Several times each day, OptiFuse receives requests for quotes from people and/or companies who have never done business with us in the past. Many times the request comes to us by email with very limited information other than "please quote us a price and delivery for....".
In order to provide the best service to these potential customers, we will ask them a variety of questions to learn more about their particular needs and perform a certain assessment before offering them a price and delivery quote.
We will ask them about the application. We will ask them a little more about their company. We will ask them their current supply chain. We will ask them about their expected usage, delivery demand, and their expected pricing.
Once we have some basic information, we are then in a position to verify that the part that they requested is actually a good fit for their application. (At least 1 out of 5 requests end up being for the wrong part!).
This information is also essential in allowing us to refer the potential customer to the proper sales channel; be it distributor, rep, or direct sales (direct sales at OptiFuse are limited to international customers only).
In general, we always try to help these potential customers, making sure that they have the proper product for the proper application using the best sales channel.
This procedure also works well to ferret out the scammers, schemers, and fraudsters who attempt each day to defraud businesses and individuals out of money and products.
Several years ago, I received a phone call on a late Friday afternoon. It was from a woman who told me she was frantically trying to help her husband find some electrical wiring for a contracting job he was doing that weekend. I explained to her that wire was not our primary business but she persisted in asking me if there was any way I could help her.
I knew that we had several spools of wire (which we use to produce our inline fuse holders) currently in our warehouse. Maybe it was the "damsel in distress" syndrome or the "pay it forward" philosophy that I try live my life by, but it made me want to help this woman with her "desperate" situation. I asked her about the size, type and amount of wire she needed and explained to her that I didn’t have all of what she needed but I could help her out with most of her requirement.
Of course, her company didn’t have an account with us, but she told me that she would pay us with her company’s credit card when she came to pick up the material within the next 30 minutes. The couple arrived a few minutes later, I ran the card, and help them to load the material on their truck.
It was a few weeks later when the bank called to tell me that the credit card was stolen and was used fraudulently and that I, as the merchant, was responsible for the charges. I mistakenly had thought that if I received an "OK" authorization from the credit card processor, I was good to go...I was wrong.
In hindsight, I should have been more careful, but I was thinking about helping someone in need and not thinking about being a victim of a scam. What it turned out to be was a $2,500 tuition payment to the "university of hard knocks".
Now fast forward to Monday of this past week. We received an e-mail from one Mr. Roger Ashbury explaining that he was an American businessman who was running a manufacturing business in Australia. He wanted to purchase a decent quantity of fuses and fuse holders from us for his production.
After asking several preliminary questions, we gave him a price and delivery for the parts he wanted and told him that as a new customer, we would need for him to wire a 50% deposit to our bank before we would start production. He responded by telling us that bank wires are expensive and would he use a credit card instead.
Our "scam radar" was in full-tilt mode due to several factors:
I called the real Mr. Ashbury (as it turns out it was Dr. Ashbury) to tell him that his credit card had been compromised and that he should contact the proper authorities immediately.
Thank you very much for your support of OptiFuse but beware of the people looking to get something for nothing...
This was a much better way to "pay it forward" and I’m sure that Dr. Ashbury appreciated the effort to find him and let him know that his credit card had been breached.
We have been debating whether or not to have the "shipping company representative" come to our offices to pick up his $3600 money order. Instead we contacted the authorities.
I’m happy that the tuition payment I made several years ago allowed me to graduate with honors this week...
...and I hope our story helps to educate others.
We figured that since we told him that the parts would take 6-8 weeks to build, any fraud would be detected long before the parts would actually ship.
- Mr. Ashbury used a Gmail e-mail account instead of a company e-mail account.
- We couldn’t find his supposed company listed in Google.
- He didn’t try to negotiate any pricing and accepted the first price we gave him.
- He didn’t give us a hard copy purchase order but rather told us to use the date and his initials.
- He didn’t give us shipping address but rather he told us that he would arrange for pick-up.
On Wednesday, he gave us his payment information with the instructions that we should charge the card for the 50% prepayment as well as his shipping charges of $3600 (for a package that should cost no more than $400 to send airfreight). He instructed us to charge the credit card and pay his shipping company the additional $3600 with a money order because his shipping company did not take credit cards or company checks.
Now there was no question that this was a scam.
The card number was indeed good and matched the name and address he gave us. A quick Google search allowed me to find the real Roger Ashbury who was based in Atlanta, GA.
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