Psyche! I rarely sell anything on ebay so this isn't a page of up and coming or present ebay offerings. This is a PSA only page to help you cover your butukus when dealing on ebay or anywhere else online. This section mostly deals with ebay but the same tools should be used anytime you buy online. It always breaks my heart when normally smart people who are just dumbshits about understanding human nature get screwed out of their hard earned ching. Hopefully this will prevent a few, and if it prevents just one it was worth the write. Bear in mind I've gotten some terrific deals from those that others wouldn't touch just by doing all the legwork to get comfortable. A sale that's really suspicious scares most people away to let the pro's work, competing against those that don't have a clue it's even suspicious! ;o}
This page just deals with outright fraud, I don't even want to start on the page that deals with getting less than advertised!!!
I do buy many guitars from ebay so I do view every high end Ibanez auction. The number of pure con auctions is staggering just on the high end!! US ebay is the most prone but I don't believe for a second other country sites aren't getting slammed too. Enough to get me off my ass and type out this page anyway. None of this checklist guarantees that an auction is a con, but these are classic signs that it is, the more signs the greater the chance.
New user, obviously you can't take $1500 bucks from somebody and expect to use that ID for long. Getting an ID is as easy as having a stolen credit card number.
Recently registered. rarely do I see con auctions with ID's over a month old. This does not mean that a good con doesn't open an account, actually buy a few things cheap to build a little feedback, then post con sales.
Low feedback inactive user, these are usually the worst to detect but if you watch everything usually the auction will be a copy and paste of a previous real auction including pics. These are accounts of those that were dumb enough to follow those "We lost your password, you need to come reregister" emails and they just give their ID away to some con to use for a few days or weeks. If the user isn't active he might not ever see he can't log into his account, or for those cons that don't change the password after they gain access, that the real user is now selling. Basically he can't do anything because the email addresses on the account have been changed, because the con is answering your mail of course. The only clue is how long it's been since his last feedback was posted, the longer the stretch the more inactive, but also check to see if the user is bidding on anything else because the con usually isn't going to be.
Short duration, usually 3 day, this is just a typical way they operate since most of these auction get closed by us wary ebayers before they would normally end. This doesn't mean a 5 or 7 day con auction isn't common too, but the current trend is for 3 day sales.
Starting price, the starting price is usually stupid low, $1, $10, $100, and without reserve. They could care less if it doesn't make top dollar, they're not actually selling anything. I love to see 0 feedback newly registered user listing a JS2KPLT for $50 and no reserve. Sure, I believe a new user had enough confidence in ebay to put up a guitar he probably has over $3000 in and risk it selling for $1200.
Stock file pictures, not that alot of ebayers don't go to ibanez.com and use the companies digipics, but this is one more clue. These cons get their pics somewhere and most of the time they're actually copied from someone else's auction or website.
Copy and paste description, usually from a fairly recent auction of the same model, usually one that recently closed and can be found through a completed item search, or many times it's another auction that's currently running! Then you'll find the ones that copy and paste the description right off the factory website.
Brand new is a favorite way to describe these stock file pics and factory copied description, it's fast and easy and most con men are lazy bastards. Some of them will even list all the warranty information. News flash, warranties are not honored on sales from non authorized vendors, and most companies don't allow ebay sales by their vendors to begin with. [Ibanez reps will allow their stores an occasional auction to clear something tough to move from inventory and you'll have a receipt from an authorized vendor. If the vendor doesn't have the reps permission they risk loosing their authorization and won't take that chance]
Almost no description, basically the "clueless" description. If they didn't steal a description somewhere else they've got to make one up, and since they're cons and really don't have a clue what they're talking about, it reads like it. [The trick is a few of these are actual real auction and usually sell for the best prices because they're so suspicious. If I can't verify everything on my maximum security checklist I'm game, usually. If one hair crawls on my neck it's a flat no.
