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Nobody likes planning for worst case scenarios, but preparing for the worst can help save you time and money. When buying or selling collectables, jewelry, or firearms through online auction or classified sites, there are a few things you should watch out for. The tips below can help you spot fraudulent or doctored items.
Inspection, Inspection, Inspection
In real estate it’s all about location, but when buying or selling online it’s all about inspections. Provide any possible certificates of authenticity for collectables, appraisals from certified gem experts, and documentation for any collector firearm. The more information that you provide, or that is provided to you, the easier it will be for you or the other party to verify that information with another expert.
Secure Your Funds – Lock In Sales
Consider using an online escrow company to secure funds for your next transaction. Escrow companies work to the benefit of both the buyer and seller by acting as a neutral third party to hold and transmit funds. Buyers are protected as funds are held with a third party and only released when they have proof of shipping or the item has arrived for a final inspection. Sellers are protected as well as funds are verified and held upfront – completely removing the risk of non-payment, insufficient funds, fraudulent checks, and credit card chargebacks.
Consider an Intermediary
A common scam – especially for jewelry – is for the buyer to receive the item, swap out the precious stones for fakes, and then return the item claiming that it was fake to begin with or that it wasn’t as described in the ad. Now the original owner is out the precious stone with no way to prove it was genuine to begin with. To combat this type of scam, consider a similar approach as those who ship firearms by shipping to a jewelry inspector as an intermediary. The inspector verifies the item as it’s shipped to the buyer and then if the items are shipped back, they verify them again to ensure no switcheroo took place. You can use this same process when shipping any items of value.
While some of the processes described above can take a little extra time to complete, they work for the benefit of both parties in any transactions where the buyer and seller are relative unknowns to each other. Taking some time for additional inspections or to draft up a proper purchase agreement that outlines payment and shipping expectations can not only save you time and money but can preserve a sale that may have gone south over simple misunderstandings or gaps in communication.
For more information about protecting yourself from fraud, see our posts on buying jewelry and watches online, telling genuine firearms from reproductions, and online auction scams and tricks – what to avoid.

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