Paper Trails

All sellers must have some kind of documentation. In China, companies that wish to import and export must register at their local BIC (business information center). They then must receive a Certificate of Import & Export from Ministry of Commerce and its authorized local agencies. They also have to register with Chinese Customs House and its regional branches before conducting formal business with international businesses. Buyers should ask suppliers for their company number from BIC, as well as a copy of their Certificate of Import & Export.

Scammers tend to use false contact information. They tend to rely on internet contact where they can hide behind anonymity. They use false addresses and false telephone numbers in the contact details on B2B sites. Any buyer should definitely make personal contact. Write down a five-digit code on a piece of paper and mail it to your seller. Let them know (through IM or B2B messaging system) that you have sent them a code, and they have to respond with a message listing those five digits before you can do business with them. This will confirm the address.

Be sure to ask (through IM or B2B messaging system) your seller for their real name BEFORE you call them to find out who answers. If they don't answer, that may be alright. Most of the legitimate companies are enormous, and rely on a reception center for answering calls. If that's the case, you need to confirm that the company you want to buy from is a client of the reception center, and then find a way to get in direct contact with the company. Once you do, confirm the seller you have been in internet contact with is an employee. If nobody answers after calling many different times day, several days in a week, this is usually a sure sign of a scammer.

There's a big difference in receiving a knockoff item, and not even receiving a paper-weight. If your seller can't pass these tests, it's likely they are going to take your money and run. They will ignore your emails, and you'll never hear from them again. If your seller has passed the paper trail tests, and still turned out to be a scammer, they were at least decent enough to exist.

Weapons of Mass Confusion

This is the fun part. This is the part where you really get to mess with the seller's head. What you want to do is just about close out a deal, and then change things. For example, you may find a supplier for Xbox 360 game systems. The seller asks you if would like the invoice. You say something like "Actually, I need those Xbox 360's to come packaged with the red face plate instead of the plain face plates". To most real sellers, this is very unreasonable. To a scammer, this is the perfect opportunity to make more money. The scammer will say something like, "Sure, but it will cost an extra $5 per unit". If you hear a similar response to that, escalate it further to find out how far the scammer is willing to go. There may be things legitimate sellers might do, but with units already packaged, they're not going to go the extra mile. Your next response may be something like, "I also need the power cables wrapped in silver tape to protect them from heat". The scammer will have no problem with that, for a price.

Another tactic here is to pretend to be a seller. Try to sell them (in bulk) the products they are trying to sell you. If they say the price is no good, come down on the price. Be extremely reasonable. You're not actually selling them anything. If they are willing to buy those products to resell them, they're probably a legitimite seller.