I’ve been the victim of a very sick scam. I really don’t understand why or what. But I wanted to share it with you so you can be wary, in case it happens to you.
Middle of July a new affiliate signed up. Nothing unusual about that. I get affiliates signing up with my site regularly. However, this affiliate began generating a lot of sales quite quickly. The first I knew of it was when I suddenly started getting orders for my book “Worth More Than Rubies”. I sell copies here and there, but never usually a lot in a short time period. I checked the sales records online and found they were coming via this new affiliate so I contacted them to find out what they were doing. They advised they were promoting via Facebook and Twitter (actually they said they were spamming and I told them that’s not what they should be doing but I assumed they were joking). I contacted several of the purchasers just to confirm the order – I wanted to make sure all was above board. They each responded thank you and looking forward to getting my book.
This took place for a fortnight and I dutifully purchased postpaks, overseas postage (because most of the orders were overseas) and sent the books off. Then early last week a lady contacted me to find out why I’d sent her my book with a payment slip. She hadn’t ordered it at all and the email address on the slip was not hers. I got contacted two days later by another with a similar story. I contacted my payment gateway and the fraud dept of my merchant bank and they began to investigate. Yes, a number of the orders placed over the past fortnight were fraudulent.
I’m now going through the process of having to refund the fees I’ve received and asking for the books to be sent back, but I understand if people don’t want to do that. I’m out of pocket for merchant fees, postpaks, overseas and local postage, plus the refund fees I now have to pay refunding everyone. Because I can’t be sure that all the purchases in the past fortnight were fraudulent (I know some weren’t) I’ve written a letter to everyone outlining what has taken place and what they need to do. I’ve also requested they don’t get their bank to do a chargeback as I get charged $25.00 per chargeback for something I didn’t do. That will double the amount of money I’ll have to pay back!
I know that everyone whose cards were used are victims in this – the cards were stolen, and I am also a victim in this. It seems a very mean thing to do. And I don’t understand what the perpetrators get from it – ordering something they’re not going to receive using stolen credit cards? The fraud dept guy told me that they’re most likely testing the cards with small purchases before making larger ones for things they want to get.
Whatever’s going on, I’m not alone. I get my shopping delivered by Coles fortnightly and the delivery guy told me last week that they’ve had the same thing happening. Someone placing orders with stolen credit cards and having them delivered to people who didn’t make the orders.
If you have a shopping cart on your site, monitor the orders coming through and if you start to get a lot of orders in a short time, and it seems unusual to you, investigate it and don’t send out the products in a hurry. Better they’re sent late rather than ending up with the problem I currently have.
Addendum: Months later I found out that the person processing the stolen cards was also a victim. She had been engaged to process orders and her payment was the affiliate fees she received. I’d been communicating with US Police authorities and it seems that a Chinese group had set up an elaborate scheme, engaging Chinese living in other countries (in this case the US) to operate ‘businesses’ online, processing orders for people. This will explain the affiliate’s response to me when I demanded my affiliate fee back through Paypal. I got called some really awful names and told I was being unethical.