You have just received a large quantity order for one item that a customer wants sent overnight. You note that the billing address is not the same as the delivery address and that the consumer has a free e-mail account. It's one of the largest orders you've seen in a long time and you get right to the task of shipping it out.

Wait a minute, not so fast. You may want to do a few things to protect yourself.

The fact is the scenario above has four warning signs that should alert you to the possibility that the person ordering your wares is doing so with a stolen credit card. The four signs are:

  • It's a large order of one item.
  • There's a rush put on the order.
  • The billing and delivery address do not match.
  • The customer is using a free e-mail account.

Any one of the above four signs are indicators that you're in danger of being ripped off; all four together are a recipe for losing your shirt on the order. Here are a dozen behaviors or instances that should raise concerns about an order.

  1. Large orders of one item or orders that cost a lot are indicators that someone may be using illegal means to procure your products. A person using a stolen credit card has a small window of opportunity during which they can score, and so they will try to steal as much as they can as quickly as they can.

  2. Rush or overnight orders, especially when quick-shipping costs don't seem warranted, are suspect. If someone is willing to add a large percentage of cash to their order, they may be doing so to get it into their hands before you can become suspicious.

  3. If the billing address and delivery address do not match, it is not certain that someone is trying to steal from you; there are many legitimate reasons for shipping to another location. However, if a customer is having the order shipped to a hotel or they hold a credit card based in a country other than the one being shipped to, you should be concerned.

  4. The customer's e-mail is through a free service. Free e-mail addresses are easy to establish and often tough to trace. Again, someone using a free e-mail service is not necessarily a crook but if someone is doing so, look for other signs and check them out in other ways.

  5. A confirmation e-mail for the order is sent and it comes back as being undeliverable. If the customer made a mistake on their e-mail, they will contact you. If they are trying to get something for nothing, they will not.

  6. You cannot verify the shipping address. If you cannot verify who, if anyone, lives at the particular address then hold onto your products.

  7. You are unable to confirm the phone number. These should match-the phone number listed for the card holder and the number that they provide to you.

  8. The buyer requests that the order simply be left at the door. This type of thief may know where the cardholder lives and can easily pick-up the order when it's left on the doorstep.
  9. You have not received all of the necessary information regarding the purchaser. The reason you want this data is to be able to confirm identity and the reason someone will not give it, is to ensure that you can't confirm who they are.

  10. Orders from the following countries are often fraudulent-- Romania, Indonesia, Singapore, Ghana, Ukraine, Uganda, Nigeria, Hungary, Belarus, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Slovak Republic, Russia, Yugoslavia, Macedonia, Philippines, Thailand, Malaysia. Many retailers simply won't ship to these locations. If you decide to offer your products to these countries, make sure you verify all information prior to shipping.

  11. The IP address (Internet Protocol address) for the user's e-mail is from a network provider on a continent different than the billing address for the credit card. Why would someone living in California be ordering via an Asian-based web provider? The answer is they probably wouldn't and that the card is likely stolen.
    You are asked to ship to a postal box. These can be impossible to trace and are opened and closed easily. Only send your products to a home or a business.

Some of the above warning signs simply indicate that you should do some checking, while others are real deal breakers. Never send anything to anyone until you are certain that they are legitimate. Once someone rips you off, it can be impossible to recoup your money or your product. In part two of Ripped Off by a Customer, we'll focus on steps retailers can take to ensure they're serving honest customers and filling valid orders.