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Author Topic: Seeking guidance on how to not get scammed buying online  (Read 2393 times)
KD0UYD
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« on: April 05, 2013, 09:23:46 PM »

Hi all,
This will be my second post on eham. I originally posted this in the good seller/bad seller forum but thought I might get better responses here. I just recently got my ticket and will be going for my general in a month or two. That being said I want to buy a base station/portable ahead of time and have decided on the Yaesu Ft897D. I posted a wanted add on the classifieds here on Eham and have recieved several messages of people offering to sell their used base stations. The deal I'm most interested in is for an 897 plus power supply, auto tuner, all power cords, and a couple of different meters, and cobra jr antenna w/balune (all equipment described as being in excellent to new confition)for $850 plus shipping and insurance which came out to roughly $60. I'm ok with the price because its a good deal to me and within my budget for everything I need. I'm starting to get a little nervous though because it is a lot of money on the line and I've read many articles of people getting ripped off through wanted ads. I checked the seller's call sign and it checks out with the info he has provided me, seller has provided a phone number, sent me detailed pictures of all the items included together and seperately, and quickly responded to all emails from a non-throw away email address. I have no reason to believe at this point that the seller is anything but legit, however, I found an ad from 2009 on qrz where the seller was selling another piece of equipment and the IP address listed from that add was from a different city than the one listed on his license but after a little researching I found that the IP address listed in that add was only 4 miles from the city listed on his license. I also asked the seller if everything is in working order and he stated that he bought it from a retiree going into a nursing home and that it worked great when he was watching the prior owner use it before buying but that was a few years ago and it's been stored on a shelf in his closet ever since. I believe I may call him and ask him to send me a picture of the radio powered on or possibly on and receiving a signal. I'm a newbie with all of this and I'm thinking everything is ok with this deal but there is a lot of money on the line and I would like some other opinions or suggestions on what to look out for. I've done everything I could think of to verify everything. Thank you. (I have purchased two HT's through the eham classifieds previously and they have been great experiences)
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TANAKASAN
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« Reply #1 on: April 06, 2013, 12:20:48 AM »

Buying online is one thing but on the three times I've done this it's been done from another ham who is within driving distance. Actually walking down someones path and seeing the antennas and feeders often gives you a good idea of the seller.

On one of my visits I noticed that the only visible antenna was a dipole fed by 75 ohm coax, that got me suspicious and his unwillingness to let me test the rig led to me walking away.

Use your nose, if something smells bad it probably is.

Tanakasan
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K1CJS
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« Reply #2 on: April 06, 2013, 04:47:25 AM »

The first thing to do is to google his name and his location, and if you have it, his call.  If it's an estate sale, get the former owners call and info, verifying it with the seller.  If everything matches up with the info in the ad, you'll probably dealing with a legit seller.

Check and verify the sellers name, address and phone number on the internet.  There are several sites you can use to do so although you have to pay a fee.  Better to waste a few dollars than to lose hundreds.  Give him a phone call--or ask him to call you.  If he's legit, he shouldn't mind.  If he asks why, tell him simply that you're just checking him out because of the amount of scamming going on, and if he refuses, forget about that deal.  Exchange mail (through the post office) with him to verify himself and his address--asking him to send pictures of the equipment is a good way to do it.  Don't be afraid of telling him you'll compensate him by paying a bit more--most legit sellers will agree.

If any piece of info doesn't agree, ask more questions.  Again, if the seller is legit, he shouldn't mind--and if he's a scammer, he'll probably flat out refuse to give you more info.  The online check could show that he may well be a scammer in one or more of several ways.  Information he provided in the ad won't match the information you find, or you'll find either a criminal record or simply complaints about that particular person.

Any way you do it, buying sight unseen is a gamble, and more so with used ham equipment.  Even if the seller checks out and you do get the equipment, you're gambling that it will be in good condition and not damaged by misuse in any way.

Good luck and 73!  
« Last Edit: April 06, 2013, 04:53:46 AM by K1CJS » Logged
AC4RD
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« Reply #3 on: April 06, 2013, 06:36:24 AM »

It sounds like you've checked on the seller pretty well--good job, thinking of checking the IP address when the previous sale was from a different city!   When you've done the background checking you have, you're left with deciding whether it's a good idea or not.  That's something only you can decide on, and you're always taking a bit of a chance.