Stupid description, I love getting these off ebay con letters that are just so stupid it's hilarious. I'll be bidding on a 150 year old piece of good expensive Satsuma and get a con email offering to sell me the same brand new item for half the price. Brand new? Yea, sure. Always new or perfect condition, always half or a fraction of the price of one that's currently on ebay, and they know that and want to sell it for half the price?! You don't smell the sardines?! Human nature makes man greedy when selling and they always want their maximum return. Conners don't care how cheap they sell, the air didn't cost them a penny. Too good a deal is usually just that but the stupidity of the descriptions is usually an open book, read.
Money order / Cashiers checks only, of course they can't process your credit card of get a paypal account as they would have to use their own credit cards and reveal who they really are. A fake ID or even a real name and ID and any check cashing stand will cash your check for their fee. How are you going to find him after all? One note should be made about credit card purchases which offer a very secure feature on *in country* purchases [that you do *not* get internationally] is that those same securities are *not* in effect if you're using a debit card. Most people think these are the same as credit cards and some may even say Visa on them, but if it's being deducted from your bank account or loan account you have absolutely zero protection against fraud.
Location not specific, for example United States, United States. Duh, WHERE?! Other examples would be something cute, Hot as Hell, United States. 0 feedback sellers that aren't trying to con you generally realize they had better make you feel secure if they expect you to send them several hundred dollars and will nearly always disclose a correct location. After they generate enough feedback to gain trust then some will start using "cute" location descriptions, which is stupid in the end because if they're not listing a flat rate shipping fee I want to know how far away they are to estimate what shipping will cost.
Private Auction near guarantees a con, they don't want anybody contacting their potential sucker by writing to him after the auction and tipping them off about the con. Ironically it's also it's own dead giveaway 99.9% of the time.
Outside ebay, If I had a $1 for every JS10 #221 auction that was posted after the real one went over $5000 I could buy a really decent lunch. If I had a $1 for every off ebay direct email con that originated from #221's auction I could buy a decent dinner, and I like to eat good ;o} If you bid on something you leave yourself open to the cattle heard of direct con emails, especially if what you bid on sells for decent money. IP tracking and address verification are absolute key tools for dealing with anybody anywhere.
Too good to be true, the basis of most cons, didn't your momma tell you about these?! The intention is to make you wreckless enough to be sloppy because all you can think of is how good a deal you're getting. Sometimes it'll be so stupid cheap it's unbelievable on it own. Sometimes it'll be just good enough to wet your pants. This is never to be said there are stupid people that actually nearly give things away when they sell because they don't familiarize themselves with what things are actually worth, but the basis of most cons is "the deal too good to be true".
Rush rush, is a typical method trying to make you leap before you think. Always be wary of the rush deal. The stories will be across the spectrum from they need $2k for another investment fast, to their car died, or they've got another buyer about to pull the trigger and you need to decide right now. Not that legitimate people don't need cash quick sometimes, but it's an additional hair raised on my neck.
Before it's even an issue, write, before you bid, after you bid, as soon as you bid, the sooner the better. Ask a question they should have no fear of answering. Track the IP address of the reply and compare to where they claim to be registered. If the IP tracks to Romania but they registered in England something isn't right. If it checks out start asking real questions, figure out if they know anything about guitars, cons usually don't. [you should be asking question about the guitar anyway, especially condition questions, pure caveat emptor whenever you buy anything] Follow up with your concerns about what spoofed you about the auction, see if they're willing to comply with absolute proof if you win. Generally feel them out on how much you'd trust the other party. This current gen of cons is pretty dumb, they usually give themselves away. One note, on all these further replies keep tracking the IP's!!! I've had several IP's track "believably" on an auction I KNEW wasn't right and on the 4th reply the IP was totally different and tracked through Ripe [an IP that tracks to Ripe must be further tracked through Ripe's whois database] to Romania, typical hotbed of internet fraud right now. And why are they registered in England? ;o} You should familiarize yourself with how to identify what IP the mail is actually being sent from. This is a very good tutorial on sorting through the soup. Here is a good whois site where you track the IP's and this is where you'd need to further track Ripe IP's.
