With modern communication and e-commerce, much of the selling and buying in this industry is done between people that never actually meet face to face. This seems to encourage a substantial amount of scamming (theft) by people whose sole aim seems to be; to either obtain money from prospective buyers with no intention of ever sending them anything, or obtain merchandise from sellers with the intention of not paying, or claiming their payment back after the merchandise has been received.
This is a continuing problem for sellers and buyers alike. The actions of these scammers have to be factored into the prices charged, and as such affects the price for the products you may want to purchase.
SCAM: A dishonest or fraudulent scheme that attempts to take money or something of value from other people. It is a confidence trick that dishonest groups, individuals, or companies perform. The person who carries out a scam is known as a scammer.
Certain (not all) Facebook groups should be treated with caution. Many groups are controlled by sellers and are set up under the guise of passing on knowledge, but in reality, are solely used for promoting their own products.
These sellers frequently maintain additional fake Facebook profiles under several different names, and use these in the group discussions to praise their own service/products, and spread false derogatory rumours about the competition. Any comments from dissatisfied customers with complaints against the seller are blocked, so the group members never see any negative comments. As the word against them spreads amongst other Facebook groups, they will simply close their group and then shortly after, open another under a different name.
Hence, always check when the group was started, and more importantly be wary of those that have administrators/moderators who are also selling ants. Such groups will be very biased in favour of the sellers involved, and the information given in the posts will obviously promote themselves and demote other sellers.
Scammers are members of most Facebook groups, and when their previous actions have resulted in them being banned/blocked they simply rejoin using another fake name. With this in mind dealings between individual’s unknown to each other is often high-risk action.
Those involved in scamming will be most courteous at first, giving the impression of being a good friend with similar interests. However, once the product has been sent, they will invent an excuse to complain, and will not send payment or demand their money back. Be warned, once they have what they want their attitude will change very quickly.
When you are considering a purchase, check out the seller’s profile. Try and find out how long have they had a Facebook account, and how long have they been a member of the group. New group members who have only just joined Facebook should be treated with great caution.
Saying this there are reputable sellers out there, and Facebook groups with honest intentions, - but use common sense and don’t believe everything that is stated.
Many scammers open shops on the web / Facebook / eBay, to tempt potential customers to part with their money. New shops as such frequently appear and then after a few months stop responding, and the owner ‘disappears’ along with all the customers payments for goods yet to be delivered.
For safer shopping, you should aim to purchase from an established business that has a comprehensive website and has been trading for several years. Established long term sellers will have invested their own money to maintain their website, and over the time they have operated they will have become known to the public, and are usually a lot more trustworthy.
It is important to ensure that any online shops you are thinking of buying from clearly display their business address and a telephone number, along with their terms and conditions, which you can refer back to should something go wrong. Those that don't display a viable contact address, or don’t state their terms and conditions should be avoided. Ask yourself why don’t they give their contact details, and how will you be able to contact them if something goes wrong? The common scam here is to simply 'block' any dissatisfied customers from emailing/messaging them. Then, if that is the only contact method given it will be difficult to pursue the matter.
Many dubious sellers also try and take payments/deposits in advance for colonies that are due to be delivered to them, but which they have not actually received yet. They will tempt potential customers by telling them stock is limited and they will sell out fast. Don’t be fooled into paying for something that the seller has not actually got. If anything happens to their shipment and the colonies don’t arrive, it is very unlikely the seller will refund your payment. More likely you will be offered a credit note to use in their store, and they probably won't have anything you want!
Ask yourself: How much effort has the seller actually put into their online site. Is it a quick one-night construction or have they committed substantial time and effort to it, and is the content original, or has it simply been copied and modified from other sites?
Saying all this; Even the few reputable long-term sellers have started out as a new shop at one time. However, be cautious and use common sense before parting with your money.
You should be sceptical about being offered very low-priced stock or fall for the 'special sale' ploy as there is usually a reason for this, and typically the colonies are not viable and are on the point of collapse before you even receive them. And don’t be fooled by those wonderful ‘unpacking videos’ frequently seen on Facebook. Some sellers approach prospective buyers and ask them to do these videos praising the supplier, in return for a discount on what they want to buy. These unpacking videos are just a subtle form of advertising, and they are not posted because the buyer is so amazingly pleased with his purchase.
Many of the Chinese suppliers are well known for selling very poor quality stock. A typical scam involves species that have no identifiable queen like some of the Diacamma. In this genus, the egg-laying gamergate looks the same as the other members of the colony. Here the sellers will simply split large colonies into two or three parts, selling the separate parts as complete colonies, and obviously, only one part will contain the gamergate. The other divisions will over time simply die out.
With some other species which are similar and difficult for general hobbyists to tell apart, such as Carebara affinis and Carebara diversa, they will sell the easy to catch affinis as diversa. The true diversa is easier to keep, but it is quite difficult to obtain as the single queen is always deep down at the base of the nest. With affinis there are often in the region of 10 - 20 queens in a colony, and the queens are found near the top of the nest. However, the queens of affinis are much less productive than the diversa queens. Diversa is also easier to establish and responds well to captivity, while in comparison affinis is quite difficult to maintain.