I once bought a Ten-Tec keyer by mail; the seller told me "it was working perfectly the last time I used it."  When I got it, it was completely unusable.  It had live 120v AC on the case, one paddle didn't work, and inside the case it was apparent that the thing had been *on fire* at some point, burned components and charred paint.  And the kicker is that the seller's name on the return address started "Reverend."   :-)

And I bought my first HF rig from someone I didn't know and got a good price and it worked perfectly well.  You just never know.

I bought an 897D used from one of the big ham stores a couple of years ago; it was $700, in good condition with all the accessories and manual, and it came with a guarantee--so if it didn't work, I could send it back.  That's another way to buy used; it gives you a certain safety net, dealing with a big well-known vendor.

Bottom line: it sounds like you've done a good job of checking on the seller, didn't find anything bad, so now it's up to you to decide whether to buy it or not.   Whatever you decide, I hope it works out for you!  Oh, and I bet a few people will tell you that there are better rigs than the 897 for that amount of money, but that's another "up to you" decision.  I *love* the 897; it's just a bundle of fun. I used mine portable with a riding mower for power one summer, worked >100 countries from my back yard with a beer in my hand, and had a GREAT time.  :-) 

GL and 73!   --ken
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K0OD
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« Reply #4 on: April 06, 2013, 06:55:22 AM »

Quote
"Check and verify the sellers name, address and phone number on the internet.  There are several sites you can use to do so although you have to pay a fee.  "

I've been checking out customers online since the mid-90s and never paid a cent for research. 

Photo of "a" radio doesn't prove a thing. Ask him to put something specific in the shot.

BTW, Google street view is a valuable FREE tool. If you're selling something, you want to see that it's going to a home (preferably with an antenna outside)  and not some trans-shipper warehouse in a port city.

I'd worry if Street View or one of those many real estate websites showed the buyer or seller of, say,  a costly IC-7800 lived in a mobile home or a housing project.

Yes, smell test stuff.  Web commerce is actually quite safe... if you do your homework and follow a few simple rules. 
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K4RVN
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« Reply #5 on: April 06, 2013, 07:22:49 AM »

It is a good idea to call the seller after looking up the call on QRZ.com or some other data base. Many calls are hacked. I avoided a scam recently on a transceiver as I got suspicious when the seller wanted a Western union wire transfer for the money sent to another address. The call owner had no radio for sale. A phone number can usually be found on the net using White Pages for free if not listed elsewhere. The ip address is good to check as mentioned. The address in the data base should match, or I would suggest a call to see why it doesn't. That might help, might not.
I recently sold an Icom 7200 in the classifieds and the buyer called me. Ask if the photo is the actual radio that is being sold. I have seen the same photo used for several sales advertised in classifieds on line. You still may get scammed, but you have to try to avoid it, so good luck.
« Last Edit: April 06, 2013, 07:27:00 AM by K4RVN » Logged
AC2EU
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« Reply #6 on: April 06, 2013, 07:29:47 AM »

Pay pal accounts are a good sign that a person is who they say they are, but not a 100% guarantee either. At least they had to prove that they had an account somewhere. Checking the call sign info against the persons IP locality and google map the place were also great cross-checks.

I also like to speak to them and get a sense of the person. So far so good as being both a buyer and a seller...
Just be careful and verify as much as you can before pulling the trigger.

The riskiest thing I ever did was a "simultaneous trade" with no money involved. We packed the stuff up ,sent it ,and forwarded the tracking info. That worked out OK because I had spoken to the other person for a while, and we shared pics back and forth of the equipment, so we both knew what to expect.
Not recommended for those who are not a good judge of character or gullible!
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K0OD
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« Reply #7 on: April 06, 2013, 08:55:22 AM »

Quote
Not recommended for those who are not a good judge of character or gullible!

I've concluded that a sliver of our species should never conduct business online. Born suckers.

Was watching the Dr Phil Show recently (certainly not my regular practice) where he was interviewing  women who had lost their savings to "internet boy friends" overseas.

Each victim was warned by family, friends and even their bank that it was a scam. These women were attractive, not desperate for companionship, and educated.

