Southfield, MI – September 11, 2013— The Better Business Bureau Serving Eastern Michigan (BBB) is warning “home party” consultants from popular companies such as Thirty-One Gifts, Avon, Lia Sophia, and others about a recent scam targeting unsuspecting sales representatives. This scam is a new twist on the “fake check” scams the BBB has investigated in the past.
According to complainants, consultants are contacted by an individual via email asking to purchase products and the parties engage in an email back and forth about the products and purchasing procedures. Sometimes it is a straight request for products and other times, they indicate their own sales representative is not available.
An example email that a Thirty-One consultant received from two different senders is below. Consultants should note the punctuation errors and awkward grammar which is a typical red flag in scam emails:
“I want to order some 31 gifts products with your assistance,I found your Contact email address from the thirtyonegifts website .I was made to understand that I could order some of these products through a consultant without using a credit card.Let me know other forms of payment aside credit card so that I can send you my list.”
The process of ordering progresses in a typical fashion, until the “consumer” sends an email about an urgent situation involving them having to “overpay” the consultant by check and asking the consultant to cash the check, keep the amount for the merchandise and then wire the remainder of the amount back to the “consumer.” As with many other fake check scams, the check looks very authentic and the sender mentions some sort of hardship or urgent situation that necessitates the one receiving the check to send money back, almost always via a wire service.
An example of one urgent situation:
“…there is a little bit of problem or mixed up.I am currently attending a Christian Conference right now and I instructed one of my Clients to facilitate the payment to your address. The Problem is that I just read a mail from my Debtor's new secretary that she sent out the whole amount she owed me to you instead of her to send you the exact amount of the items I ordered from you… Please consider this a favor that I want you to do for me right now because I sensed you have integrity to maintain. Please once you receive the check, deduct the amount for the items and help me send the remaining balance to my daughter's event planner. She would need it for her wedding logistics and preparations…Once you receives the check, have it deposited in your account so that funds can be made available within 24hrs -48hrs to get my items ordered and help my Daughter wire $1,450 to her event planner by western union.”
In this instance, when the consultant did not immediately cash the check and wire the money back, the “purchaser” begins to put more pressure on the consultant to cash the check, stating increased urgency. Unfortunately if the consultant takes the bait, cashes the check, sends the product and wires the money, they will find out in several days that the check was counterfeit and they have lost the money they wired as well as the cost of the merchandise they sent.
Until a financial institution can confirm the funds have been “finally collected”, the consultant is responsible for any funds they may withdraw against that check deposit. The amount of time it can take for the bank to finally collect the money can vary, particularly with out-of-state or out-of-country checks.
“Our independent sales consultants have been approached by these email scammers before,” said Sara West, senior manager of public relations at Thirty-One Gifts. “As part of their sales support and training, we have provided instructions to them that match the information provided by the Better Business Bureau. We suggest they do not attempt to cash the check or fulfill any product orders, and notify the FBI or Internet Crime Complaint Center.”
BBB Tips for home sales consultants accepting checks as payment:
Be leery of checks received from unknown individuals and those contacting the consultant independently of a scheduled party.