Sunday, October 18, 2009

Beware of this Request for Free Samples Scam

Requests for free samples are pretty common with legitimate companies wanting to buy things at wholesale - especially for something like perfume which they might want a chance to smell first. But here's something to watch out for. My dad was a manufacturer's representative so when I saw this email I knew something was wrong.

The email said


I represent 12 health/nutrition centers, as well as 6 grocers, and am currently looking for healthy foods, snack items, and beverages for these concerns. Your business was recommended to us by another distributor, who had good things to say about your product lines.

I have written to inquire about what I need to do to acquire product samples for my clients to evaluate. It is much easier to get a firm decision from my clients, when they have something in front of them.

Please, get back to us, soon."

He included the name of a business (Creative Foods) which I could not find on the internet, an address which turned out to be a 200 sq foot structure (a garage?) in Seattle, and a Seattle phone number connected with several scammy businesses. One was supposedly a business selling "close-outs" to China and other places.

Close-outs, for those who don't know, are usually items bought at a steep discount from companies going out of business, seconds, or discontinued items. They can also be FREE SAMPLES that are then resold. Selling off legitimately gotten free samples which weren't able to be sold is acceptable. Soliciting free samples to sell yourself is fraud!

How did I know this was a scam?

Representatives don't represent stores! They represent you. Reps sell to stores. Store managers and buyers don't need reps. So many people are trying to sell things to retail stores there's no reason to hire outside help (at what would be a ridiculous expense) to do what a store owner might typically ENJOY doing themselves.

Also, get this! After a couple of email exchanges back and forth I finally suggested that if this person was really a distributor that he send me a list of who else he represents and what stores, what his terms are, etc. (all the things a real distributor would provide). Then I said that if he was pulling a scam that he'd better get better at it before proceeding any further!

He sent an email back saying he was not actually a distributor and to disregard the previous email! This is in print with an email address, a street address and a phone number!

I sent it all to the Seattle Police Department. I hope they have enough information to follow through.

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