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Scams Alarm Bells

William D. Mauldin (WG4R) on May 6, 2013
View comments about this article!

I recently posted a "wanted" listing. In less than 24 hours I get a response from "a ham" who is listed in with a e-mail address... making me a dream of an offer! Wow! I'm impressed... OR am I? If a deal is too good to be true, it is probably a scam.

When dealing with another ham, as you know, most deals are in the open and there is no problem as details are available on request. In my case, the selling "ham" did not have "command" of the English language and his message was very brief, poorly written, offered no details about the item, and quoted a price way below what the item would normally sell for.

((( Alarm Bells! )))

Always beware of any poorly written message using poor e-mail format, and watch for strange language and incorrect spellings.

In checking the seller e-mail address on QRZ, the address checked out. (Remember, e-mail addresses are hijacked every day... so don't relax and send money quite yet.) I responded that the price was acceptable and asked how he would like payment. (I prefer to use a credit card via PayPal for the payment so you can get your money back if things aren't as expected... you have 30 days or so depending on your credit card.) The use of a postal money order, a cashier's check, and Western Union always adds risk, especially Western Union.

A couple of hours later, I get a second message. Again, poorly written in poor e-mail format with a few spelling problems... and this time the message is from another address using the call sign of another ham at "" This email says I should make the payment by postal money order and mail it to an unrelated name at an address in another state. The name did not match the call letters used in the return address. ((( Alarm Bells! ))) (Go to the web and put in the name and dot com on the e-mail account. If it is an unknown name, see where it is located and what kind of services they offer.)

In checking the call used on the second e-mail, the call doesn't match the name of the ham shown in ((( Alarm Bell ))). The listing of the real ham's e-mail shows there is no e-mail listed. (The scammers have done their home work... the call is listed to a ham with NO e-mail address shown and who has no phone listed in (which is a free service). ((( Alarm Bell! )))

Look at the headers of the incoming messages and see what they tell you. There is a ton of information in a header. All e-mail has a "header" before the text you normally see. It is there. Find it and take a long, hard look and make as much sense out of it as you can. Print out the message and the header and keep it until the deal is done and you are satisfied.

Go to and put in the ship to or payment address. Is it a UPS store or other "drop box" location? In my case... in my case, I looked at the physical address in, and there is a house at the address, BUT in checking it out further, the name to be placed on the money order doesn't match. ((( Alarm Bell )))

A quick call to the local police of the buyer or seller, to make an inquiry about the address in question is always a good idea when you have doubt... just ask who lives at the address and explain why you are asking.

I wrote the initial responding "ham" and asked about the relation between him and the "ham" who was supposed to receive the money order, and added in some questions about the item I wanted to buy... such as the serial number, if he was the original owner, and other things that most hams would know or be able to look up...such as the voltage of the wall wart power supply, and so far there has been NO response. I don't expect any. ((( ALARM BELL )))

Always get phone numbers, street addresses, and ask questions... and then use the information on the web to check out AND VERIFY the other person and his information. To get your money or your package, they must have a physical address. That is the weak link in a scam. If something is missing or doesn't match-up, pass up the deal.

Be sure in dealing with "suites" or "apartment" numbers that you are not dealing with a "drop box" in some mailbox store. Get the zip plus four numbers and run it through the website where you can often learn about the actual address, then map it on google and see what is actually there.

If you still have doubts about an address and think it may be a mask for a "drop box" you can always ask for the "apartment manager's phone number" so you can verify that he is willing to sign for a package OR a money order that you plan to send by REGISTERED MAIL. A few extra cents can save your money and your butt, trust me. Make sure the phone number shows in (a free service) and that it is not a cell phone of the seller's buddy. Never ship to "a friend's address..." Request and GET signatures on delivery if you are in the least uncomfortable.

If you get taken, contact the local police in the address town and the security people with the service you are using, USPS, UPS, FedEx and so on. Ask how to file a report and follow through on it. Postal inspectors love street addresses as they can normally track someone down. Have and keep tons of information to give law enforcement. Keep all of the e-mails with the header information, as this is always helpful.

As a retired law enforcement officer, I hope this is helpful to the honest buyers and sellers in our hobby. If you have ANY reservations about a deal, just pass it up. It isn't the only one out there. Remember, it is much easier to say "I'll pass..." than to say, "Give me my money back..." and find out you have been taken.

Member Comments:
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by K0KUZ on March 25, 2013 Mail this to a friend!

