Fraud Online and its effects on Customer Service

One of my tasks on a regular basis is to check our Spam Folders for potentially mis-categorised customer e-mails.  It’s an annoying task, but a necessary one since occasionally, a customer e-mail (or other important business e-mail) is flagged as Spam.  Most spam e-mails are easy enough to notice by their header, however we’ve noted an interesting and annoying new trend.

There recently seems to be a series of e-mails purporting to be a customer from another country.  This customer wishes to buy some unnamed product from us and want us to confirm that we do ship internationally. Sounds like a real customer e-mail doesn’t it? Well, here’s the relevant text from the first e-mail of that kind we received:

My name is XXX from XXX ,i will like to purchase some order from your store to our store here, but before i proceed to advise the needed items,i will like to confirm the terms of payment you accept either Visa or Master card, and if you do ship to Australia as well,urgent response needed from you asap,so i can forward you my order list.

The other e-mails are all along the same kind, requesting information about Visa / Mastercard payments and if we ship internationally.   The English can be better or worst, depending on the e-mail and they sometimes even ask us to confirm our website.  If you’re thinking that the bad English is a warning sign, I agree – but I’d also caution that I’ve had legitimate customer e-mails (and orders!) with English that was worst than that.

The first time this happened (the above e-mail); I was curious to see if it was a fraudulent e-mail so I replied to it.  Now, to cut a long story short, after a couple of e-mails discussing quantities and cost of shipment, this is what I received:

“Also I want you to help me Charge another $710.00 from my card for the freight forwarder who will be coming to pick up my ordered items from you

The $710.00 that will be sent to the freight forwarder is for the shipping of my order and other items i ordered from different part of the country which is to be picked up by him and should be deducted from my credit card.Also, I’mcompensating you with the sum of $100.00 for the transfer fee and for your efforts

Please  do get back to me if you are in the office right now so that i can forward my credit card details to you, then you can charge the funds to him via western union or money gram.”

And there’s the con.  Swing a few thousand dollar order in front of you; have you commit a few hours of time into putting together the order and then aid a little sweetener to make you go out of your way.

Obviously, I didn’t go through with this, and on letting the fraudster know of this; I never received another reply.  This is what I would think would happen if I had gone through with it – you would charge the card (stolen most likely) and, having received the funds, would then wire the money to the address.  The ‘freight forwarder’ would then have the newly wired funds free and clear, while you would be stuck with a chargeback (and unwanted goods) when the Credit Card charges back the unauthorised charge from the stolen credit card.

So, attempt no.2 on online fraud that we’ve encountered.  It’s a prety good con; after all, it’s not as if there’s a huge resale market for our games normally.  Having me wire hard cash out though; well that can be used anywhere.

One effect this has had on our operations is that I’m now more reluctant than ever to reply to customer e-mails in our spam folder.  If your e-mail even looks like it might be a fraudulent e-mail (as above) and it is in my spam folder,  I won’t be replying to it.