China Sourcing Plans

20 best ways to avoid scams on Alibaba 2021

October 11, 2021

Urban Leung

Table of Contents

Is Alibaba legit or safe?

As recently, I have heard this doubt a lot.  My answer is that“ Alibaba itself is a fair and square product and sourcing platform, it won many global rewards and has a solid and proven system to protect its users. Unfortunately, many suppliers on Alibaba are trying to abuse their selling privileges and scam customers. So, as a sourcing expert who was born in China and is living in Canada, I have summarized 20 actionable ways to inspect and determine whether you can collaborate with your suppliers.

Let's see some data

Google Search Results — Over 116 million search volume relating to the concern of “Is Alibaba legit?”.




Alibaba reviews

Google Trendthe search for the “Alibaba Legit” has been dramatically increasing since the year of 2003.

Alibaba reviews

Trustpilot—a well-known third-party rating service provider

Alibaba reviews
Alibaba reviews

Sitejabber is another trustworthy and well-known public rating website. Let’s see some feedback on it.

Alibaba reviews
Alibaba reviews


1, After seeing these real data, we can say “is Alibaba legit” has been becoming a common concern for most business owners. And there are surely some unethical sellers on Alibaba. It is your responsibility to get around them.

Advice: before making any order, you have to verify and inspect your suppliers based on the following 50 points.

2, most of the scams on the Alibaba is relating to individual supplier rather than 

Advice: you need to check all the details with your suppliers, such as Product parameters, shipping arrangement and whether you need a live inspection through a video call.

Here are 20 golden rules that you need to go through while sourcing from Alibaba. It will safeguard without getting any scams at all on Alibaba. So let’s dive into it. This is also composed of a clear progressive path for you to go through step by step to carry multiple verifications on your suppliers. 

20 best ways to avoid scams on Alibaba

1, supplier comparison

Advice: image or detailed keywords.


1, find the product image or detailed words and search them on Alibaba

2, compare store years of operation, price, and Alibaba verification icons 

3, pick out 3 suppliers at most to compare deeply 

4, contact suppliers to ask for more questions and information

How to use Alibaba image search to find similar products on Alibaba?

(please see this screenshot)

Alibaba reviews

2, take advantage of Alibaba official verification

Advice; understand Alibaba verifications and badges

Why; In order to guarantee the profession and quality of various suppliers and manufacturers on Alibaba, Alibaba has been working and collaborating with the world’s leading inspection, verification, testing, and certification companies, such as SGS and Dekra. Also, Alibaba reveals all data such as the number of machines, certificates, and employees. These parameters are transparent and trustworthy. As buyers, we can use them to verify the suppliers.

Alibaba reviews
Alibaba reviews

Alibaba official badge list

1), Verified Supplier

Alibaba hires professional and independent third parties to carry an on-site inspection. I have found an exact description from Alibaba’s official page regarding how it verifies suppliers.

Introducing Verified Suppliers

Alibaba is working with three testing organizations to verify manufacturers.

Alibaba reviews

2), Trade Assurance 

Alibaba secures your payment and offers 30 days refund policy for some orders. So never go beyond Alibaba to do business with your suppliers, unless you have certain trustworthiness with them.

Trade Assurance

Alibaba reviews

3), International Certificates

Another key element in determining suppliers is how many globally recognized certificates they have, such as GMC. All certificate institutions hold a strict process to verify manufacturers. 

Alibaba reviews

4), The number of  patents and self-brands

Patents and brands can represent the R&D ability, so this factor can be an important reference in screening potential scammers on Alibaba.

Alibaba reviews

3, product parameters

Advice: compared to other elements, you should focus more on raw material, dimensions, and product weight. 

Reason: the quality and exact hand feel of products can be varied, especially to the trendy ones that would be produced by numerous manufactures. So raw material, dimensions, and weight are the most important indicators to screen off any fake products and potential scammers.

Alibaba reviews

4, be cautious of product images and videos

Advice: the images and videos on the Alibaba page might be misleading. 

Reason: shooting appealing product images is very expensive. So the fact is that suppliers may steal photos and post them onto their stores. The same thing could happen on videos. Alibaba can not verify all these images and videos. 


