If you placed your company details on a B2B board, it's likely you will be contacted by a West African scammer passing off as a company, consultant, contractor, agent or organization.
Or perhaps you contacted one of the numerous adds placed by these scammers. They will offer you the chance to bid on a contract for a very large order of your product. Their ads claim the desire to purchase products such as mineral water and juices, cosmetics, T-shirts, soap, wine, farm machinery, chemicals just to name a few.
I've seen many postings from Benin Cameroon Nigeria and Togo on B2B trade sites such as Alibaba, Tradekey, Indiamart etc.., and they where nearly all scams. In Cameroon's case 100% where scams regarding product offered.
The tendency has been for Benin scammers to do the Import fraud, and Cameroon scammers doing Export fraud offering various non-existent commodities.
The IMPORT fraud...
If you respond, they will refer you to a bogus aid or governmental organization with various bogus acronyms such as WAIDCO/ WADECO/ WAADA/ BAFDAC/ BEFDAC/ BFDA/ WARC/ NAFDACBJ / SAFDACC .., They also make up names like Contract Awarding Committee, contract committee board, CONTRACT AWARD BUREAU, NCAC - National Contract Awarding Council, Bidding Commission etc.., the list is endless. They may ask you for samples to be sent via courier. You will win the contract after a few correspondence. They often promise that you will be paid 100% prior to shipping in order to gain your confidence.
The thieves use fake web sites and documents including passports and I.D. cards as part of this fraud. Many also don't have domains and websites and use free email addresses which are chosen to match their supposed company name. Please read: Identifying Obvious Scam Websites
Then comes the purpose of the scam.
You will be asked to pay various never-ending fees for a (fake) barrister to represent you in their country, product registration, import license, health certificate etc.., all accompanied by realistic looking documents. If you pay, a request for a new document will follow for an even higher fee. These can be a few thousand dollars to upwards of $30,000. As with all advance fee fraud, if you balk at paying, they may lower the fee by offering to pay part of it themselves.
Payment may be requested via Western Union or Money Gram, but also through bank transfers. Please read: Western Union/MoneyGram Indicate Scam!!!
and Don't Pay Strangers via Bank to Bank Transfer and Be Cautious Paying with PayPal
They will sometime send a forged check with instructions that the product must be shipped urgently. By the time the bogus check bounces, they have received the merchandise. Please read: www.fakechecks.org
Sometimes they will ask that you send expensive gifts such as laptops, mobile phones etc.., supposedly to be given to directors of the bidding committee or others, as an incentive to win the contract. Such demands are common with West African scammers.
Here is a paragraph from a fraud alert
posted on the U.S. Embassy in Benin web site:
businesses should be particularly cautious about unknown Beninese "companies" promising them big business deals. Unfortunately, a number of Nigerian criminals, increasingly in collusion with Beninese, use Benin as a base to defraud U.S. companies and citizens with "419" scams (e.g. advance fees), so named for the relevant section of Nigerian law. Potential U.S. investors should contact the Economic Section in Cotonou or the Commercial Section in Abidjan before sending any money or products to potential "partners" in Benin or sending "registration" fees to any purported Benin governmental agency
The worse country for this particular fraud is Benin followed by Cameroon, Togo and Nigeria.
They use mobile phone numbers as it allows them anonymity. For Benin, those usually begin with 9 after the country code (229 9
xxxxxxx). They will sometime use listed numbers for their fax. Most of those will be from a fax service or cybercafe offering such fax service.
They will use mostly fictional company names. You can do a search in the online phone directories.
If your contact uses Togo fax number 228-221-5706 or 228-222-3341, these have been used in numerous scams. Details
Scammers will also use mostly free e-mail addresses such as yahoo, hotmail or one of the many variation from mail.com such as @minister.com @justice.com @consultant.com @lawyer.com etc.., The complete list is posted here:
They sometime register domain names with corresponding email addresses.
The EXPORT Fraud...
They will use many of the tactics described in the Import fraud but will offer to sell you various commodities at very low prices. Cameroon is by far the worse country for this type of scam, it has become so bad on B2B sites like Alibaba that in the thousands of verification request we've had, every single one was a fraud without exception. Conclusion is that if it's from Cameroon, the chance that it's a fraud is practically 100%.
The commodities vary largely and are usually products that are not produced or not available for export from Cameroon such as fresh or frozen meat, various scrap metal including copper and aluminum, fresh vegetable such as onions or peppers, various grains, all types of edible oil, gold and diamonds etc.., The product is almost irrelevant since you will not find a legitimate Cameroon supplier on a B2B site..
The US embassy in Yaounde issued this scam warning;
Here are some legitimate links:
Another recently recorded scam involves individuals claiming to possess large quantities of vegetable oils (soybean, cotton, or palm) to supply raw materials for the biofuels industry. The scammer usually sends out a sales agreement asking the victim to sign and provide bank details, including an irrevocable LC (Letter of Credit). He will also claim to possess samples ready to be shipped to the victim, a well-calculated ploy to encourage the victim to start sending money, usually in small amounts but gradually increasing. In fact, Cameroon does not possess export production capacity for any such products. Local production is insufficient to meet domestic demand and the international market price for these vegetable oils is far lower than the domestic market prices – hence there is no economic incentive to export. In most business scams, transactions are requested to be carried out via Western Union or Moneygram rather than through reputable banks.