Feedback that can be checked with still active directory auctions linked to the feedback are very useful. You can see if the ID was registered last month, the user won a few very low dollar auctions just to build up some feedback quick, and then all of a sudden they list a DNA Jem for sale. My guard's up. The feedback shows the guy has 2 feedback and the last one was from an amp he sold then it's evidence the guy may actually have a guitar. Always check the feedback and registration date of the user that left the feedback. It's easy to setup multiple accounts and swap feedback by winning your own auctions. But feedback that has active auctions you can check will give clues to the user that now wants you to send him $2300. Know your seller. Of course large feedback numbers is a comfort level of it's own but it's still your money, confirm the sellers information!
Before you send cash, you've won, you may even believe the auction is real, now it's time to make sure. Sending cash is different than paying with Paypal or by credit card. You have recourse there [although Paypal wasn't always as tight on security as they are today and many did get burned in the past when they could register stolen credit cards]. Sending cash leaves you with no recourse but ebay's whopping $175 of buyers insurance or the law [rant on that below]. Of course if the seller has very strong and good feedback, and is definitely active you have a better comfort level, but confirmation should always be made if you get to a dollar level you care about. I loose $15 to some wipe I'll be pissed but it won't hurt. I loose $4000 to somebody and it won't just hurt, I'll require pain killers.
Call 411, your typical con is not a "real" person, when the seller sends you his name and address usually it's as simple as calling 411 to verify the information with the phone company. If it's an unlisted number they will not verify the address [or phone number obviously] but that usually means a number exists, but any unlisted number gets a thorough address confirmation, no confirmation, no money.
Confirm his ebay contact info used for ebay, by using the contact info link in the ebay Security Center. If it doesn't match, why?!
Suspicious address, box, suite, multiple numbers, even apt. and room numbers can be related to a throw away mailbox like MBE or the 1000's of other box services that require no information from the renter but payment. Even a number address like 5214 - 76 Main St. can be address 5214, box 76. Completely and thoroughly verify all suspicious addresses. BTW PO Boxes are very safe these days. The USPS makes you provide so much documentation in order to get a PO box that they're usually very safe. I have gone as far as calling local Police and local Post Office to get additional details on an address that doesn't seem quite right. These people know the area and can usually answer if that's a residential or business district, single family dwelling or apartment, etc.
Confirming address, this is where the seller is going to have to understand that the amount of money you're sending requires you to be thorough about exactly who and where it's being sent to. He's/she's given you a name and address to submit payment. If you can't verify it by 411 then the seller has the burden of proving the address is theirs by sending me a scan, fax, jpg, clear and readable, of a utility bill, vehicle registration, credit card bill, some type of document that your conner just isn't going to have. They can blank out sensitive data like their card number etc., but I want to see a legitimate looking document that confirms the name and address they want me to send my money to. If they claim they can't comply because they don't have the tools, scanner, fax, digicam, tell them they'll just have to find a way, look under fax in the phone book and go pay the $, I'll add it to the payment. Borrow the friends scanner or digicam [how you'd post those pics if you don't have one?!] they supposedly borrowed before. If they balk, or they can't be convinced of the reasons you must confirm EVERYthing before you part with your hard earned cash, it's time to walk. Pursue as far as *you* want but for me, no confirmation, no cash.
Call, you're on your own here because if you get a good con they're snakey and believable, and vice versa if you get a bad one they're easy to see through. You can usually get a good read on somebody with the call, and at the least it's much easier to defend your case of why you need to be able to confirm who he is and where he lives and if you can work it out or if you have to bail. Just because he has a phone number doesn't mean a thing, it could be a cloned cell, but it does make it easier to get the point across and come to some conclusion than writing many emails.
