For Credit & Collection Professionals
On a daily basis it’s routine for each of us in this industry to go to our email inbox and find several new emails from people who claim they represent major companies abroad, asking us if we handle breach of contract or collection cases. Then they invite us to send their terms and conditions. Do you simply delete those scams into your Trash or Junk Mail? If so, I think you’re making a mistake and missing an opportunity.
Here’s the scenario. The typical scammer contacts you with the above opener. If you’re foolish enough to respond with a “Sure – happy to help you – send me the case”, along with your terms and conditions, they will be readily accepted by the scammer as they place the case into your hands.
The next email you get will be something along the lines of “The debtor just contacted us and said they’re sending a payment to you right away because we gave them your details.” Two days later, sure enough a company check (or sometimes a counterfeit cashier’s check) arrives at your office for $675,347.53 to fully pay the bogus claim. The very next day, the scammer is hammering you for an early remittance to an offshore account. Sadly, some of our colleagues in the industry have been taken in by this or similar schemes.
In most instances, the emails come from a Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo or similar type of non-business domain. For example you may get an email hypothetically from Hyatsu.Fujimoto@gmail.com – however, he claims to be the legal manager or even stupidly the Chairman of Citizen Co Ltd, Japan. Under no circumstances would a major Japanese corporation have one of their senior management personnel contact you from that sort of private domain – NEVER. As one of my Asian friends is fond of saying, “The Chairman pays someone else to carry his briefcase.” – So why would he contact you directly? It will never happen.
Junk Folder and Then What?
Here’s where most of you will just pitch such nonsense into your junk mail folder. Let’s consider a few facts for alternative actions.
First of all, if you receive invitations to business from entities abroad which you truly do believe are legitimate, you have a primary obligation under U.S. law to perform due diligence in accordance with the provisions of regulations enforced by the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Asset Control. The requirement has been set in stone as a matter of fighting drug smuggling, money laundering, and terrorism.
Go to: http://www.treasury.gov/resource-center/sanctions/SDN-List/Pages/default.aspx for details of the government’s requirements. Failure to comply with OFAC requirements is NOT an option. The fines can be staggering. Consider this:
3/12/2015 “ The U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) today announced a $258,660,796 settlement with Commerzbank AG (Commerzbank) to settle potential civil liability for apparent violations of U.S. sanctions.”
It’s not difficult to determine who is an authorized signatory from companies in most countries. Find the website for the official government company register for the given nation* and then once you determine the signatory, insist upon only receiving correspondence from that individual and from the specific REAL company domain involved. In our example it would be “ce.citizen.co.jp” or from their designated U.S.A. subsidiary.
How to Nail the Spammer
When you write back to the scammer tell them you must …
- receive further emails only from the real domain
- have the sender’s daytime telephone number and home telephone number
- full company registration number
Here’s the best part – Inform the scammer you’re providing a “cc” of your email to the REAL company so they can verify the identity of the sender! AND THEN DO JUST THAT – send a copy to the real company to ask for that verification. The scammer will likely never respond and will disappear forever.
I cannot tell you how many times I have received a response from the real company to sincerely thank me for alerting them to the attempted identity theft and scam with the use of their good name. I just made a friend! In turn I thank them for their response and invite them to keep our firm in mind should a real case develop.
Companies are genuinely thankful for being alerted and it gives them an opportunity to place a disclaimer on their website to further alert potential victims. They too are turning a negative into a positive by displaying their concern for the public.
No – you’re not done. Now fight back! This will only take you a few seconds of your time. Go to the website for IC3* – the U.S. task force jointly administered by the F.B.I. and the National White Collar Crime Center to fight scams like this. At their website, there’s a simple fill-in form and room to provide them with copies of the full round of correspondence chain: Scammer – to you – to the REAL company and their response to confirm the attempted scam.
The likelihood is that you will not get a response from IC3 even though ALL of these are carefully logged in the hope that enough dots can be connected and some of these scammers (even the ones overseas) can be locked up and put away. Also send a copy of this to AvoidAClaim* and I also suggest to our good friends at www.alqlist.com. Both AvoidAClaim and ALQ* maintain a database of attempted scams. IF YOU DO NOTHING YOU’RE JUST SENDING THE SCAMMER ON TO THE NEXT ONE IN OUR INDUSTRY.
My point here is threefold if you take on my suggested approach:
- You’re not specifically turning away a possible business opportunity
- You’re potentially getting a REAL new client
- You’re helping in the fight to curtail these scams
* The IC3 Website: http://www.ic3.gov/default.aspx
American Lawyers Quarterly: www.ALQList.com
For official government company registers:
Now stop throwing away those opportunities and turn those negatives into positives.
Dave Greenberg began his career in commercial collections with Dun and Bradstreet in Seattle, Washington. After spending 8 years with D&B, Dave took a position with ABC-Amega Inc. Over a 32-year span, he vastly expanded their international department and became an industry leader in the commercial-international niche sector. He was a Past President of the California Commercial Collection Association, on the panel of commercial arbitrators for the American Arbitration Association, and the Council of Better Business Bureaus, while also remaining active in the US Air Force Reserve.
He is a co-author for both FCIB and ICTF for their online credentialing courses for international credit management offered through Michigan State University and Thunderbird School of Global Management. Over the decades, Dave traveled the world, providing speaking engagements to credit grantors from Cyprus to Germany to China. He currently serves as Legal Liaison with the Law Offices of Gary A. Bemis.
Dave is also an author of children’s books and, along with his wife, recently moved to California to be closer to their grandson.Share This:
A new scam has now surfaced, which is easily recognized and this is one which can be instantly dismissed. We’re now receiving many emails which are send from major university email accounts. Yet, however, the signatory of the email says they’re from an altogether different company. In each of these cases, the university email account has been hijacked by a scammer. When these are recognized, you can feel easy about pitching them in the trash bin – there’s no need to follow the scenarios laid out in my blog entry.