(Jan. 9, 11:00 a.m.) The Ottawa-based Fruit & Vegetable Dispute Resolution Corp. is warning members to be on the lookout for possibly fraudulent cross-border transactions.

In December, the DRC received about twice as many complaints as usual about exporters being left out in the cold by importers who never paid them, said Fred Webber, vice president of trading assistance.

Most complaints have involved U.S. exporters and unlicensed Canadian importers, and some companies’ losses have exceeded $100,000, Webber said.

“I call it ‘The Grinch Syndrome,’” Webber said. “These always seem to pop up around the holidays.”

Cross-border problems can be harder to detect, Webber said, because it can take much longer — sometime as long as 30 days — for shippers to find out a bad check they received won’t clear. During that period, shippers often send additional shipments to the same receiver.

Product purchased by such receivers often gets sold for well under market price. As a result, an entire market, not just one shipper, can suffer, Webber said.

The DRC is urging shippers to deal only with importers who are either DRC members or licensees of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.

It’s not enough, Webber cautioned, to trust importers just because they’re listed in credit-rating service publications such as the Red Book.

AnnMarie Wills, general manager of Lenexa, Kan.-based Red Book Credit Services, a sister company of The Packer, said that while it’s possible a fraudulent company could get a directory listing in the Red Book, it’s next to impossible it could get a credit rating from Red Book Credit Services.

“If people are dealing with a company that has a star rating, it’s highly unlikely they’re dealing with a fraudulent company,” she said.

For instance, Wills said, to get a star rating, Red Book requires companies to submit at least eight references from companies they have done business with in the past three months.