- Benin Chamber of Commerce (CCIB) web site is http://ccibenin.org
- Benin government www.gouv.bj
- Agence Béninoise de Promotion des Echanges Commerciaux http://abepec.bj
- Benin online phone directories http://www.beninphonebook.com
- PASP - Projet Appui au Secteur Privé (French). www.economiebenin.org
- PASP - English version. Limited content compared to the French site. www.pasp-bj.org
- A.D.EX - l'Association de Développement des Exportations http://www.exportbenin.org
- CBCE - LE CENTRE BENINOIS DU COMMERCE EXTERIEUR (French) http://cbce.africa-web.org
- BCA - Business Council for Africa http://www.bcafrica.co.uk
- BCA Cameroon http://www.bcafrica.co.uk/content/cameroon
- Cameroon Government: http://www.spm.gov.cm/acceuil.php?lang=en
- CAMEROON NATIONALSHIPPERS COUNCIL: http://www.cncc-cam.org/en/index.php
- The American Chamber of Commerce in Cameroon: http://www.amchamcam.org
- Togo Government: www.republicoftogo.com
- Togo Customs Administration: www.douanes.tg
- Togo Chamber Of Commerce: www.ccit.tg
- Cameroon Chamber of Commerce: www.ccima.net
- South Africa government - http://www.info.gov.za
- South Africa - Trade and Industry: http://www.thedti.gov.za
- International Trade Administration Commission of South Africa: http://www.itac.org.za
- Public Procurement Authority-Ghana: http://www.ppbghana.org
*The above sites are not recommendations but are merely meant as a guide.
Benin institutions and government ministries have French names although scammers who often don't speak French, being from neighboring Nigeria, will make up English names such as BENIN FOOD AND DRUG ADMINISTRATION CONTROL (BFDAC) which is a total invention.
The Benin Chamber of Commerce web site list rules on exporting to Benin (French) http://www.ccibenin.org/index.php?op...=107&Itemid=84
Paragraph 6 translates to:
6/ No licence, nor product registration fees are required of foreign enterprises who wish to export their merchandise into Benin.
Here is a Google translation
of that page.
All Benin businesses must registered with the Benin Chamber Of Commerce. Their list of registered businesses is available here
The document in question is entitled (FICHIER DES ENTREPRISES / CCIB)
It's an alphabetical list of businesses so there is no need to know French.
If the name of your contact is there, that would still be far from definitive since scammers often steal the identity of real companies. Some legitimate companies can scam you as well.
Some scammers will invite the victim to travel to Africa to look over the facility or NGO in question. That could be very risky. Never undertake a trip to West Africa without first contacting your embassy or consulate. There are dangers for the uninformed arriving in a country where laws are more or less applied and crime and corruption is rampant. A couple of cases have been in the media recently
- South African Scammers kidnap and torture Brazilian businessman Osmar Pereira - Same scammers had previously released a South Korean businessman, president of a global shipping firm after his company paid a ransom of US70,000
- Lebanese businessman, Roland Yosef tricked into traveling to Cameroon is then kidnapped by scammers - scammers had advertised themselves on a website as oil dealers Read article here
The paragraph below is a contribution of FW user "Honest_African". It relates to Cameroon but I would say it applies to most West African countries:
Tips to avoid fraud in Cameroon
1. Government does not use email for official business. So if this is a legitimate government tender, you will have to DHL/FedEx your bid and usually in multiple originals.
2. Large tenders sometimes require a bank guarantee but not any advance.
3. Neither the government or any legitimate business uses Western Union. There are international banks in Cameroon and all accept wire transfers into their clients' accounts. Using SWIFT, the transfers take a couple of days at most so why Western Union? Of course, the name of the client should be identical to the buyer and this must be a bank and not a local credit union.
4. In Cameroon, government agencies are in Yaounde, not Douala.
5. The US Embassy provides free trade assistance to legitimate Cameroon businesses. If you are approached, ask the buyer to contact the Embassy's trade office. There is one in Yaounde and another one in Douala. The Embassy will vet both of you and assist in the transaction. FREE.
6. Many lawyers in Cameroon are quite dishonest so you are not safe simply by contacting a lawyer listed as a member of the Cameroon bar but you can check to see if they are a member of the bar at all: http://www.barreau-cam.org/francais/avocats.php (That website no longer exist) The US Embassy can suggest a lawyer if you need one.
An interesting article on Cameroon scammers flooding Alibaba was written by the prominent Cameroon barrister Me Roland Abeng Cameroon: A Scammer's and Cybercriminal's Paradise!
There was a report of Nigerian scammers awarding a contract to an exporter and then requesting permission to visit his country to finalize the deal. A Nigerian then used that agreement to fly out of Nigeria into a Western country with the intention of then disappearing. He was apprehended at the airport and apparently confessed that he had paid the scammers for this human smuggling service.
The above information is only meant as a primary research tool and not as a substitute for a proper due diligence.
This is doubly important with west African countries such as Benin where criminals specialize in scamming foreign businesses.
At FraudWatchers, we are not qualified to do that type of in-depth research.
Further details on this scam at the following link: http://www.419scam.org/benin-import-scam.htm
The following thread contains additional details on this fraud:
CHINA Import Scam
Chinese criminals also do an import scam, with some variations. A major source is Guilin China, but there are others.
- They may have a web site with little or no information about the company. They will often claim to import a large variety of products, some of which are much more likely to be "exported" by China.
- They will ask for prices and quickly place a very large order of your product, often without seeing samples.
- The price doesn't seem that important to them. They will agree with your payment terms.
- They will insist you travel to China to sign the contract and that's where the scam takes place.
If you go to China, they will ask you to pay for expensive dinners, and/or ask that you purchase gifts such as artwork for the chairman or president of the company, pay advance notary fees / a % of the contract value. They may show you various fake documents, permits, company registration etc..,
If they use a bank account for money transfer, it will usually be a personal account in the name of the thief as oppose to a commercial account in the name of their bogus (or real) company. Personal bank accounts have little regulations in China and are extensively used by criminals and scammers.
Please read: Chinese Import/Export Fake Contract "Guilin" Scam
Here are some links containing victim's description of the scam: