There has been an increasing amount of fraudulent tenders and RFQs doing the rounds in many industries and the lighting industry is certainly one of them. The scam artists who publish and distribute these documents have been getting better at making them look authentic and unfortunately many people have fallen victim and lost a lot of money paying fake suppliers for non-existent products with little to no recourse.
This article serves to highlight some of the current scams out there and to point out ways in which individuals can check if a Tender or RFQ is legitimate or not and help prevent companies wasting their time (at least) and money (at worst). Below is a 2-step way to check your Tender or RFQ document is legitimate:
STEP 1: Is the document legitimate?
Always check with the procurement department of the company or municipality the document is from that it is legitimate and valid. This does not mean phoning or emailing the contact details on the document itself, as this will most commonly put you directly in touch with the scam artist(s) themselves. Rather, search for the contact details on the official company or government website. You can then provide a reference number and check that the project is legitimate and registered. If not, its a scam!
STEP 2: Is the product legitimate?
If you do not know who the company the RFQ is for or the contact people are unavailable you can also check the legitimacy of the product in question. There will often be a model name and number on the document which you can quickly Google and the product specified should come up on the first page. You then need to go to the supplier website and look for any red flags that could hint to it being a cover for a fraudulent entity. Some scams have better websites than others but typical telltale signs are that the website looks very generic, uses stock photos, has limited contact or product details or a combination of the above.
If you are still unsure, you can contact the supplier and ask them for more information, pricing, stock availability and specifications. Here are some more red flags to look out for:
- The salesperson you talk to has very little technical knowledge of the product in question. They just know of the product you are asking for and will quickly give you a price.
- There is no spec sheet available or the spec sheet does not match the description. Eg: The RFQ is for solar street lights but the price and spec sheet they send you is for a street light only, with no specification on the solar components.
- There is a mismatch between the price quoted and the spec received. Sometimes the spec will look legitimate but they quote you a fraction of what the price should be for a similar size and quality product. For eg. If a similar spec product on the market typically sells for around R10000 but they are offering it to you for R2000, this is a very big red flag!
- The stock is always readily available and they can deliver quickly once payment is received, even if it is a large quantity of a fairly expensive or uncommon product. They typically won't even check if there is stock.
Always be cautious when dealing with a company you are unfamiliar with and don't pay any money to a company unless you know with a 110% certainty that they are a legitimate entity you can trust.
We have found the below product codes linking to fraudulent RFQ and suppliers. If you have an RFQ for these products, do not entertain it as it is a scam.
If you are aware of any other lighting scams doing the rounds, please report it to us so that we can publish it here to broaden awareness. You can send your tipoff to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Current fraudulent products or RFQs to look out for:
- SANEL M15 Led Street lights
- VK70 Solar Street Light - EWH3725TS
- MX40 Solar Street Light - MF40XW24