Preventing Online Fraud in Your Flower Shop

Watch for these seven signs of suspicious orders.

   by Ali Koomen

The Internet is a wonderful way for florists to reach a larger audience, and it gives customers a convenient way to shop at all hours. With the advent of electronic transactions comes the possibility of fraudulent orders, however. This, in turn, can result in big losses for your business.

    Credit-card theft is a huge industry. Numbers are easily stolen by those in service positions (waiters, cashiers, etc.) who handle credit cards or via customer-service personnel who take orders over the phone. Once a crook has the card verification value (CVV) number (the three-digit number to the right of the signature strip on Visa, MasterCard and Discover cards and the four-digit number toward the front right on American Express cards), itís easy for him/her to order merchandise online because those numbers are the only ďidentificationĒ many Web sites request.

Seven Warning signs of fraudulent orders

    Fortunately, most online thieves generally make mistakes. If you monitor your shopís Web-site orders carefully, you should be able to catch most of the bad guys. Here are the points to watch for.

  1. The senderís name should appear on the credit card, in the signature of the card message and, often, in the e-mail address. If the name on the credit card is different from the others, this could indicate fraud.
  2. Is the card message a mess? Misspelled words, improper grammar, missed punctuation and capitalization are often seen on fraudulent orders.
  3. Is the senderís name included in the message on the enclosure card? Most fraudulent orders have unsigned cards, or the cards are signed with nicknames or initials that do not match those on the credit card.
  4. Is the senderís phone number the same as the recipientís but their addresses are different?

  5. Is the senderís area code the correct one for his/her state? Go to to make sure it is a match.
  6. Is the postal abbreviation for the state wrong? For example, IO for Iowa (should be IA), AR for Arizona (should be AZ), MS for Massachusetts (should be MA), etc.? Everyone should know their home stateís abbreviation; if itís wrong on the order, the order is almost always fraudulent.
  7. Is the order for roses or some other large arrangement, and does it have a lot of add-ons such as a teddy bear, balloons and chocolate? Itís easy to spend money when itís not your own.


What to do when your suspicions are aroused

    One or two of these warning signs may not be cause for alarm, but if there are more than two, take a closer look. Credit-card transactions often come back as chargeable, before the real cardholder or the bank discovers the card has been compromised.

    First, place the order on hold, and call the sender. Leave a message that more information is needed to process the credit card. If it is a fraudulent attempt, the sender will never call back.

    Next, research the name and address given for the sender. The Web site  is a good place to look up information as well as reverse-search a phone number; can help confirm an address. If a Dex or Zaba search comes up with a different phone number from the one listed on the order, call that number as well. Leave a message that something on his/her order needs confirmation. If itís the rightful credit-cardholder, he/she will return your call right away.

    When an Internet order raises doubts, pay attention. Once itís been delivered or forwarded to another florist, your shop will be out money that will likely never be recovered.

Ali Koomen is a freelance writer and an employee of Cactus Flower Florists, which has six retail locations throughout the Phoenix Valley.

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