Great article.
Thanks much for your time and efforts.

Scams Alarm Bells  
by KU7I on May 6, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
Great tips Bill, thanks for taking the time to write this up for all of us to benefit.

US Naval Hospital
Forward Deployed Yokosuka Japan
Scams Alarm Bells  
by TANAKASAN on May 6, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
The one thing I have never figured out is why most of the scammers use Yahoo email addresses.

RE: Scams Alarm Bells  
by W3DMS on May 6, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
Yahoo doesn't verify that the person, IS, who they say they are.
RE: Scams Alarm Bells  
by N6AJR on May 6, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
Good tips, thanks
RE: Scams Alarm Bells  
by K9MHZ on May 6, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
Bill, did the emails say that he "hopes to find you in good health", "kind regards", etc?

Those Nigerians can be so polite!

Scams Alarm Bells  
by K0CBA on May 6, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
Well written and informative....thank you.

It is kind of said that it needed to be said though, I guess there are always the 10%ers that are just now hearing about the Titanic.
Scams Alarm Bells  
by K1CJS on May 7, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
They'll use any free e-mail account where the actual residential/business isn't verified. A lot of them used to use hotmail too--until a few days ago.
Scams Alarm Bells  
by N9LCD on May 7, 2013 Mail this to a friend!

Great article. Well written.

If the deal is "too good", I ask the seller "What's the serial number? I want to be sure that it's not on the manufacturer's "hot list" if I have to send it in for "factory" service". It works best with supported commercial gear, like Motorola HT's and Agilent spectrum analyzers. And, if it's a rip-off, they'll pull the ad fast.

As for Postal inspectors, file a report with them but don't expect much. They don't investigate anything involving less than $300. It's simply a matter of resources.

RE: Scams Alarm Bells  
by KE5KDT on May 7, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
Good advice. I've gone to the qrz databases and looked up other hams in the location of the ham selling the item. You can usually find one with an email address on qrz or do a phone number search by name and address for someone near the address of the seller. You might find a fellow ham that will put eyes on the gear and the seller. You can also request some specific pictures of the gear that they can't produce without the radio.

Scams Alarm Bells  
by WA1SEO on May 8, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
Often times the situation arises to do a face-to-face transaction. I always bring a receipt for the other person to sign with a space to fill in the serial number of what I may be buying. I also include the term AS-IS condition and offer them a copy for their records. If they don't want to sign it, don't buy it.

It's always good to bring a second person along.
Scams Alarm Bells  
by KI6AGS on May 8, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
Great bit of advice.

I would add that less than honorableness have been known to use an address of a home that's vacant. They live in or near the neighborhood of the home and know who the postal carrier is and the hours they deliver/pick up...when the drop is made the less than honorable is lying in wait and gets the prize. Another helpful tip maybe to ask a local ham in the area of the less than honorable's address if they know/knew such less than honorable...

ARRL Member

RE: Scams Alarm Bells  
by STRAIGHTKEY on May 8, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
>Yahoo doesn't verify that the person, IS, who they say they are.

Neither does Hotmail, Gmail, or any other email service that isn't tied to an ISP.
RE: Scams Alarm Bells  
by K9MHZ on May 9, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
How do they come up with some of this stuff? If they'd put some of their clever schemes toward a honest and moral purpose, they'd be very successful.

Probably has been the same for thousands of years. Sheesh....
Scams Alarm Bells  
by HFHAM2 on May 9, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
Good article, but I don't think that a yahoo or hotmail email address is necessarily a red flag per se.

I've been using a email address as my sole (non-work) email address for many years now.

Nothing sinister about it, it's just that it was the first email I came across with a web-based email client when I didn't want to be limited to using a PC with an (executable) email client loaded on it.

Oh and yes, I use a pseudonym on eHam because I value my privacy. ' Rubs some people up the wrong way but whatever...
RE: Scams Alarm Bells  
by KD7YVV on May 10, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
I use both Yahoo and Gmail, but one of the best ways
is to look the ham up on the fcc page.
To scammers, nothing is sacred. Another idea is to
check the SK list in QST. A ham can't buy equipment if
they're dead.
Scams Alarm Bells  
by KF6VCI on May 12, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
These advance payment scams are out of control! Several scammers responded to both WTB and for sale ads. The last guy sent 2 identical Australian Dollar checks and asked for a Western Union payment to a 3rd party.

Please check the IP address, too.

Please note that one can easily buy a U.S. phone number and be anywhere in the world to take the call.

