International trade is a significant and increasingly important point of focus for companies today. There are plenty of opportunities to be seized by trading across national borders but also some definite dangers to be aware of.
Many businesses, for instance, have fallen prey to carefully conducted import and export scams that have left them facing large losses. A bit of awareness and diligence should make it possible to recognize and avoid such traps whenever and wherever they appear.
International Financial Crime is on the Rise
All but the most resourceful and ambitious of criminals used to be effectively limited to domestic capers. That has changed greatly, with international crimes of many kinds now regularly leaving victims around the world deprived of assets and grappling with other losses.
Of the many kinds of transnational crimes that have recently become common, those that revolve around importing and exporting arrangements and contracts are among the most insidious. The frequently routine nature of the tactics used by criminals has made such scams appear increasingly troubling to law enforcement authorities.
Telltale Signs of an Import or Export Scam
International criminals like to carry out import and export scams largely because of how convincing they often seem to their marks. Compared to most other types of global financial fraud and criminality, import and export scams tend to be fairly simple and generally unremarkable-looking at first.
Despite that, business people who are aware of the threat can equip themselves to recognize and neutralize even the most carefully designed and prosecuted of import or export scams.
The four tactics that make the most difference in practice are to:
1. Double-check every proposal
Scammers who try to exploit existing import and export arrangements normally count on blending in with the scenery. Many scammers even take pains to limit their individual requests to the point they will not attract undue scrutiny.
Companies that have processes in place that require the inspection and evaluation of every trade-related request become less likely to be ensnared.
2. Stick to verified means of contact
Many import and export scams arise after criminals acquire even small amounts of information about a company’s existing international trade relationships. The scammer in charge will typically get things started by requesting that future communications be conducted via a new channel or directed to a different address.
That can easily be enough to convert a longstanding, mutually beneficial arrangement into a tool criminal can use to siphon money from a company’s accounts.
3. Be suspicious of demands for confidentiality
Sophisticated international scammers understand that their schemes work best when few people are involved. Some import and export scams revolve around convincing message recipients to keep quiet about the proposals. That should almost always be seen as a sign that something is amiss and additional investigation will be merited.
4. Contact the authorities
A bit of digging can easily reveal that a suspicious trade-related proposal could very well be a scam. Unfortunately, many business people fail to do anything, at that point, beyond dropping the matter entirely and making a mental note. It will always be better to get in touch with the appropriate domestic authorities so they can, at the very least, add information about the attempted scam to their records.
While import and export scams can be challenging to recognize and avoid, heeding these four tips will always help. Since international criminals are only becoming more determined and effective, companies that conduct any amount of international trade need to be on guard.