Cautiously investigate an unknown buyer asking for credit
It happens more often than you might imagine.
A produce seller gets a call or email from someone they’ve never sold before. They are looking to buy product and may not even ask about the price–it feels too easy. They look to buy large orders over a short period of time. They insist on picking up the product themselves. Oh, and they want to buy on credit.
If your gut tells you something isn’t right, please take caution, or risk never getting paid because the buyer’s only intent is to rip you off.
Over the past year, Blue Book has observed an increase in these types of fraudulent trading patterns. As a result, we have enacted more stringent requirements to establish a Blue Book listing and our analysts are devoting more time looking over bank statements, utility bills and even driver licenses to detect potential scammers.
If, however, a company obtains a PACA license and/or begins to actively buy product, as a credit reporting agency we are compelled to recognize the buying entity with a listing.
When a company has not fully cooperated with us or we observe something unusual in the documentation they provide, we may apply certain rating numerals to the listing, such as a (63) indicating the firm has “Declined to identify and/or furnish background information on principals and/or provide details on the business.”
Other Blue Book rating numerals may also be assigned. These rating numerals often signal elevated risk.
Even in the absence of such a numeral, however, it’s important to know that just because a company is listed by Blue Book and has a PACA license does not mean they are a good credit risk.
On the contrary, because of the increase in suspicious trading activity during the past year, we urge all produce sellers to be extra vigilant vetting new customers.
One or more of the following attributes should raise a “caution flag” before selling:
- Ownership and staffing have no prior industry experience
- Business uses a virtual or UPS mailbox address
- Blue Book rating numeral(s) have been assigned
- Generic or limited website
- Social Media icons link to unrelated company or person
- Their trade references are not listed by Blue Book Services
- Email address domains such as gmail.com, hotmail.com, yahoo.com, etc.
Naturally, there are legitimate businesses trying to get off the ground. We are not suggesting to never sell a new produce company. We are urging sellers to adhere to their credit policies, thoroughly vet prospective new business relationships, and carefully monitor new relationships sold.
If you believe you are a victim of fraud, share your experiences with Blue Book Services, other industry connections and legal authorities such as your attorney, the Federal Trade Commission and The Department of Justice.
Fraud constantly evolves and is in every industry, including produce – assess risk and know who you may be selling… failing to do so may result in losses.
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