1, ask your suppliers whether product images are real?

2, if you still have doubts,  ask them to shoot real and life photos on smartphones.

5, WeChat or WhatsApp for deep communication

Advice: put WeChat over WhatsApp for communication 


1, Live verification

WeChat is a must-have for almost every Chinese, and you can arrange a video call to see the real product and even carry a quality check.

2, Accessibility

WeChat can be freely downloaded and applied in all countries. But WhatsApp currently is regulated in China. That means your suppliers have to use VPN or other web technologies to use it. This would result in disconnection with your suppliers.

3, Legal evidence

What if there were any scams that happened between you and your suppliers, you can get help from the local police of China, and WeChat chat history can be regarded as legit evidence. For legal help, you can submit your case through China Online Court.


6, never have transactions out of Alibaba with new suppliers

Advice: unless you had dealt with the supplier and already built up trustworthiness, do not pay any deposit through any means of payment methods including PayPal, wire transfer, and so on.

Reason: a typical Alibaba scam is that your supplier asks you to have a detailed communication out of Alibaba like WeChat or WhatsApp, then they would be made up stories to persuade you to pay them in advance through other channels rather than Alibaba. So you need to be very cautious about this scam. 

7, ask for extra written promise and “otherwise” terms

Advice: based on the uniqueness of your products, you can ask suppliers to give you an extra guarantee. For example. If you are importing hoodies from China, you can ask for “thread free‘’ “waterproof material” or “buttons must be rust free”,  and add “otherwise” term to make them focus more on your concerns. For example, if the promise is broken, the supplier has to refund 20% of the total transaction value.

Reason: suppliers and you are not expecting disputes, however, they are existed, through adding extra terms and promises, you are forcing suppliers to deliver a better result. You are welcomed to work with Bystie to negotiate with your suppliers. 

8, supplier websites research

Advice: if your supplier has a website, it would be an ideal medium to collect some information to verify its credibility and profession.

Reason: the supplier would list our core competitiveness and star products on the website. You can refer to them. Also, you can go to some third-party rating platforms such as Trustpilot to see some real feedback from customers.

9, business registration Check

Advice: if necessary, you can look up the supplier registration status from some third-party websites to find out there are any business warnings.


1, register yourself on Qichacha

2, ask for the company registered Chinese name and type into the keywords of your suppliers into the search box

3, find detailed information

4, use Google Translate it into English

5, see the Risk Scan Section

Alibaba reviews

10, focus on one or two professions in manufacturing

Advice: if your suppliers concentrate on one niche market, you can go further with them. If they sell products across categories, for example; they might sell apparel, home tools, and even electronics, I suggest you leave.

Reason: as suppliers, being across categories is hardly possible for most small manufactures. So, if they are holding products from diverse categories. This is a signal of a middleman, you should jump over them to find root suppliers for your target sourcing products.

Alibaba reviews

11, reviews (esp negative ones)

Advice: do not read 5 start ratings only, as not all of them are true. You should concentrate on negative ones because they are more reliable.

Reason: based on the Alibaba algorithm, Alibaba stores would get more traffic if they have higher ratings, as a result, Alibaba suppliers would hire fake IDs for unreal comments. This behavior has widely existed within Alibaba. So do not believe 5-star rating. But negative and low ratings are more valuable regarding the supplier evaluation.

Alibaba reviews

12, Google the feedback of products and services

Advice: research suppliers through Google and social media platforms in both China and the United States to gather more valuable information and any negative news from the public.

Reason: outstanding suppliers may get some endorsement from industry institutions and news reports on their excellence. All of them can be regarded as an important source when you compare suppliers to make right decision.

13, ask for prior project details

Advice: ask your suppliers to showcase some prior projects that are similar to yours. 

Reason: your Alibaba suppliers are the experts in their niche fields. So they surely should have some prior projects. So ask for the details about them, you can get clear ideas on whether you should work with them or they would scam you or not. 

14, samples/test/negotiation

Advice: You must confirm and claim that the sample must be brand-new, rather than returned or seriously flawed products. Ordering samples can be a very tricky step, as we always get samples with many flaws. Ask your suppliers to send you the brand-new ones.

