!

    I am in need of a bit of advice. I’ve found a few companies on Alibaba that happen to be Indian ones, so I guess my first question is, does all the advice in your article apply to Indian companies as well? The product that I would like to source just doesn’t seem to be available in China, otherwise I would have tried to pursue it that way. However both of the Indian companies are Gold Star Members (one 8 years, and the other 2). I’ve done the research, so I know that the product would do well on Amazon, which is where I plan to sell it. I have been taking a private label class offered by a well known FBA private label podcaster and entrepreneur here in the U.S, who recommends only paying companies via PayPal or VISA and using Alibaba’s Escrow services. He also recommends only ever doing T/Ts with companies once trust has been fully established with them, preferably via several large transactions. So payment has been my biggest obstacle so far because all the sources I’ve found for this product only take L/C,D/A,D/P,T/T,Western Union, or MoneyGram.

    I am currently looking into finding a Sourcing Agent in order to help me source with reputable companies in India for my product that I could trust doing a T/T with, since this seems to be the most common method of payment there.
    Do you think this is a good idea or necessary? Any other thoughts or advice regarding my situation would be much appreciated.


    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Julie,

      Thanks for your comment.

      It’s hard to give you definite answer but in general, you should be fine if they’re long established, Gold Suppliers.

      For added piece of mind, do factory inspection (you can find such service in India by doing Google search) and of course get samples first.

      As these companies can’t offer safe payment methods, it will be riskier than dealing with Chinese companies, yes, but if you can’t find those products in China, I guess you have no choice here but take that risk.


      1. Julie Futoran-Ulsted

        Hi Andrew,

        Thanks so much for your speedy reply!

        Doing factory inspection does take out some of the risk, thanks for this advice!

        So, I take it you don’t recommend using Sourcing Agents or Sourcing Company?


      2. Andrew Minalto

        I don’t, no.

        At least in my experience, it has been nothing but hassle to deal with another middle man.


  19. Hi Andrew,

    What a lovely post for newbees. Very discriptive. I am planning to import few car DVD players from alibaba.com. I contacted few sellers on alibaba. Although i recieved very economic quotes from many suppliers but none of them are willing yo pay for the shipment. I even asked them to ship the items through china post or HK post but they said that as the item weighs more than 2 Kg, the item cannot be shipped through regular mail but just express mail. The shipping charges are almost equivalent to the actual product price. One supplier i.e Guangzhou haoye electonic technology co. Ltd. Agreed to ship the samples through aramex without any charge(free ddu). He says that the payment through alibaba.com is somewhat hectic and we can use aliexpress as the sample order platform. I also agreed as aliexpress has escrow. The rates provided by haoyetech are almost 10-20% cheaper than any other competitor and nobody else is providing free express delivery. I plan to order few samples that will be nearly 200USD. Should I go ahead with the deal.

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi There,

      Why are you expecting free delivery on samples or real order for that matter?

      There’s no such a thing as free shipping – even if it does say free shipping, seller just ads shipping costs to product price.

      As business owners, we always want to know REAL product price and then shipping – separately, so we can calculate best shipping methods, how they affect landed cost etc.


      1. ABHINAV

        Hi Andrew,

        I really appreciate your promt reply. I want free shipping just for samples. I have a fair idea of the shipment costing. As I am odering just the samples currently for quality checking purpose I am expecting free shipment for the samples. Once I will finalize the products i will ask my importer to get the goods picked up from the sellers factory after third party inspection. As the quantity will be high I might order a full container of mixed materials which will cost me much less on freight charges. After the goods land at kolkata, India port, my custom clearing agent will do the rest. What I wanted was to shortlist the manufacturers to buy samples and then further shortlist to the final product and manufacture. I came across this company who have been exchanging mails and messages since a couple of weeks. Just wanted to check if they are legitimate or scammers.

        Thanks a lot
        Abhinav Gupta

  20. Hey Andrew,

    (This article seems very very wonderful! Chinese scammers and Pakistan scammers are the worst. I’m of Chinese descent and I am very ashamed of the bad Chinese people who are ruining good Chinese citizens. Actually. Chinese scammers are very common there because Alibaba’s HQ is in Hangzhou.)

    I searched Alibaba for bluetooth wireless headset. This is what I found is very good. http://www.alibaba.com/product-detail/SX-991-4-1-Sports-Stereo_60299378000.html?spm=a2700.7724838.0.0.NAIvfC ( sorry ) This is from Mainland China and Shenzhen Shuaixian Electronic Equipment Co., Ltd. is a 8yr gold supplier. Payment Terms:T/T,Western Union

    Is this a scam? I need help!


    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Mars,

      At first glance they look ok to me!

      have you ordered samples from them?


  21. Yasser Malik

    oops, I do apologise, I do believe I forgot to add the link.




  22. Yasser Malik

    Hi Andrew,

    I’m looking to purchase 300 tons of Caustic Soda via Alibaba, only concern is that most suppliers appear to be asking for a 30% deposit. Whilst I understand this is normal practice in China, even the suppliers on Alibaba whom offer Trade assurance appear reluctant to do so despite it being free.

