The name of Alibaba would pop up in your mind if someone said, one of the largest business-to-business e-commerce marketplaces. And that is right, Alibaba is indeed the largest B2B marketplace in Asia, whose operations extend to as far as Europe, North America, Africa and so on. Alibaba acts as an intermediary between suppliers and buyers, wholesale buyers usually.
It wouldn’t be wrong if we said that the more the development in e-commerce, the greater the risks of being scammed. Therefore, buyers are usually skeptical of whether to trust Alibaba with their resources or not. And let’s be honest, Alibaba has a significant number of instances where customers were scammed.
This article takes a look at top ten most common scams on Alibaba that a new customer must be cognizant of and hence, deal with the supplier accordingly.
Scam 01: Offer branded products at prices that are too good to be true, but deliver fake products
This is the most common scam on Alibaba where suppliers offer branded products like iPhones, MacBook, Play Station, electronics, official sports jerseys, etc. at such affordable prices that make a customer irresistible.
However, the products that are delivered turn out to be fake. This is mostly done by Chinese suppliers who manipulate the audience that due to the production of the goods in China, they incur lower costs and hence, the lower price.
Whereas, on the contrary, it is not the case. It is important to know that brands like Samsung have their own distribution channels and Samsung wouldn’t accommodate random sellers selling its brand new S21 for $350.
Therefore, beware of any Mainland Chinese suppliers that are selling branded products at low rates, they have anything but genuine products.
Scam 02: Offer branded products at low prices but deliver nothing
Of the many scams on Alibaba, this one is similar to the scam discussed above, except that here you get nothing – not even a fake version of the original product you ordered.
Again, this scam is most popular among Mainland Chinese suppliers. There are other red flags that distinguish scammers from legitimate suppliers.
One, the payment method. If the supplier asks for payment via MoneyGram or Western Union, then know it’s most likely a scam. Second, if the shipping is via EMS (Express Mail Service), it is most probably a scam. Third, look for offers that are unrealistic and don’t get carried away in excitement, think that why would a supplier sell four iPhone 12 for $400 under a Buy 3 get 1 offer.
Scam 03: Disparity in sample quality and order quality
This scam on Alibaba targets wholesale buyers particularly. It is a normal business practice where a buyer requests a sample prior to placing a bulk order. Now, how some sellers on Alibaba fix scams into it is interesting.
What happens is that let’s say you want to order 5000 basic t-shirts. Now, since it is a large quantity, you would rightfully want to examine a sample and then place an order. You ask for a sample from a supplier on Alibaba and he sends you one which is exactly of the quality you wanted.
Next, you’re satisfied, and you place an order. However, when you receive the merchandise, you see that this is not the quality that was of the sample – you have been scammed.
The only way out of this to get a refund is that you sign a trade assurance with Alibaba and provide all the details in terms of quality and quantity so that you claim a refund if you fall prey to a scam of this sort.
Scam 04: Doctored compliance certificates
This scam on Alibaba is common where suppliers provide the buyers with photoshopped or expired compliance certificates. The need for a compliance certificate arises when the wholesale buyer seeks to sell those goods in markets like that of EU which are heavily regulated.
Buyers who get scammed in this way face repercussions in the face of their goods being denied access into the foreign markets at the stage of customs clearance. To get them through, they are then required to pay hefty sums for their own compliance certificates.
Scam 05: Trade Assurance Scam
In continuation of one of the scams of Alibaba discussed above, here, the supplier initially agrees to a Trade Assurance in order to improve its ranking on the website and to attract more buyers as this would boost their confidence to order.
The part where the scam starts is when the payment is made from the buyer’s end and yet the supplier denies receiving any. They would then ask the buyer to cancel the previous order, which was secured by a Trade Assurance agreement and ask for a refund from Alibaba.
They simultaneously also ask to place another order and pay to their “new” bank account. This transaction not being assured would spare the supplier of any refund claims from the buyer on sending faulty/different products.
Scam 06: Chinese suppliers in the disguise of UK/US based suppliers
In this scam on Alibaba, what happens is that local Chinese sellers create their fake profiles and pretend to be a seller who is based in UK or US – the most trusted seller locations on Alibaba. They use all the legal details of the original company and as well replicate their website to look as authentic as possible.
They then trick the buyers into believing them as legitimate suppliers and after the order is placed and payment received, they usually deliver nothing. And even if they do, it doesn’t match with the product description that they provide on Alibaba.
However, one way to spot such scammers is to check for their payment options. If it is some personal bank account or MoneyGram or Western Union, then your mind should ring a bell. Legitimate suppliers usually accept payments via PayPal or credit cards.
Another way would be googling the website of the company yourself and verify if this is the same link that is provided on Alibaba by the supplier.
Scam 07: Supplier’s email being hacked
One of the scams on Alibaba is where the hackers come into action. They hack the official email accounts of the suppliers using the simple hacking technique of phishing.
After getting access to the supplier’s emails, they respond to the customers and they are notified of some changes in details, particularly in the payment method. The hackers change the bank account details and ask the customers to send the payment to the new account.
After receiving the payment, the hacker’s job is done – he got his money.
How to avoid a scam like this? Always verify any changes made during the transaction personally with the supplier by any means other than email, as the hacker would [also] have access to it.
Scam 08: Unusual increments in the payment
What happens here is that the seller, mostly Chinese, will notify you of your order being held by the customs authorities of China. And, to get them through, additional charges will have to be paid in the name of customs clearance. They even generate a fake tracking ID that shows the buyer that his order is actually stuck at the customs clearance stage.
What is important to note here is that there is no customs fee on export goods in China. This scam on Alibaba is not completely avoidable, but if a supplier demands extra payment in a manner similar to this then you must acknowledge that he is bluffing.
You might not recover the amount you have already paid but can prevent losing any more money to a scam.
Scam 09: Payment via Crypto
Another type of scam that is increasing on Alibaba is where suppliers ask the buyers to send the payment via crypto. One of the main features of crypto is confidentiality – you never know who you are sending the amount to. And what else would a supplier on Alibaba want more than that?
With the increase in the popularity of cryptocurrencies, this scam on Alibaba is becoming popular. Customers do not succeed in retrieving their payment back and usually get nothing of what they had ordered.
Scam 10: Payment methods
Throughout the article, we have discussed certain payment methods being legitimate and illegitimate. Scammers get their hands on the payment and either disappear and send nothing or disappear and send the wrong products.
So, what are the payment methods used by the scammers to scam through Alibaba? If a supplier asks you to pay via MoneyGram or Western Union, then the supplier is a scam. This is because official company accounts are not on them, rather they are individual accounts, and you don’t know where the money will end up.
Lastly, the payment methods used by genuine suppliers are PayPal. Alibaba Escrow, and bank transfer to a company’s account.
Not all suppliers that use MoneyGram or Western Union are frauds, however. Some use this method of payment for the payment of any samples supplied, as both of them are quicker and cheaper than a bank transfer. But this is a very rare instance, and one must scrutinize before trusting any supplier with this payment method.
To sum it up, always look for legitimate suppliers that provide Trade Assurance, have a Gold status on Alibaba, and do not have shady payment options.
It is true that there are risks involved in the business world, but you must do your homework and check for all the relevant details to minimize the unwanted risks like that of payment and quality of merchandise ordered.
We hope that the details provided on the types of scams on Alibaba will prove to be helpful in filtering out the scammers!