Northeast Ohio collectors getting scammed by online liquor sales websites

Published: Jun. 9, 2023 at 6:15 PM EDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) -Many bourbon fans, or wine aficionados, are on a constant quest to find that hard-to-get bottle or a deep discount on their favorite variety. But some are falling prey to online liquor scams, and their “pour” decisions are leaving them high and dry.

“Right now bourbon and even tequila now are the two hottest spirits in the united states. Everybody wants it. Everybody will do whatever they can to get their favorite,” said Eric Bucholtz.

He holds a title as rare as some of the bourbons he pours as the Bar and Beverage Manager at Lanning’s Restaurant in Akron. He’s an Executive Bourbon Steward.

The pin he wears like a badge means he values the integrity of what he buys and sells to customers there.

“I have tremendous respect for what distillers do knowing the process knowing what is involved. They spend a lot of time and a lot of effort in making sure that their product is the way they want it,” said Bucholtz.

But he knows not everything on the market it really what they say it is.

“It gives the industry a black eye,” he said.

At least two local collectors got taken in an online liquor sale scam.

Last year, an elderly highland heights man lost over $300,000 in a rare wine and whiskey investment scheme.

In the past year, there were also reports of illegal pyramid schemes targeting wine aficionados as well as consumers being sold diluted or counterfeit whiskey.

More recently the Better Business Bureau was contacted by a man in Chagrin Falls who attempted to purchase a bottle of Weller12-year bourbon on a website called ‘’

The bottle normally retails for $250 but was listed for $100.

“He paid through Zelle for his product and of course then the scammer was gone,” said Ericka Dillworth with the Better Business Bureau.

The bargain spirits shopper realized the scammer even created a fake shipping company, asking him to make an additional $200 for insurance. Then another $100 for delivery, then another $200 for insurance to pay for the bottle that they supposedly broke.

Dilworth with the BBB says scammers are taking advantage of spirit collectors eager to score coveted bottles at a bargain.

“We’re finding consumers are getting caught up in situations where they know they think they’re buying this rare bottle of whiskey or whatever and it’s not what they think it is or they pay money and don’t get their product,” said Dilworth.

She says there are some clear red flags for consumers.

“If it generally the cost of that rare bottle is $300 and all of a sudden you’re seeing it on a website that just popped up and they’re willing to sell it to you for $100, that’s when absolutely you need to do your homework,” she said.

Dilworth says the website can help answer some questions like how long has the seller’s website been.

“We did look at the website is particular website had only been registered I think since 9 of 2022,” she said.

Bucholz says check with other collectors to see if others have left positive reviews for a broker you’re shopping with.

And if you’re asked to pay with cash apps, or transfers other than a credit card, you’re also putting yourself at risk because you can’t get your money back if you’re scammed.

Dilworth says the company’s form of communication or accessibility is a good clue too.

“We called the company and it was answered by a generic one of those Google accounts and that should be

concerning to you too, because if you call and you can’t get a hold of someone and it’s just this robotic answering machine, those are all clues,” said Dilworth.

Bucholtz says if you do actually receive a bottle from an online liquor seller there are also some surefire ways to verify that you got what you paid for.

Because some of these losses are probably only a couple hundred dollars Dillworth believes the scope of these scams is far larger than the reports they’re getting indicate.

“We really believe that it’s the tip of the iceberg. So if we’re starting to hear a little bit about people doing this then we know that there’s many more people out there that have been taking advantage of sure,” said Dilworth.