International, deals cross boarders not only raises the risk factor substantially, it also makes it more difficult and expensive. One call to international directory assistance is $15. Bottom line is still the same but you are left to relying on copies of documents they agree to send you to judge if you have enough confirmation to send above your comfort level of dollars to. Know full well that if it's a con your chances of help are is 0. Always be extremely wary of those that ask for Western Union or Moneygram payments. While this service is a convenient way to pay especially for smaller dollars, it's a typical con tool as they require such flimsey ID to pickup the money usually from 17 year old kids working the counter that don't have a clue and don't care. If you're getting screwed is none of their concern. Large dollars should always be made by bank to bank wire transfer. The seller will actually have to have a bank account to receive the money and real banks do require enough verification to open an account to confirm it to themselves. Considering the added risk it's advisable to make them prove they actually have what they're selling.
Prove you have it, it's a simple thing to ask the seller to take one clear jpg of the item and a card that has your name written on it, or anything else you want on it. This at least proves that the seller isn't copping pics off the web and they actually do have what they're selling. This doesn't guarantee they're going to send it to you after you pay, but 99.99% of cons are by conners that don't actually have anything to ship you. They see something worth money, a good one will learn just enough about it to be dangerous because he can answer a few questions about it, but they still don't possess it. Make them prove they possess it.
If you think the law is going to help you track somebody that doesn't exist guess again. It's hard enough to convince them to do anything when you DO know exactly who the perp is and exactly WHERE they live. But miracle of modern law they can claim that you sending money was a contract to buy and that falls under contract law which is civil court and not criminal. They also use the excuse the crime was committed in your jurisdiction and not theirs because that is where the money was sent from [totally ridiculous] and you have to file with your local police, which will be forwarded to them for investigation, but their district attorney will NOT extradite the perp to your state over a $1500 loss [or even a $25000 loss to be honest]. I used the argument that the crime was committed in their jurisdiction because that's where the check was cashed and the theft occurred when the check was cashed. They did get involved after some convincing, be persistent. I've only had to go through this once on one super lame ebay shithead that was taking 8 weeks to ship and repeated lies it had shipped, somebody stole it, the bullshit never ended. The cops gave him an ultimatum and I had a tracking number on the day they were set to arrest him for the charge. You have the option of filling for mail fraud but unless this guy is known to them and a big time con, they aren't going to do a thing besides take a report. Think the FBI cares? If the interstate theft is over $500,000 you have a chance they'll get involved. Your bottom line is if you don't go in person you're hiring a private dick to try and track down somebody that in the end probably doesn't even exist, just a fake name and ID with a Mail Boxes Etc. or similar address.
Use Escrow, if you're still not absolutely confident, OR if you just want to be sure there are no complications I'd highly recommend using an Escrow service. If it's an eBay deal use eBay's recommended service, www.escrow.com. There are plenty of online escrow services, there are 10 times as many con escrow services, most of which have been setup by con artists themselves. escrow.com is legitimate and that is the MOST important aspect of dealing with an escrow service. Sure it costs about 10% of the total value, but it will save you from loosing 100% in a con, and you have a built in inspection period so you can refuse the purchase if it does not meet expectations.
And just think, you can follow all these steps to the letter and STILL get fucked. People suck, be careful.
TURN THE FUCKER IN
You snooped out the con, great, saved your butt. Now do your public service to make it harder for him to screw somebody else!! You should be pissed enough at the fact the munch was trying to steal your money enough to want to deal back what you can. If this was on ebay then get yourself into the security center and use the walkthrough menus to notify ebay about this user, include all pertinent information. IP tracking, contact info that doesn't match up, everything they'd need to verify he was a con and they will instantly suspend that account. Now write to free email accounts he was using by forwarding the complete email transcript and make sure to include full internet headers that are incriminating. He'll loose the email account too. This can be as many as 3 emails account bouncing to each other in his attempt to cover his trail. Get them all closed [at least carbon copy report to abuse@ all of the providers] because the harder you make it for him to con the better off everybody is. Consider it your duty.
Copyright April 2004 by Ibanez Rules!