    Their excuses make no sense so I wonder if this is a way to avoid paying tax? as with trade assurance a proper invoice must be produced and verified.
    I was wondering if you could take a look at the supplier we have vetted – we sent a representative to see their warehouses and offices – the factory was in Inner Mongolia, which based on other suppliers appears normal since raw material costs are cheapest there. They offer trade assurance, are gold members and verified for 8 years but seem reluctant to do it as I said. There is also a possibility that they are a trading company, which isn’t too big an issue as we will arrange port testing with Bureau Veritas, the concern we have is more to do with the Deposit and safely sending it without the worry of the supplier running off with it or failing to fulfil its obligations! – afterall, it is in the region of 40,000 USD.

    Here is the link to their alibaba account. Do take a look and let me know what you think? and if paying the deposit is okay even if it is done via TT and not through trade assurance.

    Kind regards,


    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Yass,

      They look ok to me and if you have done on-site inspection, you probably should know better anyway.

      As for payments and everything – you should INSIST that deal go through Trade assurance, period. Unless you can arrange a L/C option for this kind of deal, that should work too.


  23. What is a on site inspection i heard u do it when u are happy with samples. And about tocget a bigger order is that right?

  24. stevenmyers

    Hi Andrew,

    Wow your such an inspiration. Thank you for all your time to put posts i personally infinitely appreciate. Im wanting to start but would you tell me how would it be easier to find business opportunities how to niche down and find a category that will sell ? And also the part of customs wasnt that clear to me should i even ask about the subject to supplier or just assume that everything is taken care off ?

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Please check out other posts on my blog that cover your questions in detail:


  25. I am looking to place my first order on Alibaba which comes to $600 for 100 pieces of goods including shipping. The supplier looks genuine everything checks out, 5 years on site, and verified with on site inspection and they specialise in manufacturing one type of goods. A few people sell the same product on eBay selling upto 10 of the item each day. Profit works out at £3.00 per unit after everything paid (shipping, cost of units, eBay fees, postage to buyer and PayPal fees). Everything checks out, doesn’t look to good to be true, not branded and I’m 99% sure these are the manufacturer not reseller)
    They said payment either by western union or Paypal, obviously I choose PayPal, they want me to pay 5% to cover there PayPal fee which I think is fair.
    My main question is when paying through PayPal what sort of information is needed on the PayPal invoice to be covered for buyer protection? I was sent an invoice with product title, unit number and total cost that was about it, with her address and name. What else should be on the invoice? I have asked her to put in the t&c’s, the shipping info and when the order will be shipped by and to what address and just waiting for a revised invoice.
    Also when I talk on Alibaba through messaging and live chat always the same person and the PayPal account which sent the invoice is not a company one just her own one, but I’m sure that she owns the business through research.
    What are your thoughts on this please.

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Luke,

      The company looks ok to me, it’s not a branded product and not really a high risk niche.

      So I think with PayPal payment & everything else you’ll be fine.


  26. Wish I had read this before I rushed into buying on alibaba. Lost $2,600 on a deal with a guy from Saudia Arabia that was clearly too good to be true. The person set up a fake escrow email that requested me to send money to an individual bank account in Germany. So embarrassed I haven’t told my family and doubt I ever will

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Sorry to hear about that Paul.

      At least now you’ll know exactly why things went wrong there….


  27. I am new to Alibaba and have a few questions that I hope you can help with. I am interested in purchasing 1000 wall mounted bottle openers for resale. This could be an on-going thing. After reading some comments, is the best possible scenario to find a manufacturer that is a gold supplier that is willing to send a sample first? Also, use someone that offers Paypal funded by a credit card and has Trade Assurance?

    As far as shipping goes, do I need to worry about filling out any Customs paperwork, or is that done by the supplier? Does the shipment come directly to my address?

    Sorry, a newbie!

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Jim,

      Thanks for your comment.

      YES, to part one.

      Shipping – I guess that you’ll be shipping these via a courier company? Then you don’t have o worry about anything as courier company will get paper work done and deliver package right to your door, yes.


      1. Jim Lanza

        How about using a pre-paid “credit card” that is not associated with my bank account?

      2. Andrew Minalto

        Hi Jim,

        What difference does it makes? You mean to protect your credit card safety when dealing on Alibaba?


      3. Jim Lanza

        When placing an order, it also requires to upload the contract. Is this something we create? Any suggestions?

  28. What do you think about this website and product? It’s not a knock off from what I can tell because no other companies make this board and the website only sells skateboards. I want to request a sample and they do offer those so right now I’m not seeing any issue. What do you think? Thanks!

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Alex,

      It looks ok to me! You should be safe ordering a sample from them.

      But before you do, make sure you do some research online to find if there are no patents on this kind/type of skateboards.


  29. Hi!i just try to order iphone 6 s plus 64 gb,5pcs.each pcs cost $350..they said 2 pcs free also..but its from germany,yet i didn’t send money through escrow,i fell like scam this,can you please sugest mr.

    1. Andrew Minalto

      It’s 100% SCAM!!!

      Stay away.


  30. Hi man
    I really appreciate your valuable post
    i contacted a manufacturer on alibaba, hey agreed on sending a sample. and they said tha they accept Escrow. They 7yrs Gold membership with trade inssurance. They’re putting their manufacture video.
    Whats your opinion about them.

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Josef,

      I can’t tell you whatever supplier is safe or not from just this info.

      But they sound safe enough to order samples from, then you can do further investigation in them.


  31. Cant EMS deliver to the Uk? As company im dealing with said they will send via EMS or if over 25 pieces, DHL.
    Thanks in advance.