Helping you avoid fraudulent orders
We work hard to help prevent fraud, but every online transaction still carries some risk. That’s why we recommend that all merchants take a proactive approach to risk management.
It's critical to protect yourself against fraud.
If something looks too good to be true, it probably is. While none of the warning signs below necessarily mean an order is fraudulent, it’s important to be on the lookout for the following:
The shipping address is a high-risk location. These are places well-known for fraud. Search online to find a list of high-risk countries.
The order is larger than normal. Use caution if you receive an order from a new customer that is larger than a typical order, and if it’s a product in high demand (e.g., electronics).
The customer asks to change shipping address after paying. Make sure the address change makes sense. Fraudsters initially enter valid addresses so fraud systems won’t catch them. Then, they contact you to change the address.
There’s an abnormal number of international orders within a short time. For example: you receive 50 orders from customers outside the US within a few days, but you normally receive just 2 international orders per month.
There’s an abnormal number of orders at an unusual time of day. For example: you receive 10 orders from US-based customers, all around 3:00 a.m. on the same day.
Several orders from different customers have the same shipping address. Fraudsters often make orders from several stolen credit cards, then have the orders shipped to one address.
You receive multiple orders from the same PayPal account around the same time. Low-priced orders normally receive less scrutiny than larger ones. Fraudsters may place smaller, separate orders to avoid detection.
A customers overpay. Here’s a common scam: a fraudster will overpay for an order and then ask for the extra money to be returned through a wire transfer, or to their preferred shipping company. Don’t fall for it. If someone overpays you, send the extra money back through PayPal.
An order consists of multiple requests for the same item. For example: a customer orders 50 pairs of the same shoe in various sizes. Why would a customer need 50 pairs of the same shoe? Ask yourself if the quantity ordered of the same product makes sense.
A customer requests rush or overnight shipping. A done deal is harder to spot or correct. That’s why fraudsters sometimes choose to receive merchandise quickly, regardless of the cost.
A customer uses a suspicious email address. Keep an eye out for email addresses that seem unusual, like “email@example.com,” or undeliverable emails. Legitimate customers are more likely to use email addresses that contain their name.
An order has a suspicious shipping address. Before shipping an expensive order, make sure you know where it’s being shipped. Criminals may ship orders to freight forwarders, shipping companies, P.O. boxes, or vacant properties to remain anonymous.
Verify the customer’s order information before you ship.
The amount of time you spend on fraud prevention will depend on what you are selling, who your customers are, and the amount of risk you're willing to take. If you sell expensive, in-demand products, your fraud prevention and detection processes are even more critical.
Verify the customer’s shipping address
Fraudsters often ship orders to addresses that can't be traced back to them. Look for red flags such as shipping to a freight forwarder, shipping company, P.O. box, hotel, or a vacant property. Go online and search the shipping address. Here are a few things to look for:
Third-party shipping services reship merchandise to another location (typically abroad) for a fee. To see where your package is being sent to, simply enter the shipping address into a search engine. If the search results show the name of shipping company, be cautious.
Shipping companies or P.O. boxes
Fraudsters like the anonymity that shipping companies and P.O. boxes provide. However, there are also a lot of legitimate reasons for using a shipping company or a P.O. box. You just need to be more cautious, since shipping to P.O. boxes and shipping companies can be more risky than shipping to residential addresses.
Fraudsters sometimes pay people to receive orders at their address. The money mule receives the package, then reships it to the fraudster’s address. Be careful if several orders from different customers list the same shipping address.
To identify vacant properties, enter the shipping address into a search engine. If the property is currently listed as for rent or for sale, it could be vacant.
Shipping address example:
A new customer orders a $10,000 chandelier. Here is what you can do:
- Search an online map to see where and to whom the order is being shipped. Is the order being shipped to an expensive home, a motel, or to a freight forwarder?
- Use a search engine or social networking site to verify the name and shipping address. Do the name, shipping address, and billing address match?
Verify the phone number
Use a reverse phone look-up or third party data supplier to verify the customer’s name and address. You can also call the customer’s phone number. Don’t rely on caller ID, since customers can use spoofing services to disguise their real phone number. Reverse phone look-ups are available at www.whitepages.com.
Delay shipping high-risk orders
Account holders often notice fraudulent transactions and report the problem pretty quickly. If possible, delay shipment for 24-48 hours for customers who place unusually large orders or buy items that are expensive and in demand – especially international orders. Don’t ship overnight unless you're confident that the order is legitimate, or you feel comfortable taking the risk.
Contact the customer to confirm the order information
If an order seems suspicious, contact the customer by phone or email. Ask a few questions to see if everything checks out. If the phone number is disconnected or the email bounces back, proceed with caution.
You're responsible for fraud losses that aren't covered by Seller Protection. Opportunistic fraudsters take advantage of businesses that aren’t aware of fraud risks.
Nobody knows your business as well as you. You know your biggest customers and are familiar with their buying patterns. No payment processor will ever know these things as well as you, so your involvement in risk management is essential.