Channel fraudsters out to cheat UAE resellers
Channel alerted to threat of tricksters posing as legitimate European distributors
IT re-exporters in the UAE are being warned to be careful who they deal with following a spate of incidents involving African fraudsters posing as legitimate European channel companies.
According to ITDistri, a provider of EMEA-wide distribution directories, the fraudsters have been attempting to carry out their scam in a number of European countries and the UAE after originally targeting German IT suppliers.
It said the rogue buyers typically pose as European IT distributors and then approach genuine IT resellers by e-mail or fax to set up an account enabling them to purchase products.
Once they receive delivery of their order, they request 30-day payment terms and then go to ground. Sometimes they will pay for the first order to make their intentions seem genuine and then pull off their scam after successfully taking shipment of a second order.
"Once the products are delivered, the buyer disappears and sells the products on the grey or black market," said ITDistri's Alain Godet.
He estimated the total value of the fraud at between US$600,000 and US$1.2m so far.
Godet claimed the fraudsters were mainly from the Ivory Coast and Mali, but posed as French channel companies. In order to deceive their victims, they have been registering domain names almost identical to those used by legitimate distributors and resellers, as well as creating similar websites.
Some have even placed orders using the names of real employees working for the companies they were impersonating.
It is not clear how many UAE resellers have been approached by the fraudsters or if any have lost money as a result of the scam. Given the UAE's status as a major regional re-export hub, however, it is likely that the fraudsters may feel the market represents easy pickings for them.
Shailendra Rughwani, president of the Dubai Computer Group (DCG), said he was not aware of any members that had been impacted by this particular scam, adding that the dealer channel was used to heading off such threats.
"There are a lot of these companies based in Europe - usually in the UK - who send e-mails wanting to buy against delivery or pay online with a credit card, but we are aware of that and we never entertain these people," he commented. "That said, there is always the possibility that an opportunist dealer might have lost money to this and if that is the case then we will sit down with them."
ITDistri's Godet urged resellers to be extra vigilant when receiving enquiries from foreign buyers.
He said that if companies had any doubts over the authenticity of a customer it should check the firm's credit rating with insurers or visit an official company registration website, such as France's www.societe.com, to confirm its legitimacy.