They were just wired up all wrong!
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W0BTU
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« Reply #8 on: April 06, 2013, 09:28:45 AM »

I also asked the seller if everything is in working order and he stated that he bought it from a retiree going into a nursing home and that it worked great when he was watching the prior owner use it before buying but that was a few years ago and it's been stored on a shelf in his closet ever since. I believe I may call him and ask him to send me a picture of the radio powered on or possibly on and receiving a signal.

Excellent idea. A lot can happen in a few years.

For example, some radios, when the memory backup battery dies, are useless even after a new battery is installed. Even if that's not the case with this radio, front-panel controls and even internal connections can go bad over time (I have seen this happen many times). You absolutely should make him thoroughly test the radio.

And I think if you pay via PayPal, you have some recourse if the radio is never delivered or is bad.
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KD0UYD
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« Reply #9 on: April 06, 2013, 01:46:24 PM »

Wow! Thank you for all the replies! It's definitely nice to have a place to go where I can get some advice on a new hobby that at times feels pretty confusing and intimidating. I have a couple of other hobbies that sometimes involve high priced transactions over the internet but I've learned hobby and know what to look out for from scammers as well as the common scams that newbies get caught up in....not the case for this particular hobby.I've decided to go ahead and give the seller a call and ask him to send me a picture of the unit powered up and receiving a signal of any kind as well as just chat a little to get a feel for him.
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K1CJS
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« Reply #10 on: April 06, 2013, 04:42:34 PM »

I've been checking out customers online since the mid-90s and never paid a cent for research.

True, but you can get an awful lot more information on those 'private detective' type pay sites.

Quote
Photo of "a" radio doesn't prove a thing. Ask him to put something specific in the shot.

The idea there isn't to see the rig, but to exchange something tangible so the actual address can be checked on for the receiving and the sending before you send either money or your rig--but you DO have a point.  Let's say you send something distinctive to him and ask him to include that item (a picture is best, I suppose) in the shot of the rig that he is sending to you.

« Last Edit: April 06, 2013, 04:55:15 PM by K1CJS » Logged
WA8UEG
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« Reply #11 on: April 06, 2013, 04:46:23 PM »

Anything small I don't worry much about but if it is a major purchase ( I consider anything over $300 a major purchase) I will only buy or bid if the seller will let me pick up. I will save the cost of shipping but end up paying more if I have to stay overnight, still I make a weekend out of it with the XYL and we both enjoy it. I now travel the midwest to the east coast so it's very easy to swing by just about anywhere and pick up but if a seller tells me I can not pick up they will only ship  then I'm out. I also have had sellers say they have no way of testing so selling as is but they are sure it works fine and when I tell them I can bring everything needed to test they say no they will only sell and ship "as is".
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KA5IPF
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« Reply #12 on: April 06, 2013, 04:51:16 PM »

Maybe it's just me but I have never bought anything, especially a radio from an estate sale which is an unknown in itself, taken it home and put it in a closet without at least trying it to see if it works and how well. Who knows I might want to use it instead of whatever I was using at the time.

It sounds like you have done some research but that kinda sticks in my mind.

Clif
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K0JEG
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« Reply #13 on: April 07, 2013, 07:54:44 AM »

I've never had any issues with buying online until last month. I'm looking at buying a new base station. After finding a "deal" on the eham classifieds I started the process. When I asked if the seller took pay pal, he provided me his account email address, which was not the same as the address we'd been using (BTW both were yahoo.com addresses, don't know if that's a red flag or not). At any rate, I Googled the paypal email address and the first hit was a post in a wrist watch forum saying the address in question was a scammer address. Needless to say, bargain or not, the deal wasn't going to happen. The seller did say his email account was hacked, but after I called it off I haven't heard anything from the seller, and I notice "he" pulled the classified ad.

Interesting note: According to QRZ.com, the scammer happened to use the callsign of a former Ohio cop. I made sure I mentioned this to him when I called off the deal. Wink
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N6AJR
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« Reply #14 on: April 09, 2013, 12:29:31 PM »

I have bought many things  from on line, both ebay and direct.  But if I had the slightest feeling it was sour, I did not do the transaction.  If you are that worried, try calling Ten Tec, or HRO or any of the other sellers  that work on line and see what they have  in used gear. These are legit companies, have warranties and don't rip you off.  maybe a few dollars more, but  you know its good, or look around locally and see what is available. Go with your gut on this one, and you sound worried.
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