I'm often asked about the best way to avoid being ripped off. There are no sure-fire ways, and I'm certainly no expert. But hopefully these suggestions will help you have a great transaction.
TIP #1: Avoid payment methods that offer no protection, such as Western Union, Bank Transfers and Money Orders. Scammers seem to enjoy using Western Union, Bank Transfers and Money Orders, so I would avoid those payment methods unless you are 100% certain you are dealing with a trusted, legitimate ham, and not someone POSING as a ham. PayPal and Credit Cards offer pretty good protection against scams. You are on your own with other payment methods. Do NOT send PayPal payments as a "Personal" or "Friends or Family" payment. While it avoids fees for the buyer, it offers you, the seller, NO PROTECTION! Do NOT do it!!
TIP #2: Call the person and talk to them. Use Google or Yahoo and search the phone number to see if anything interesting shows up. Does the area code match where the FCC says the ham lives? Check to see if the email address matches the one listed on QRZ.com. Are you really working with the person that owns that callsign, or just somene posing as them? Beware of phone forwarding, where you call one number, and it forwards to another number, so you never know what their real phone number is. If you hear "Please wait while I transfer your call...", it may be a red flag.
TIP #3: Many of the complaints that we see are from hams that have lost money or equipment to deals made with non-hams. Please consider only dealing with licensed hams.
TIP #4: Make sure the person is not impersonating a ham by verifying that you are sending money or equipment to their address listed with the FCC. Don't send equipment or money to the person's "office" or "girlfriend" or "daughter", etc. .
TIP #5: Search the QTH.com Feedback Forum to see if there is anything being discussed about the callsign of the person you are about to deal with. You might also want to expand your search by checking the eHam.net Good Seller / Buyer Beware forum and the QRZ.com Ham to Ham References forum also.
TIP #6: Use EXTREME caution when dealing with hams from outside USA/Canada. There are a number of sophisticated scammers that pose as foreign hams. They answer Wanted To Buy ads, offering non-existent equipment, using other people's photos of the equipment, asking for payment via Western Union. Check to see if the email address matches the one listed on QRZ.com, and otherwise do heavy research to confirm you are working with the right person and not a scammer.
TIP #7: Sometimes scammers use other people's pictures in their ads, since they don't really have any equipment to sell. One idea is to ask the seller to send you a picture of the radio with THEIR QSL CARD in the picture. Scammers have been actually editing photos to make it look like their QSL card on the bogus equipment -- look close, don't be fooled.
TIP #8: Don't fall for the "cashier's check" SCAM, where someone claims they are owed some money by someone in the US, so they will have them send YOU the money (usually a LOT of money) and you are to deduct the cost of your equipment, and send the balance to the foreigner, via Western Union or similar. Sometimes they pretend to be hams and use real callsigns, but if you'd just check the FCC database, you'd see it's bogus. Some good info regarding scams at http://www.lookstoogoodtobetrue.com/
TIP #9: Read the excellent Safe Trading Tips by K4ICL, a very experienced trader (now SK). See his tips at THIS LINK
TIP #10: Read more tips in our Safe Trading Forum at THIS LINK
If you have other suggestions, please click the NEW TOPIC button above or below and let us know what you think!
73 - Scott KA9FOX