'Fake order' scams target direct sales reps

From cookware to clothing, supplements to skin care, direct sales can be a great way to boost your income. Just be careful about your clients because some of them may actually be scammers.

Like many direct sales consultants, Michelle Blunt has a website for her Mary Kay business. She's what you'd call a real go-getter. And she gets plenty of orders. But a recent text order turned shady.

"I want to place an order with you for my daughters 22nd birthday," the text explained.

"She wrote me to say that her daughter was in an accident and she was in the hospital," Blunt explained. "And she just found out that her financier had sent the money, but on top of the money that was due to me, he sent extra monies that she would like me to send back to the doctor for her daughter."

Of course it's a crock. But believe it or not, people do fall for stories like this. Scammers use psychology to get us thinking more about what we "want" to be true, so we ignore our better judgment. But Michelle had just seen my warning a week earlier about this exact kind of fake order scam. The scammers typically want the orders shipped to addresses in another state. Blunt decided to pass on that big makeup order and give the client the brush-off.

The bottom line is if you suddenly get a big order from a stranger, take the extra time to stop and think. Does it really make sense that a total stranger would contact you, instead of a sales consultant in the city where they are, or where they want the product delivered?

And remember, once you ship the order, you're not only out the money you spent on the product, you're also out the money the so-called client was supposed to pay.

Postal inspectors report these scammers either pay with stolen credit cards, or counterfeit money orders and cashier's checks which bounce after the products are shipped.

And keep in mind, the scammers do not single out Mary Kay. They target all products lines sold by independent consultants, including but not limited to cosmetics, cookware, apparel, health supplements and home accessories.