A Cautionary Tale – a look back to a report I published in June 2015

In June of 2015 I published the following article.  I wanted to make some updates and tell you that since publishing this cautionary tale I have received email and calls from at least 8 different artists around the country.  While we did not fall for the scam that appeared as a brilliant opportunity, I am struck by the boldness for this person or people to continue to hunt for possible new sources to scam.  If you found this article because you googled the information please read carefully.  Take heed.  And remember – if it is too good to believe, it is not necessarily good!  Here is the original article i published in 2015:

emailAs we grow we have come to realize that all of our contact information is out there on the web for the world to see.  And through some of these connections we have made new friends, picked up customers, and spoken with some wonderful people.  That is the wonderful side of this age we live in.

But…. there is also a dark side.  A little over a week ago i received an email from someone expressing (NINILASH GREAT STORES: Edificio Norte 08039 Barcelona)  interest in our soap.  In particular, the shave soap.  She told me she has a store in Barcelona Spain, and she asked for a quote.  We were at one of our scheduled art shows, and in a slow moment i opened my email – and there it was – the giant order that added up to  over $3,000 wholesale.  It held promise, but at that volume there was a growing concern about the cost of shipping to a foreign country, and possible tariffs, restrictions, etc.  But my first thought was “Wow, i would love to check out this woman’s company website… i want to see how our products fit with her buying style, her feel for the shop she curates, and actually i wanted to just get a sense of her business style.

Alarm, Alarm!!!!

Searches for her business name turned up nothing.  OK, Google earth to the rescue…. i googled her address, and discovered it was the world trade center of Barcelona, Spain.  And in particular the address pointed to a store space that seemed really confusing to me.  It was the Art of Belgium – a boutique of artistic products of Belgium.  What would she want handcrafted soap from Parma, Ohio, USA to put in a shop like that.

Another alarm bell went off!!!

As i read to the bottom of her email there was something that shot hair on end on the back of my neck.  She insists we must use her specific shipper… not FedEx, or DHL, or UPS, which are known for their world class delivery around the globe.  No, she insisted we use OHARAFREIGHTLLD.  Google that one.  It does not come up.  The contact she gave me was a g mail email address.  it was seeming very shady.  Very Shady.

Sadly i actually wrestled with this email, and the potential it held.  But with the potential profitability comes a sizable risk.  So my answer was to indicate we were working up a quote, and we would only ship via FedEx or DHL.  and the answer came.

Thank you so much for your concern.  I have been having difficulties in the past.  I’, in a very remote area of the city which makes it hard for me to receive shipment in the past, until i started using OHARAFREIGHTLLD, my shipping agent.  They’re reliable and their service is favorable.  They have been helping me with overseas shipment orders for the past 5 months or so.  I want you to proceed and send that email to my shipper.  We can work out the payment arrangements then. “

                                                                                                                  – Nina Lash

No way would we jump on this order. Never!  It is a scam of epic proportion.  So with that mindset i began a search on the internet of this woman’s name, or her business “NINILASH GREAT STORES: Edificio Norte 08039 Barcelona”, or “Nina Lash”.  And there was one solitary blog post.  A woman that is a metal smith, makes simple but elegant necklaces.  She had posted the email, which was word for word exactly the same email, apart from the context change.  She shared her research and her decision to reject this as  a scam. Read her post by clicking this sentence.  

I took my research one step farther… the business located at the address she gave had a website (albeit, all in Spanish) but there was a contact page.  I obtained an email address and wrote a very polished inquiry, explaining the email i received, and the address matched theirs.   The reply came the next day, in very proper english.  They were clear that there is no such company in their complex which she listed as that address.  In fact, the author of the reply indicated she is not aware of any shops with this name in Barcelona.

Could it not be more plain that this was a huge scam!  and my reaction “Run, Forrest, Run!!!”

Scams are real.  And people spend far too much time and energy plotting how to steal from others.  We have to be diligent, on task, and always alert for such things.  As my mom always said – “If it seems to be too good to be true, it is too good to be true.  Always investigate.  If the business is legitimate they will never balk at investigation, but instead they will know you will find evidence that substantiates the validity of their company.”  It is so good to have this kind of wisdom training.