International trade in A4 paper is lucrative due to its popularity and widespread use in various printed materials and office documents.
The thriving business of A4 paper exports is, unfortunately, rife with fraudsters, fake suppliers, or scammers. It is necessary that international traders and entrepreneurs educate themselves about how scammers operate and the types of scams they carry out. The knowledge should help the traders steer clear of the shoals and protect their business interests.
In paper-exporting countries such as Thailand, a large percentage of the A4 paper scams are carried out by foreigners from Cameroon, Nigeria, South Africa, and Bangladesh, etc. They generally enlist the help of unsuspecting or complicit Thai nationals to open bank accounts and to register for local phone numbers for them.
An evident sign of such scammers is that, despite claiming to be a local business, they either don’t speak the local language at all or, when they do, it is with a heavy accent and not fluently. Here are some other very evident signs to look out for:
Pricing Bargains and Upfront Payment
One of the main reasons that entrepreneurs often fall for paper fraud is that the scammers offer a bargain price that is far below than the international market rate. While many legitimate companies may also offer low rates, unbelievable bargains generally mean there is some catch. Their products may be of poor quality, or it could just be an outright scam.
In the international market, you should expect the A4 copy paper rate to be easily more than $1.50 per ream. If you are being offered a very low price such as $0.70 per ream, you are probably discussing the deal with a potential scammer especially if they are insisting on advance payment via TT or wire transfer. Such scammers are looking for easy money and will disappear after you make the advance payment.
Use of Mobile Phones Only
A legitimate business will have an office landline number. If they only contact you via mobile phones and Whatsapp messages, there may be something fishy going on. Also, check the area codes of the phone numbers. Are they the proper country code? If not, it is a scam.
Lack of Verifiable Business Address
You will not find their business address listed on government websites or in online street maps.
Lack of Company Bank Account
Scammers are likely to send you a personal bank account number for payment transfer and not their company bank account. If they do give you a company bank account, it may not necessarily belong to a legitimate company. It is a common tactic to set up companies, open company bank accounts, and conduct business activities for a year or so to leave traces for would-be background checkers.
Slick Sales Representatives
The representative will offer you the sun and the moon when it comes to A4 copy paper bargains. They will claim years of expertise and experience in working with some of the leading paper manufacturers. They will tell you they have extensive contacts within the paper industry. They may back this up with some credible proof about their company.
Insistence on Using Shipping Company of Their Choice
A4 copy paper scammers will give you the address of a shipping company that they will insist on using to ship the goods you purchase. According to them, they have prior experience of working satisfactorily with this company and the company offers the best shipping rates.
Do Your Homework
It is essential to conduct a background check to ensure that the A4 copy paper supplier is legitimate. An active online presence can help, but that doesn’t guarantee that the company is legitimate. Many scammers set up fake websites and fake social media accounts and keep them active to give the impression that they are a proper business. Also, many legitimate business concerns can operate without an online presence.
You can hire a local private investigator or a company that does background checks to inspect the A4 copy paper supplier for you and find out if they have proper business registration in their country. The country’s trade association, other paper-related organizations, and governmental institutions may also have information about the company if they are legitimate.
Check everywhere you can. Call the company's bank to make sure their account is genuine. Ask the company to put you in touch with former or current clients and inquire about their business experience with the company. It will also help to visit the company’s office and factory premises for yourself and meet with the company personnel directly. In fact, you should always insist on visit the A4 copy paper traders or manufacturers’ office and factory. While a legitimate business will never have a problem with this, almost all scammers will stop communicating with you after you insist on visiting them before placing your order.
Insist on Proper and Relevant Documents
If the A4 copy paper company has a legitimate presence in their country, they will have an export license and other valid, government-issued documents. Be aware though that scammers can fake documentation, and you should also contact the export authorities of the country and check the company facts with them. Avoid doing business with any company that does not have the proper paperwork or refuses to show it to you before a financial transaction.
Read Contracts with Care Before Signing
Scammers often offer detailed contracts as a sign of business legitimacy. The terms, however, won’t be worth anything if you are dealing with a fly by night operator. On the other hand, if the scammer sticks around to enforce the terms, some of the terms could land you in legal hot water. Get all contracts vetted by an experienced lawyer with proper legal knowledge of the country’s commercial laws. Take your time to understand all the legal terminology and ask for clarification if needed. Don’t sign anything you don’t understand.
In the contract, insert a clause that states that the delivered paper goods must be of the same quality as the samples you approved. A common type of scam is showing buyers high-quality A4 copy papers and then sending them substandard products.
Never Make Upfront Payments via TT
If you make an upfront payment vis TT or wire transfer and the company turns out to be a scam, you will lose big time. Instead of taking such a risk, use an escrow service or L/C.
Check the Shipping Company
You should make the shipping arrangements. If the supplier insists on using a shipping company they regularly use, get the company checked to make sure it is legitimate. Contact past clients that have used this shipping company. Only after you have ascertained that the company is genuine, engage them yourself.
Taking the above steps can be time-consuming and expensive, but it is worth it in the long run. You can minimize the financial risk involved in international trade and protect yourself against fraudulent transactions.