Have you ever wished you could learn about important news that affects your business earlier than you do now? For example, news about an industry swindle that could cost you money? “Clear and swift communication throughout our industry benefits us all, not only to protect ourselves against fraud, but also to share best business practices and creative solutions to challenging situations,” says Jeff Janke, Hunter Douglas vice president, retail alliance programs.
That’s why Hunter Douglas would like to warn all window fashions retailers to protect themselves from a growing swindle. It starts with a phone call or e-mail placing a bogus order for a large quantity of blinds or shades. “Because of our close alliance with Hunter Douglas Gallery™ and Showcase Priority Dealers™ and our open communication with them on our online discussion boards and through other channels, we learned about this fraudulent scheme. Then we took the initiative to share it with all our aligned dealers, our divisions, our fabricators and our worldwide network,” continues Janke.
Now Hunter Douglas wants to make sure everyone in the window fashions community is aware of it and is protecting himself or herself. “When window fashions professionals share ideas, it raises the bar for the entire industry, which helps us all,” concludes Janke. “We at Hunter Douglas want to communicate with others when there is potential benefit, and we hope others feel the same way. Not only can we help safeguard others from fraud, we can also learn to be better retailers by sharing news and insights, and that’s good for the entire industry.”
HOW IT WORKS
Here’s how the swindle usually happens:
A person, usually from a foreign country, calls using a phone relay service and requests a price and to place an order. He provides a credit card number(s) and the name and address of the credit card holder, but usually requests that the merchandise be shipped abroad or to an alternate U.S. address.
If the initial credit card doesn’t go through, he often has alternative credit cards or may even provide multiple credit cards to try up front. If a dealer asks for the CV number on the back of the card, the person either can't provide it or provides a made-up one because he doesn’t have the card. He may give a stolen UPS shipping account number.
He will advise you to add large shipping charges to the cost of the blinds and ask you to charge those costs to his credit card. The scheme is played out when he instructs you to send cash to a non-existent shipping company for the freight amount.
What the call or e-mail may include:
• Contact from a relay service or through an overseas operator (note that there can be legitimate calls from relay services).
• Contact through e-mail from a person you don’t know.
• Request for a large number of blinds or shades, all the same size and color; for example, 60 white mini-blinds, 48 by 48 inches.
• Provision of a credit card number that may be approved if you run it right away, but is usually stolen. (He may specifically ask you to have the credit card approved right away because he knows the card may be reported stolen soon.)
• Refusal to give a return phone number; instead he says he will contact you back, usually by e-mail.
What a dealer can do for protection:
• Don’t take orders from anyone you don’t know who contacts you by e-mail or phone only and wants to place an order for foreign shipment!
• If you suspect fraud or a swindle, simply hang up.
• Always ask for the CV number on the back of a VISA or MasterCard.
• If you’re suspicious, report the credit card number to the issuing bank and let the bank know that you think it might be a stolen credit card.
• Report the attempted fraud to your local police and ask them what further steps you should take, if any.
• Never give your bank routing number or account number to a stranger over the phone.
“I just wanted to thank you all for the heads-up on the phone scam,” says Richard Fullam, Fullam’s Decorating Center, Hillsborough, NJ, a Gallery dealer posting a message on the Gallery online discussion board. “We were contacted today via the relay call and didn’t waste much time dismissing the hustlers.”
“Open communication is very constructive; at Hunter Douglas when we get input from our dealers, we use that information not only to enhance programs and improve products, but also to protect our dealers,” concludes Janke. “When we all talk together, everyone benefits. Please be careful about selling to anyone you don’t know who contacts you by e-mail or phone only and wants to place an order for foreign shipment.