I have heard of so many scams on the web that for me it usually takes just few seconds to spot the signs of a scam operation. However, there are some pointers, which could help you to determine whether the supplier is legit or not. Here goes my easy 10-step filter system:
1. Domain Name
This is a small one. If you see a popular brand name in the websites domain name, it’s almost a guarantee that it’s a scam. Scammers widely use domain names containing Brand names to build trust. Domains like Nike666.com or iPhone333.com and similar ones are clear signs that a website is a scam and won’t be online for a long time.
Also, try to avoid cheap domains like .info, because they could be used to build a large network of sites to save money on domain registration.
2. Who Is database
Who Is data base simply gathers and archives domain registration information. You can go to WhoIs.net and find out when a particular domain name was registered and who registered it. There are two things you’re interested in:
a. When the domain name was registered. Common sense dictates that the longer domain name has been registered, the better are chances of the company being legit. Of course, this is not always the case as there are hundreds of new companies registering their domain names on a weekly basis. Just be cautious when dealing with recently registered websites.
b. Domain name’s registrar name – Who Is data base will show you the person’s name or the company who registered the domain name.
3. Alexa Rank
What is Alexa rank? To cut a long story short, it shows how many visitors visit the particular website. The figure shown by Alexa isn’t the number of visitors but the website’s place in Alexa’s rank, 1 being the Most visited site in the World. So if a website has Alexa rank of 100 000 – it’s the 100 000th most visited site in the World.
These numbers ARE NOT very accurate but generally can be used as a good guideline. If Alexa rank is below 1000 000, website is consider to be fairly active. And same time, I can check reputation and other details shown on Alexa website, such as Top Search Queries.
Some websites can have Alexa rank of only 10 million and still be legits, though. Especially in tight niche markets where the demand is much lower. That’s why you want to look at the reputation and other details.
4. Contact Email
This one is very simple – if the contact e-mails on suppliers website are hosted on FREE online service websites (Hotmail, Yahoo etc.), it’s a sure warning sign of a possible scam operation. Why? There are two reasons behind it:
a. Serious companies will always use their own e-mails.
b. There are lots of scammers on the Internet who copy other companies’ websites and just change the contact details and the websites’ names. This way they instantly get nice looking websites with a full product catalog for free. They just use their own e-mails for the contact page.
Now, when you contact a person who uses Hotmail e-mail address you’ll never know whether the person actually works in this company. It could be just a clone website!
5. Payment Options
What payment options are available?
If they accept Western Union or Money Gram – it’s most likely a scam. But keep in mind that when dealing with suppliers from China, in most cases you won’t be able to pay by credit card.
Wire transfer, although totally un-safe, is commonly used payment option. Some companies accept PayPal for regular customers.
6. Company Information
What kind of company’s information can be found on the website? Is there a full address with the company’s registration number, phone number and fax number? Sure, this all information may be made up, BUT if the website doesn’t have any information apart from a weird contact e-mail, it’s most likely a scam.
7. Google Search
Why not enter the company’s name or the website’s name in Google’s search and see what comes up? Do not underestimate other people’s opinion & experience – if there are bad, negative reviews, leave that supplier alone and move forward. Also, if you can’t find any Google search results for the particular company’s name, it could be a sign that something dodgy is going on.
8. Products for Sale
Just wanted to remind you – if there are branded electronics, designer clothing, shoes & handbags, DVD Box Sets for sale on the Chinese website, it’s a clear scam – stay away!
If you’re serious about what you’re doing, you should have a pretty good idea on how much the products might cost. Once you’re looking for a particular product you should definitely know the retail and wholesale pricing.
There still will be a lot of products you can source dirt cheap from China, no doubt about that – sometimes you’ll be amazed how cheaply the products can be bought directly from the manufacturers. But as an industry expert, you’ll know that some products, product categories and models will be more expensive than others.
Why is this important? Because in many cases the pricing on the scammer websites is very odd – for example, products from completely different quality categories are priced very similarly.
Another warning sign is that on scammer websites large groups of products usually will have the same price which won’t be the case with a legit supplier. Also, if free shipping is offered for large, heavy products (like LCD TVs, for example) it’s most likely to be a scam.
10. Use Common Sense
If it looks too good to be true, it probably is! It’s very important to get the right mindset when looking for a new supplier – you should look at every new company you find with 100% skepticism!
This is especially important when dealing with suppliers from China – as you know; websites like Alibaba, TradeKey, Made in China and similar ones are overloaded with scammers. Always take that extra mile to double check everything before dealing with anyone.