Christmas is over, the New Year is here, and you may have received a whiskey advent calendar that you ordered online after seeing multiple ads. The sales were terrific, and dammit, this was just a super-cool idea!
You clicked on the ad. There were different ones, including old and rare whiskeys, and yeah, that price was perfect! You thought, “Lemme order this now before they’re all gone!”
Were you scammed? If you got anything at all, did you get something that looked like this?
If you did, you’re not alone. Bourbon & Banter received many reports from people who were scammed. That photo above is just one example.
The truth is that whiskey Advent calendars exist, they’re typically pretty awesome, but like everything else, you need to be careful about who you buy from online. This experience isn’t reserved to just whiskey Advent calendars, either. It could be anything. And, my job is to walk you through the scam to know how to avoid them. I’ll do that in eight steps that are dead giveaways.
STEP ONE – THE COMPANY NAME
My journey started by seeing one of these too-good-to-be-true ads and clicking on the link. Every red flag I could think of was there. And then, about ten or so posts down was the exact same ad by a different company. And another. And another. And I would keep scrolling, and they’d never stop, never repeating the company's name.
That, my friend, is your first red flag.
I got pissed. Really pissed. Especially when I started reading comments about people saying how awesome this would be, tagging people who should be looking at it, and folks asking questions with the “company” providing answers. I made it my mission to expose these fraudsters because while taters will tater, I hate scammers.
STEP TWO – THEIR PRODUCT LINE
There were basically three photos that these scammers cycled through in all of their ads.
What are the two big things that stand out (or should)?
First, they all use the same language in the ad—the exact, same language.
Next, take a good close look at the top of the boxes. They say Drinks by the Dram.
STEP THREE – THE COMPANY BEHIND THE PRODUCT LINE
What’s Drinks by the Dram?
That’s an online retailer of whiskey samples. They’re perfectly legitimate. Google them if you’d like. And, yes, they sell whiskey Advent calendars. And, every year, they sell out of them quickly. Very quickly.
So, what’s wrong? Drinks by the Dram wasn’t selling excess products to these “retailers” because they didn’t have them. They don’t need to hedge their bets on inventory. They’re going to sell out. They do it every year.
Note: Since Drinks by the Dram is a UK-based company you can safely purchase their Whiskey Advent Calendars via Hard to Find Whisky if you're in the United States.
STEP FOUR – THE WEBSITE
STEP FIVE – CONTACT US
Do you see the glaring errors? First of all, there’s a formatting error with the email address. But, more important than that is the invitation to contact them in three different ways. Go ahead. Count them. How many do you see? You have to know the secret password to get the third method!
Here’s another version:
What’s wrong here? Aside from the horrific butchering of the language (“If you’re concerning your order status…” and “please check your spam bin!”), take a look-see at the second instruction. Go ahead, fill out the contact form. What’s that? You can’t find one? BINGO!
The other red flag common in both of these examples is something you may not be paying attention to, is the email addresses. email@example.com. firstname.lastname@example.org. These multinational companies (see the next section) can’t afford a domain name? They have to rely on free, untraceable email addresses? Really?
STEP SIX – ABOUT US
The second thing you should look for on every unfamiliar website is the About Us link. Go ahead, click on it.
Here’s another (remember, there are two basic templates the scammers are using):
Again, there is borderline criminal use of the language in both. But, beyond that, what are the specialties in the first example? Clothing. They brag about the different kinds of clothing they sell. I mean, sure, whiskey Advent calendars and clothing are a natural match, right?
The second is great because they give a mission statement. Except it is a word salad that says nothing and means nothing (and to be fair, many legitimate companies have the same issue). Shipping Direct To Your Door is also cool. Look how carefully they go to convince you that they can ship! And, if you have a problem, don’t worry! “Your support tickets will be replied quickly.” Yeah, uh-huh, sure.
STEP SEVEN – COVID-19
So, sections “Understand Us” and “Help Center” are a bit weird, but at least make some sense. But WTF is “Supersoniclife?” Well, one thing we know for sure is that corporate email address is easy to see. The Tips are excellent. There are multiple tips. Wait, there’s just one?
In case you were unaware, there’s a new coronavirus. New. Not last year’s coronavirus, but a new one. And, because of it, shipping time may be delayed – like forever if you buy from these charlatans.
While it is true there is a massive backup of shipping containers from overseas, and while it is true that delivery times are severely extended, this statement is their “out” for you when you don’t get anything. I will stake my reputation on the fact that when you place an order, and it doesn’t show up, if you do get a response to any inquiry, it will blame your missing item on the new coronavirus. And our website even told you in advance! But don’t worry, it will arrive “safely and quickly.”
STEP EIGHT – OTHER WTF STATEMENTS
I’ll leave this one here. You tell me what this means.
And this one… check out the 24/7 support delivered to your door or that payment statement:
The point is, these are nonsensical errors that shouldn’t get past any copywriter. I’m not implying that legitimate companies don’t have typos and the occasional weird shit. Still, as I said earlier, scammers are stupid, and they make too many mistakes that shouldn’t be overlooked.
Look. Whiskey Advent calendars are pricy. You’re not going to find a legitimate one for less than $100.00. And, legitimate companies have no reason to sell inventory to cut-rate outlets that they can’t keep on hand themselves.
Whiskey is crazy right now, the scammers know it is the hottest thing, and they’re ready to take your money. They’re posting comments on whiskey reviews stating something along the lines of, “I buy all my bourbon whiskeys from XXXX. Delivery was fast you can thank me later.” Don't let FOMO take control if you see something that sounds too good to be true. Take a few minutes, check out the company, and make intelligent decisions. Otherwise, you’re due for a rather rude awakening. Cheers!