April 13, 2007 | WineDirect Admin
Preface by Michael Coffey- IBG
Jennie Haug represents one of our favorite wineries, Titus Vineyards. Not only do they have great wine, but they are a winery that truly cares about the wineries around them. Early this week Jennie asked me if I had heard about a possible scam that was being played through out the valley. Once she heard that I had not been advised of it, she asked if she could post a blog about her experience.
In my opinion, this is what this industry is about. In a lot of ways, we are family and we are here to help each other out. Thank you Jennie for taking the time to warn all of us of possible threats.
I am passionate and enthusiastic about selling Titus Vineyards wines. With all the effort I put into sales promotions, it is gratifying when people contact me out of the blue to buy wine. Last week I received the two following emails inquiring about purchasing wine. Instead of bringing excitement, they both sent off quiet alarm bells in my brain.
From: email@example.com [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org]
Sent: Monday, April 02, 2007 6:39 AM
Subject: Wine Enquiry
We are intrested in ordering your wines . Kindly quote me for :-
Qty : 90 bottles
2005 Cabernet Sauvignon
Qty : 90 bottles
Also let me know if you accept credit card payment .I will arange the pickup of the wines as soon as payment goes through via my shipping company . Let me know the total weight of the bottles to enable to get the quote for shipping from my shipping company.
From: email@example.com [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org]
Sent: Saturday, March 31, 2007 5:24 AM
Subject: Order Enquiry……………….
Good day Sales
i will like to place an order from you and will like it delivered to my new residence in Japan cause i need them for a special occassion coming up there ,so i will like to know whether there is anything i need to know before i can place my order and again i know you may have problem shipping internationally or to my location there,so there is a courier i used in the past for an order like this that can handle the shipment and they will pick the package up from your door and deliver it to my door,so i will be expecting to hear from you in regards to this and lastly i will be making payment with my credit card,so i hope you accept credit cards.
So let me know if you will like to sell to me then i can choose what i want.
I have a strongly honed suspicious streak and continue to learn to trust my gut instinct. Several things seemed unusual about these emails:
The broken English, poor syntax and improper punctuation.
Reference to vintages not yet released, indicating they hadn’t even looked at our website.
Not sent to our direct email, but instead blind copied to us.
Both asked if we accept credit cards. Again, if they’d looked at our website, they’d know. Besides, what winery doesn’t accept credit cards these days?
Both referenced making their own shipping arrangements.
Alone in the office I racked my brain for someone to consult. I decided to reach out to a fellow Silverado Trail Winery Association member and forwarded the emails to Stephanie Trotter-Zacharia at Casa Nuestra. I explained my suspicions and asked if she’d ever seen anything like it. Here swift reply confirmed it was a scam and indicated that she regularly received emails of this kind. The buyer purchases the wine direct from the winery, including shipping. When the shipper arrives to pick up the wine, the winery then gives them the wine and pays the carrier via cash or check for the shipping charges on behalf of the buyer. A month later when the winery’s bank calls to inform the winery that the purchaser’s credit card is bad, the winery is out wine and shipping costs. Sort of like the Nigerian 419 scam with a wine twist. Subsequent industry people I spoke with had never heard of this scam.
As busy Direct Sales professionals with active email boxes, big sales goals, overflowing paperwork and no tech staff - how do we protect ourselves from scams? In addition to the clues listed above:
Be alert to international references (Japan etc).
Be aware of Social Engineering, which involves using the right sounding words and phrases to make you think it’s a valid scenario. For example, an email with the heading, “From Beth – about shipping the order”, which appears legitimate until you review pending orders and realize you don’t have any from someone named Beth.
Google key phrases. In this case, “email wine scam” didn’t bring up relevant hits, but it’s helped me identify scams in the past.
Don’t respond or unsubscribe. These actions only confirm to the senders that it’s a valid, active email account.
Ask around. Talk to your co-workers, your acquaintances at other wineries, the associations you belong to, your tech consultants or your IBG contacts. Kevin Onesko was tremendously helpful in suggesting ways to identify and fight email scams.
Please share this with friends and colleagues. Let’s make sure no one gets ripped off in their quest to sell wines. In the meantime, I’ve got to get back to this Nigerian Princess currently exiled in the UK who wants to buy 90 cases of our 2008 vintage.