We had a UK client interested in buying 5-ton scrap copper from China. He saw prices on Alibaba ranging from $3,000 to $10,000.

With the international copper price around $10,000, he wondered about the actual cost of
buying scrap copper from China.

UK copper prices from LME

Previously, he had been scammed buying scrap copper from Europe, so he wanted to find a reliable sourcing company in China to verify suppliers. Last month, he visited us.

We asked, “Isn’t there copper in Europe? Why buy scrap copper?”

He explained that in the UK, they import scrap copper and refine it into copper blocks as it consumes less energy.

Before coming to China, he had selected 10 scrap copper suppliers on Alibaba, all priced
around $4,000. We further screened and identified 2 suppliers in Shandong, northern China. We accompanied him to visit and audit these factories.

Here’s what we experienced during the on-site factory audit.

The first factory was just a very decrepit warehouse, which we found unreliable after on-site factory audit.

decrepit warehouse of scrap copper
Decrepit warehouse

Now, for the exciting part:

The second factory looked decent, and big, also dealing in other metal businesses. They quoted $4500 initially, but we surprisingly managed to lower the price by 10% without much effort. This seemed unusual, making us very suspicious about the product’s quality.

the 2nd copper fatcory
Looked decent & other metal businesses

The manager explained they had special channels to acquire these items, but only sold to foreigners and only accepted payment in dollars. He also showed us some samples that were all brand new and promised that all of it was 99% copper content and showed us professional testing equipment to verify the purity.

brand new copper samples
Manager showed us brand new samples

They assured us that if we paid a deposit, we could come back in 3 days for inspections. To verify if this was a scam, we helped the client pay a $5,000 deposit.

Let's see what we get after paying a $5,000 deposit.

Three days later, our colleague Pan traveled 1,000 km from Yiwu to Shandong to inspect the goods at the factory. He saw the goods prepared for us in the warehouse.

prepared scrap copper at warehouse

With their testing equipment, the manager proved the copper content was 99%. Can the machine lie? I believe no one would doubt this result.

99% copper content by testing machine
99% copper content by testing machine

However, Pan had seen scams on social media saying that some people mix copper with other cheap metals, so he cleverly brought a magnet. He tried it, and surprisingly, it did attract.

magnet attracted by fake scrap copper
Magnet was attracted

Pan asked the factory to cut open the copper wires, but they refused. Just then, he spotted some copper wires sticking out of the packaging and could clearly see they were iron wires with a copper coating.

copper wires sticking out of the packaging

Realizing we had uncovered the truth, the factory grew angry out of embarrassment. He said if we were not satisfied with the quality of the copper, he would refund the deposit within a week.

Confirm all low-priced scrap coppers are scams.

Despite being deceived by that factory, our client still wanted to try other higher-priced copper factories, hoping for higher wire purity. He asked us to contact them to verify if they were real.

However, we found that all factories required a deposit before goods inspection. Even though we wanted to inspect the goods and pay the full amount on the spot, they refused. This raised our suspicions: Are all the low-priced scrap copper scams?

Our colleague Annie’s hometown is close to the Metal Trading Market in China. She asked her relative to help investigate the actual price of scrap copper in this market. He reported back to us that most of China’s copper imports come from countries like Australia, Japan, and South Korea. Also, the Chinese copper price aligns with the international market, resulting in a very small price difference between scrap and new copper.

Metal Trading Market in China
Metal Trading Market

Click to enlarge “international copper price” from Business Insider

Real words I’d like to tell you

Many first-time importers, and even local Chinese businesses without experience dealing with copper wire suppliers, are easily scammed. Even if you’ve inspected the factory and checked the samples, thinking everything is fine, you’re still likely to be deceived.

Especially after you’ve paid a deposit, it’s hard to get it back. Don’t count on lawsuits, especially international ones that are time-consuming and costly. Just like us, that factory hasn’t refunded all our deposits until now. Our lawyers are already taking legal action against them.

Subscribe to us to learn more about China sourcing. We are Jingsourcing, a leading Chinese sourcing company that helps medium and small businesses import from China. In our daily blogs, we share real-life case studies of our clients, insights, and practical tips that all come from our years of experience dealing with various Chinese suppliers covering a wide range of products.

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