I know this may seem early.
However, it is about that time of year again. It is a time of hope, fear of
missing out (FOMO), and excitement which, unfortunately, is what makes your
friendly overseas scumbag scammer seriously salivate.
Last year, I wrote an
article about online scams at Bourbon
& Banter. I nearly forgot about it until I recently started seeing advertisements for whiskey Advent
calendars from Cask Cartel. I want
to be crystal clear here: Cask Cartel is absolutely legitimate. The
scammers, however, republish photos of Cask Cartel’s pictures in an attempt to
If you don’t know what a
whiskey Advent calendar is, it can be pretty awesome, especially if you want to
#DrinkCurious and explore things you
wouldn’t usually get a chance to try. They have sample (typically 50ml) bottles
of various whiskeys for each day of Advent. They often are theme-based; you can
have Scotches, rare whiskeys, Bourbons, world whiskies, etc. They’re also not
inexpensive – you can easily spend a few hundred dollars on these Advent
History has shown us that,
year after year, whiskey Advent calendars sell out quickly. Hence, the
opportunity for scammers counting on your FOMO. I want to give you some
pointers on recognizing when you’re about to be scammed.
Aside from the barrage of
ads showing the same photos and wording by dozens of “different” retailers, you’ll
find a plethora of “customer” comments talking about how fantastic the company
was to work with, how they shipped quickly, yadda, yadda, yadda. You’ll also
start to see many people tagged in those comments. Ignore them. Ignore them
I recommend enlarging the
photo as much as you can. Chances are you’ll be able to pick out the name on
the Advent calendar. In my example below, you’ll see Drinks By The Dram. That’s a legitimate company as well. However,
the name of the “company” selling it is not Drinks By The Dram, and it has no
history of selling Drinks By The Dram products.
Reputable companies are not selling hoards of Advent calendars to sketchy resellers. They don’t have to because they sell out of their stock yearly. Also, in the unlikely event that one of these off-brand “companies” purchased a pallet or so of these calendars, they aren’t going to sell it to you at a massive loss.
Use an incognito browsing window
and visit some retailers by clicking on their ads. The next part of what I’m
telling you is something you should do with every shopping website you’re
unfamiliar with. The first place you want to visit is the Contact Us section, and the second is the About Us section.
You’ll see phone numbers,
addresses, and email addresses in the Contact Us section. Anything with
@outlook.com, @gmail.com, @msn.com, @yahoo.com, etc., should immediately raise
a red flag for you. For example, in a wholly invented website http://iamscammingu.com,
the email address should match the website you’re visiting. firstname.lastname@example.org
is going to add credibility. email@example.com should take it away (my apologies
to whoever owns firstname.lastname@example.org).
In the About Us section, you’ll
see whatever the website owner wants you to learn about them. While the
scammers may use friendly, welcoming words, English is not their native tongue.
They butcher the language to an almost criminal level. You’ll also notice they’ve
vomited the alphabet with nonsensical sentences. Sure, some legitimate overseas
websites miss a word here or there, but for the most part, they make sense.
Scammers go well beyond that.
While trying to wrap your
head around the language used, check out some of their ads on their website.
Here’s a prime example:
What, exactly, does that mean? Your guess is as good as mine. Look around for glaring errors. Scammers are cheap bastards. They won’t invest in tools to correctly translate what they’re trying to convey and won’t hire a copywriter to write their content. They’re spending only enough money to get the fake website published to fool you.
If you order from one of
these scammers, will you receive anything? In some cases, yes. You may receive
a whiskey Advent calendar, and when you open it, there’s junk inside, such as tiny
ornaments or other penny trinkets. But they’ve shipped to you; they can provide
a tracking number and show it was delivered, making your claim with your
credit/debit card company more difficult.
Please, don’t let FOMO overpower
your common sense. Watch for red flags. If something seems too good to be true,
chances are it is. Buy from retailers who have a history of selling these
Advent calendars. Sure, they charge three times the amount as the scammers, but
you’ll get what you ordered.
Here are some legitimate
retailers. Please note that I am not endorsing or recommending any of these
companies; I’ve never purchased from them.
Enjoy gift-giving and your
upcoming holiday season. Cheers!