One should always be somewhat suspicious of purchasing a piece of equipment from a private and unknown entity via on-line connection. While 99% of transactions turn out to just fine, there is that small number that turn out to be scams. For those of you that do many of these transactions, you may know some of the warning signs, but many don’t.
Gearsecure would like to give you as much knowledge and some tools in handling these situations to make dealing on-line as safe as possible.
First, let’s look at some of the basics. If a deal looks too good to be true, it probably is. That $2,500 guitar that you’d looking to purchase for less than $1,000 is likely not the real deal. In a retail setting, this is one of the first clues that an item may be stolen or counterfeit.
In dealing with the seller, it is worth asking a few questions. It is perfectly valid to ask what the serial number of an item is. We have some resources here, and more in the gearwiki to help you verify the serial number format. There are other resources across the web and your local retailer can help if you can’t get any information from these sources. The serial number the seller sends may have a couple digits x’d out. That is a fair practice for privacy.
In asking for these, you may ask a few more questions, where the seller purchased it, how long ago, any modifications made, whether it comes with the original documentation or case. The absence of case or documentation, or suspicious replies could be a warning the item is stolen.
Once you are comfortable with these answers, you should next consider the terms of the connection and the sale. Is the seller private, or a retailer? How will you pay? Does your means of connection have any protection for you?
The most important thing you can do in a transaction is protect your money. eBay has some amount of insurance for sales occurring on their site, but you have to follow the rules. If you stray from their procedures, you’re out of luck on their protection. One of the biggest points is to complete the auction through eBay. If the seller offers to complete the transaction outside the framework of eBay to avoid paying the commission, it is almost certainly a scam. Do not take that deal. Another warning sign is if the seller asks you to take communications off eBay’s messaging system to regular email addresses. Any emails outside fo eBay are inadmissible in eBay’s fraud claim process. Paypal also offers some protection in fraud prevention in ways similar to eBay, well, they are they same company, so I guess that’s not a surprise.
Other services, like Craigslist offer no protection. This isn’t to say their ads are any less honest, or their services are of any less quality, but they work like a traditional classifieds page, they put out the info, any dealings are from the people who respond. When dealing with craigslist or any classified sites, your loss prevention instincts are your only defense.
If the seller asks you to pay via wire transfer, it is almost certainly a scam. Wire transfers exist only for money transfers of large amounts or over long distances, like, between continents. In the retail environment, we encourage wire transfers only for amounts over $10,000, and we’re the ones accepting the cash. Wire transfers are irreversible and not protected by your bank. If you can pay by credit card, you can also recover the money, depending on your card and the terms of the contract.
If the deal is from somebody from a foreign country, say the is to be shipped from Nigeria by the former prince who has money that is inaccessible in a bank account unless he gets money from selling this item to you, well, that’s a scam. There are several ways of perpetrating this scam on eBay that skirt the eBay rules a bit. In one way, because the item is in a different country, you may buy it for a small amount, but they then add a couple hundred dollars for shipping and handling. This is something to ask before the sale completes or even before placing a bid.
At gearsecure, we’re working up a service for the deals that exist outside of the protected transactions, where we could be an impartial third party to safeguard the transaction. We’re working out the rules right now, but we’re willing to hold the money in an account for a certain period of time until the item arrives and its authenticity is verified. For this service we would ask either a flat rate fee or a small percentage. Again, we’re working up the rules, but if you would like to use us for a transaction until we are ready to add the service officially, you can send an email to email@example.com