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.
SUGGESTION #1: Avoid payment methods that offer no protection. Scammers seem to enjoy using Western Union, so I would avoid that 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" payment! While it avoids fees for the buyer, it offers you, the seller, NO PROTECTION!
SUGGESTION #2: 95% of the complaints that I get are from hams that have lost money or equipment to deals made with non-hams. If there is one suggestion I could make, it would be to only deal with hams. NOTE: 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 to the person's "office" or "girlfriend's" house, etc. There are scammers using real ham radio callsigns -- do your homework, don't be fooled!
SUGGESTION #3: 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/
SUGGESTION #4: Search the eHam.net Good Seller / Buyer Beware forum and the QRZ.com Ham to Ham References forum for the person's callsign.
SUGGESTION #5: 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 -- We have also seen an increase in scammers using 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.
SUGGESTION #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.
SUGGESTION #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. Potentially a scammer could use a photo editing program to fake this, but that is a lot of effort and most scammers would probably move on vs. go through that effort to deceive you.
SUGGESTION #8: Read the excellent Safe Trading Tips by K4ICL, a very experienced trader. See his tips 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