Scams/Fraudulent Purchase Orders
Date webpage created: March 21, 2018
Last Updated: June 12, 2018
Scammers are targeting businesses across the U.S. claiming to be placing orders on behalf of The University of Tennessee. We encourage all suppliers to take precautions so that the supplier does not become a victim of these scams. The scams involves fraudulent/fake purchase orders, or fake requests for quotations, that claim to originate from the University, but are fraudulent. The scammers appear to be located in Ghana.
The fraudulent purchase orders often look similar to this real example of a fraudulent purchase order.
Variations of this type of scam have been around since 2014, according to the FBI. https://www.fbi.gov/news/stories/purchase-order-scam-leaves-a-trail-of-victims
Information about active/current scams, please note that the scammers might change names, email addresses, addresses, phone numbers, fax numbers, names, etc. at any time and the changes might not be reflected below; we update this page when we are aware of new information, but we are not always aware of the scammers’ tactics.
- As of March 2018, scammers are using the following names (please note that these individuals do not work for The University of Tennessee):
- Jacob Sims, Jr.
- Jacobs Sims, Jr.
- Joel Sims, Jr.*
- Richard Nixon
- Tom Geddes
- Tony Hawk (professional skateboard celebrity)
- Tony Spencer
*Please note that the real Joel Sims, Jr. is the director of procurement at Tennessee State University. TSU is not part of The University of Tennessee System.
- Also, scammers are using the following phone numbers: 865-590-4506, 865-465-6960, 909-545-6515, 865-264-2869, 865-999-4940, 615-763-4657, 313-528-3627, 865-244-4238, 865-590-4757; 870-224-1393, 570-224-1393 (these are not legitimate UT phone numbers).
- The University does not include a DUNS Number, EIN, or DHHS number on its purchase orders.
- Foreign accents: Currently, no one in the University’s official procurement offices has a foreign accent.
- The scammer asks to have items shipped to a “quality control” or “quality testing” location in Washington, Michigan, Texas, Florida, or California (or other locations outside Tennessee).
- The address might be in Lebanon, TN. The University does not have a location in Lebanon, TN. 132 Forrest Ave., Lebanon, TN 37087.
- The University does not have a “quality control” or “quality testing” or central receiving location.
- Fraudulent email addresses (the University does not use any email addresses other than .edu; the University never uses .com, .net, or .org email addresses):
- firstname.lastname@example.org (this email address might change).
- The scammers’ fake/fraudulent POs contain a barcode. The University’s authentic POs do not contain any barcodes.
- Fax: The University does not fax purchase orders.
Helpful tips to check for fraud (these tips are not necessarily comprehensive):
- Grammar: often, the scammers use poor grammar. Carefully review the email for grammar mistakes. If the email contains many spelling or grammar errors, you should be suspicious.
- Email address:
- Hover over the email address of the sender to see if the email address is a valid/legit UT email address (valid UT email addresses will always be .edu emails).
- Email addresses that scammers use will likely be ____@_____.com, .net, or .org.
- The University never uses .com or .org email addresses.
- Logos: University logos will often be of poor quality.
- Terminology: Scammers often use incorrect terminology. Official UT “requests for quotations” are never orders or requests for orders. Official requests for quotations are invitations to bid. Official UT orders will be called “purchase orders” and will be on official UT documentation. Scammers often call their fraudulent orders “requests for quote.”
- Signatures: If a PO or credit application is signed, the scammer will often sign using a celebrity’s signature (such as Tony Hawk or Richard Nixon).
- Ship-To: The ship-to address will often be outside of Tennessee; sometimes, the ship-to address will be in a foreign country. While UT sometimes places valid orders to be shipped outside of TN, this is a very rare occurrence. We recommend that suppliers be suspicious of all requests to ship to addresses outside of TN. Also, UT does not have a “quality control” or “testing” department.
- Amount: The fraudulent orders are usually large (over $20,000).
- Type of goods: Scammers seek to buy items that they can sell quickly online. Most often, scammers attempt to buy technology products, such as USB drives or micro SD cards. Sometimes, scammers will attempt to buy exercise or travel-related items, or clothing (e.g. t-shirts, backpacks), or items such as chainsaws. And, sometimes, the scammers seek to order construction supplies.
- Phone number: You will want to verify the phone number of the person contacting you. You may use UT’s official directory to search for correct phone numbers. If you call a phone number allegedly for UT procurement and a person with a strong foreign accent answers, you have either called the wrong number or a scammer. The University always engages in equal opportunity hiring practices. Currently, no individuals with a strong foreign accent work in any of UT’s 4 procurement offices.
Suppliers are fully responsible for verifying the accuracy of all orders. The University is not responsible for any losses caused by a supplier fulfilling a fraudulent order. If you have questions about whether a purchase order or request for quotation is valid, or if you would like to report a fraudulent order, please forward appropriate information to email@example.com.