Reason: for most of your suppliers. Most of them are big factories with over 50 employees. So their staff has different responsibilities. Also, most of the front-line workers have limited training. This would finally result in a faulty or detective sample sent to your place. It happened frequently when Bystie agents orders samples for their partners.

15, hire a competent sourcing agent

Advice: Try to work with a local professional and responsible sourcing agency. Because they can help you to get all things ready. Save time and avoid any potential Alibaba scams.

Reason: culture shock can be hard for you to manage. Also, there is some Chinese common sense when working with your suppliers. For example, price negotiation can be challenging if you are a foreigner. However, If you hire Bystie as your sourcing partner, we surely can save some money for you and protect your rights by our profession and connection in the sourcing industry no matter what happened. 

16, sign a contract

Advice: you’d better sign a contract or NDA with your supplier before sending a deposit to them. You should put all oral and written terms and agreements into the contract.

Reason: no one can guarantee that you will not have disputes with the suppliers, so getting legal protection should be a basic move to get sound assurance. Also, the Chinese legal system is more and more sophisticated. So calling the local police to intervene would defer your suppliers and prevent you from being scammed on Alibaba.

17, choose PayPal as your first choice, if you need to pay out of Alibaba

Advice: never easily give up the protection from Alibaba, if you have to, please choose PayPal as your preference.

Reason: online and global business can be risky as you never know who is hiding behind the computer. The best strategy is to have a B plan as your backup. As we know, PayPal has a powerful function called to ask for a refund, you can submit a dispute case manually to PayPal with all the evidence. In most cases, PayPal will make a fair judgment that will favor you. 

Alibaba reviews

18, dispute on Alibaba

Advice: Submit a dispute and keep all the chat history on and off Alibaba, in case you are not satisfied with the product or service you have bought from Alibaba.

Reason: Alibaba is trying to be a fair and reliable sourcing platform. So for many disputes, they have to follow agreed terms and issue a solution for the dispute. But sometimes, Alibaba may make the wrong decision. So in order to prove our rights have been infringed, we need to provide evidence such as chat history, written commitment, and any behavior violating the contract or written terms. After these measures, Alibaba would have a fair result for both sides.

Alibaba reviews

19, dispute out of Alibaba

Advice: wisely, use the local police system to defer your suppliers. If they have a clear fault, they will not let you go for local police, instead, they mostly would reach an agreement or give you compensation. So you need to get the exact mailing address and use Google Map to find out the police station nearby.

Reason: this can be a typical example of cultural difference. In western, the police has not much power except maintaining social order and protecting citizens from crime. In China, business owners do not like to have much connection with the police, as they do not want to add any negative impression to their local police. Also, global lawsuits in China can be a big case for most local police stations. They would prioritize the case and immediately inspect according to your inquiry.

20, China Online Courts

Advice; go to the Chinese online court and submit your case, you will get an answer back in a very short time. But you have to use the VPN service to get access to China internet or find a Chinese friend like Bystie to help you out.

China Online Supreme Court

Reason: in China, anything from top authority to lower-level bureaus can be quickly dealt,inspected and reported. So if you are unfortunately scammed by your suppliers, and have no way to solve it. You can definitely try online court. It is super easy.

The most important point is that your case would be handed down to local authorities. They would either report the result by internet and phone call. Also, you can forward the screenshot to your supplier, At most, your supplier would ask you to cancel the case in court and assist you to solve the dispute in your favor.

Alibaba reviews


Again, Alibaba is a transparent and fair marketplace for you to deal with various suppliers and manufacturers. But you have to be cautious about business traps and culture differences. So it would be better to verify your suppliers by these 20 rules before jumping into the purchase phase. 

Finally, I wish you the best of luck with your China Sourcing Journey.

About the author

Urban Leung

Urban Leung

Urban is a China sourcing expert with multiple cultures background, he has an MBA degree in international trade direction and has been working as a sourcing agent for over 6 years. He is, especially, good at diagnosing your sourcing issues. Rather than simply “telling” you the solutions, Urban would put them into real tests and quantify the effect by revealing some real data. This implementation has been proven more practical and accurate.

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