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Buying and selling both antique and modern firearms online is a tricky business. In addition to abiding by the numerous federal and state guidelines that are in place, shipping to a Federal Firearms License holder (FFL) is an absolute requirement for interstate sales. But earlier this year, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms released a notice about a new scam that is starting to appear on firearms auction and classified sites where sellers will provide fake FFL numbers to buyers, and then simply never deliver the advertised item.
Confirm the FFL Number
The first line of defense against these types of scams involves simply verifying the information that the seller gives you. The ATF provides an FFL eZ Check website that allows you to enter in the license number that any FFL holder and confirm whether or not that license is real and active. If you enter the number given by the seller and it comes back as invalid or expired that should be your first red flag. If the given number checks out you’ll know that the dealer is who they claim to be and that you’re one step close to ensuring the ad or auction is legitimate.
Protect Your Funds
Even if you’ve verified that the seller has an up-to-date and legitimate FFL, you’ll still want to protect your purchase funds. The simplest way to do that is to use an online escrow service like PaySAFE. Online escrow works to the benefit of both parties by securing and verifying any purchase funds with a neutral third party. Buyers are protected as funds aren’t released until there’s proof of shipping, or the item has arrived for a final inspection. Sellers are also protected as all purchase funds are verified upfront and held securely – completely removing the risk of non-payment, insufficient funds, fraudulent checks and credit card charge backs.
What If You’ve Been Scammed?
If you think you’ve become a victim of a fraudulent FFL scam, report it to your local authorities immediately. Falsifying a FFL is a federal offense, and your local authorities will definitely work with you to pursue legal action to recover your funds if it’s at all possible. You should also consider filing a report with the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3), and/or the Federal Trade Commission. Both of those organizations can help alert others to the types of scams taking place on the web and help other avoid becoming victims as well.
For more tips about buying and selling antique or collectable firearms online, see our posts about how to ship firearms internationally, shipping firearm accessories, and buying and selling firearms through sites like

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