I have gotten several requests that have looked legit. One was from a university nearby. That request had all the correct information—web addresses, correct contact name and numbers for the head of the purchasing department. So, I contacted the person at the university, but used their main listed phone number. I learned they were not the people soliciting my services.

I went back to my website and checked the originating IP addresses. (My website captures the originating IP addresses as part of the inquiry record.) That address can be searched on the internet. So far, all those I’ve searched have been bogus. I discovered that the origination points for the IP that made the request originated in Africa. If it looks legit, and I can’t prove otherwise, I try to make contact by telephone with the person.

David Luksh
All Good Gifts & Promotions
Boulder, Colorado


If someone emails you or orders through the website, I would ask for the first payment to be by an automatic clearinghouse (ACH). You can set that up with your bank. There are too many scams and credit cards, as well as checks, that can be stopped. Also, search the address they give you and see what the image of the location is, and call the company itself. Unfortunately, in this day of so many scams, we need to be good detectives.

Meryl Harwood
A Creative Idea
Woodcliff Lake, New Jersey


We get scam calls and emails all the time. One of the main tellers is the spelling and grammar used, and if you can find them on LinkedIn and if the email matches the company instead of being a generic email. You said, “How did they find my website all the way from New York?” but this is how business is done now. We are a four-person operation located in Minnesota, but our second largest customer base is in El Paso, Texas, and our third largest is in Denver, Colorado. Once you have one or two good customers in a location, your business in that area tends to build. This is what you want! Also, the scams we’ve encountered tend to involve tech products. Again, use judgment based on spelling, grammar and overall communication.

Kate Harthan
Corporate Recognition, Inc.
Owatonna, Minnesota


It’s probably a scam. But you can check the WhoIs registration for the URL to see when it was created. If it’s from five years ago, do a further web search for the company and, separately, for the address and for the person. You can learn a lot via such searches. If the WhoIs shows the URL was created last month, that screams scam. If you decide to try the ACH transfer approach, work with your bank to set up an account just for the transfer, so they don’t have access to your real bank information. You can also check the IP address from the email header (in Outlook, Message, Options) to see where the email really came from.

Jennifer Reissaus, MAS
Advertising Specialties Alliance / Kaeser & Blair
Cranberry Turnpike, Pennsylvania


It’s most likely a scam. But if you want to chance it, I would only take pre-payment by credit card or ACH into a separate account that is set up specifically for this purpose. Also, the promise of additional orders in high quantities is a little bit of a red flag.

Tania Frey
Stone Designworks
Brewster, New York


There are two very simple and logical things to be considered:

If it’s too good to be true, it probably isn’t.

Why would anyone send you an order that is unsolicited?

Someone you don’t know, contacting you, where there are probably hundreds of options of suppliers nearby? When I do an order, I have to go through a process with my customers to submit ideas, quote prices, get purchase orders, etc., and that’s with existing clients. It’s your decision, but there are many ways to verify a customer. But you’re more than likely wasting your time. By the way, another lesson to be learned: credit card companies hold the merchants (that would be us) responsible for fraudulent charges, even if the credit card authorization goes through.

Mark Suchanec
Total Sales & Marketing, Inc.
Warrington, Pennsylvania


I’m going through a situation with a fraudulent order that was just disputed right after delivery, as it was too good to be true. In the beginning, I asked in Promo Connect and received some responses that the order might be fraudulent, but it was so tempting that I was blindsided. Please beware. Don’t try it the expensive way, as I’m now at a loss for $7,724.14. I still hope to get this money back. In short, I placed an order by email, paid by credit card in full and I even requested a copy of the customer’s ID and credit card and received it all, but afterwards I noticed all the documentation was fake. The next day after the delivery, it got disputed with the claim that this was a stolen credit card, but the customer wanted even more.

Joel Stern
Sterlion Creations
Spring Valley, New York


You might be seeking a solution for a problem that doesn’t exist. I suggest you call your new customer and thank them for their business. Ask them how they found you, then ask a few questions about their company, so you can help them grow their business. You can certainly build a mutually beneficial relationship with customers you haven’t met. Sometimes, they are the best kind. Good luck!

David J. Hawes, MAS+
Minnetonka, Minnesota


The lesson is if it sounds too good to be true, it probably isn’t true. My question when I see these emails is always why would this person randomly select me for this large order with a high dollar amount? It never works out well. I’m sure the big online-only sellers have a bunch of checks and balances in place to weed out these scammers. We smaller guys must be extra vigilant.

Allan Clair
A&A Specialty Advertising
Fort Myers, Florida


This is a tough lesson to learn. We just need to ignore these scams. They all have a common theme to them and it’s sickening. As small-business owners, we need to be vigilant on every order we take and validate and vet each new customer and order thoroughly prior to investing in anything. I would suggest possibly setting up a Gmail account for your business that you can use to communicate with them instead of your actual business email, as I’m sure they sell legit email addresses to each other, which only helps propagate more and more of these scams.

Richard Anderson
AAAA Designs LLC
Morrison, Colorado


Do You Have An Answer?

A Distributor Asks: I’m curious about how other distributors handle clients backing out of orders. It doesn’t happen often, but I have had clients request samples and place the order, and after I send over a proof, they back out of the order. I also have had clients request samples without ultimately placing an order. It’s not a big deal when it’s a small promo item, but when they request a couple of jackets or polos for sizing, it can be a little expensive. I don’t want to nickel-and-dime my clients, but at the same time, these seem like very avoidable and inconvenient expenses for me to eat.

What’s Your Answer? Email answers along with your name, title and company name by February 20 to Question@ppai.org for possible inclusion in an upcoming issue of PPB magazine.


Danielle Renda is editor of PPB.