Another scam they use is to send female alates which have had their wings cut off and then been given some brood/workers from their mother colony, to make it look like an established young colony. Obviously in time these 'manufactured fake colonies' will die off. In this case, the existing brood/workers will keep the colony alive for a few months, and then if you complain the supplier will simply say you have had them for a significant time and have probably been keeping them under the wrong conditions, so it is not their fault.
You should also beware of those sellers that only act as intermediaries and just purchase in bulk from places such as China. These intermediate dealers who buy like this just put a good markup on the stock and resell them as quick as possible for a nice profit. They rarely keep the colonies for any length of time, and certainly don’t believe that they have had them in quarantine for several weeks!
The philosophy here is as with most products, ‘Buy cheap – get poor quality’.
Free merchandise - Yours!
Scammers are fully aware of all the regulations regards payment, especially with PayPal, and will manipulate them to their advantage.
A typical transaction request from buyers which should be treated with the utmost caution is asking to have the parcel sent to an address that is not the same as shown on the PayPal account that they want to pay with. This scam is usually conducted by a buyer having two PayPal accounts, and using a business PayPal account to pay, but asking for the goods to be sent to their home address. They know that if you do this, it renders the 'seller protection guarantee' invalid.
'Ants were all dead on arrival' is the most common ploy used for submitting a PayPal claim stating 'the item was not as described'. A known scam here is to put the ants in a fridge for a short period of time. The cooler temperature will make them curl up and look dead, and then the buyer sends the seller some photographs of the 'dead' ants, asking for his money back or a credit note. (If the seller does not oblige they will submit a claim to PayPal.) When the ants are removed from the fridge and allowed to warm up, the colony will usually recover without any ill effects.
Some customers will offer to send the seller a small deposit upfront, usually stating they are waiting for their wages, or that a payment made to them is due to clear soon. They will promise to send the balance in a few days, however, they urgently need the ants sending now, as it's a birthday gift or some other similar reason. Be warned, it will never be paid!
Any buyers that don’t have a PayPal account have likely been banned/blacklisted by PayPal because of previous problems, usually because of a large number of outstanding unsettled claims, or attempted fraud. PayPal will then refuse to give them an account. Hence, those buyers stating they don’t have a PayPal account and want to use accounts of other family members or friends should be treated with particular caution.
Dealing with people who used to trade commercially in ants in the past and whose business has failed, should also be treated with the utmost caution. They will know the scams which caused their own business to collapse. They seem to despise existing businesses that have proven successful while theirs was not, and seem to think because they have been cheated in the past, it is their right to try and steal from others.
Buying and selling
Our advice when buying:
* Be very careful dealing with someone you have only known for a short time.
* For Facebook groups, always check the seller’s profile. How long have they been a member of the group, and how long have they had a Facebook account? Beware of new group members, who have only recently joined Facebook.
* Be wary of sellers offering very low priced stock – why is it so cheap?
* Don’t pay in advance for something that the seller does not have yet.
* Be careful when dealing with newly opened online shops, especially those that have no known previous history.
* Be very cautious if dealing with online shops that don’t show their business address and telephone number. Ask yourself why?
* Ensure the seller's site gives detailed 'terms and conditions' - which you can refer back to and quote if something goes wrong.
Our advice if selling:
* Don’t send parcels to a different address than that shown on the buyers PayPal account.
* Beware of buyers that do not have a PayPal account.
* Don’t deal with buyers who want to use their family members or friends PayPal accounts.
* Don’t accept deposits and then post the goods. Wait until you have received full payment.
* Ensure all parcels are sent by registered post / recorded delivery.
For safer purchases you should buy from a supplier who has been trading for a minimum of two years, has an established informative online site, clearly states their business terms, and gives their full contact details including a phone number and address.
Ant sellers talk
What they say - and what it means!
This is especially applicable to certain Facebook groups -
set up and administrated by sellers.
When they say 'the ants you want are in quarantine and they will be ready for sale once they are satisfied that they are healthy' - what they really mean is they are waiting for the parcel to arrive from abroad. Forget any kind of quarantine, as soon as they arrive, they will be for sale.
When they have a ‘special offer’ on - it usually means the colony is on the point of collapse, and they need to get rid of them quickly, before they die.
When they say ‘a fast seller not many left’ - what they mean is they have a lot of them, have had them in stock a long time, and cannot sell them.
When they say ‘it’s in high demand’ – it means no one is interested in them.
‘The essential kit carefully selected for ant keepers’ – in reality a collection of slow-moving products that they have left in stock, and need to clear.
‘A terrible species, not suitable for keeping in captivity, difficult to care for and frequently die’ - when a competitor has a species for sale that they don’t.’
‘A wonderful species, easy to care for, breeds quick and highly recommended’ – the same species when they have them for sale!