One such scammer wanted to sell me a mint TT Omni VI+ for 150 pounds. And on a motorcycle ads website, scammers placed dozens of phony for sale ads, posing as DEALERS. And then there are the Reverends. TBH, a "God bless you" by a stranger is now another red flag to me.
Scams Alarm Bells  
by KF6VCI on May 12, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
P.S.: A friend bought some vintage radio - and discovered a BRICK inside. Even at hamfests, do open the lid and take a look...
RE: Scams Alarm Bells  
by KF6VCI on May 12, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
"AS IS" won't protect you as the buyer IMHO.
Scams Alarm Bells  
by TTOMAS59 on May 12, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
What does Joe Biden say to Obama after a hectic day of campaigning? "You look like s##t!"
Scams Alarm Bells  
by KM6CQ on May 16, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
It seems that the weak link is identity. How can each party properly identify each other in a transaction? I think Visa and MasterCard are still trying to figure this out. Along with other entities that provide credential services.
Great article, thank you for it.

73, Dan KM6CQ
Scams Alarm Bells  
by KC9YAJ on May 19, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
I tried Amateur Radio about a year ago, got my Tech ticket but the rest didn't work out. I walked away, now back again giving it a second shot.

My other hobbies are in video and photography and I frequent and deal on a number of Internet Forum Boards relating to one or both of those areas of "image capture". Prior to that I began my internet buying on Ebay and Yahoo Auctions in the mid/late 90s.

Back in the beginning all those years ago, all payments was cash, MO or Cashier's Check or Personal Check with shipping after it cleared. When Paypal came into existence, all that changed, forever, almost everywhere.

When I began looking at the B&S boards here and on a few other ham sites, all I saw was "Send me a money order" as payment choice. On the camera boards I frequent, if I saw that as my only choice, I and most everyone else would chalk that posting up as one coming from a SCAMMER.

IMO, the high use of "ready cash" as the primary payment accepted on the ham boards has brought the scammers running to the front door. Scammers know it takes a legit bank account to get a Paypal account, as of against they can turn a money order into cash just about anywhere. On the camera boards and just about everywhere on the net, Paypal has become the defacto standard for private party payments over the Internet.

The fastest way, IMO, to eliminate a lot of scammer issues is to cut off their access to ready cash payments like the money orders so often used on ham boards.

I recently placed a couple of WTB ads and got NO SCAMMER responses, but also listed that the transactions HAD to go through Paypal.

Just my thoughts, as always, YMMV.

Scams Alarm Bells  
by WD9IDV on May 27, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
You could also inquiry about my services if you ever have a bad deal. Guaranteed return on investment.
Scams Alarm Bells  
by N1VW on May 30, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
Caution Caution!!
Someone hacked into my account in at least one of the popular ham websites, and is using my name and call sign to scam people. This individual is using an email address that contains my call sign. He has been successful in ripping people off, advertising ham equipment on ham websites and having the purchaser make the money order out to his "wife", who has a different last name. The scam is being run out of an apartment in Austin Texas. N1VW does not and will not have any equipment for sale. Don't fall for this scam!
A private investigator is on the case and is gathering evidence and facts. BE CAREFUL, N1VW has nothing for sale!
RE: Scams Alarm Bells  
by K8LEA on June 5, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
A popular scamming technique is to offer to pay you for an item you're selling - often to pay a bit more than you asked - by a Western Union or other Money Order.

For example, you list a TH77A HT for $200, and you're offered $300, but the buyer wants to send you a $600 Money Order. He has other debts in the US (he's usually someplace else) and you're supposed to send the extra $300 to somebody else.

Well, you do all that, and then find out that the Money Order was bogus....

With PayPal this isn't happening like it used to, or so I'm told, but it's something to watch out for.

And, for something completely different, if you get an "invoice" for a magazine renewal subscription that seems to be from somebody other than the publisher, it's probably bogus. It'll be for considerably more than you should be paying, and somewhere in the fine print you should see a "this is not an invoice" sort of message. I'm told you will get your magazine, but it'll cost you....

(Among other things, I'm a semi-retired rent-a-cop. I worked with the local PD on the subscription scam a few years ago. I still get 'em....)

Scams Alarm Bells  
by KB9YKU on June 8, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
i for one don't spell that good
do that mean some one should not bye from me
Scams Alarm Bells  
by KB9YKU on June 8, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
i for one don't spell that good
do that mean some one should not bye from me
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