Just a few tips to avoid getting scammed in the ham swap sites.
My first job out college almost 40 years ago was finding those who wished not to be found because they owed money to the bank I worked for. I was what they called a “skip tracer.” I looked for those who had skipped town on their debts. Well, although I have not earned a living skip tracing anyone in the last 35 years. Lessons learned in the late 1970’s are just as useful today. Actually, with the onset of technology it’s much easier to find someone now that it was in 1978 when you basically had to scam family members, the phone company, other banks and businesses out of information.
With all the price information available on the internet nobody gives things away anymore.
I see more and more ham complaining that they have been scammed by another ham. Yes, they have been scammed but not by a ham. Not everyone has a built in “honesty gene.” Ham to ham scams do happen but is not as prevalent as getting scammed by someone in Easter Europe or Africa.
For at least a dozen years I have been noticing that 99.9% of the hijacked calls are always those calls where the owner did not list their email address on their QRZ.COM information page. This first began with amateur calls from the UK where some ham would contact you trying to sell you a piece of equipment you had advertised that you wanted to buy. The price was always unbelievable inexpensive but the English and grammar of the message was not. They always requested a Western Union money transfer. Through the years, this scam has morphed from the UK to U.S. calls. But always, those calls with no email address listed on QRZ.COM seemed to be in question. Save yourself the embarrassment and take a couple of minutes and list your email and possibly your call might not be hijacked.
If the call does not have an email address attached to it on QRZ.COM; walk away or better yet, run away from that deal as fast as you can.
I have seen QRZ.COM records hacked where the scammer actually entered a bogus email address but I believe this is very rare. There was also an incident where the boyfriend got access to his ex-girlfriend’s QRZ.COM account, changed the email address and began listing ham equipment at garage sale prices. Obviously the prices listed got the attention of many who reported him and his listings were removed. But you would not believe the dozens and dozens of hams who tried to send him money thinking that they had found a patsy.
They key to not be fooled out of your hard earned money is:
Research, research, research...
Google the call, Google the name, Google the email, Google the telephone number, Google the XYL, Google the grandmother, Google the dog. Together with the call and name use words like scam, rip off, or problem on your Google search. See how long the seller has been a ham and how many QRZ look ups he/she has. Read his/hers QRZ profile. Leopards don't change their stripes. Once a crook and a deadbeat always a crook and a deadbeat.
Google the item image. You would be surprised how many crooks will steal a picture on the internet and try to pass the image as his/her own. Some will steal the image and the entire ad word for word. I even had a legitimate ham try to use my equipment pictures for his ads because he was too lazy to take his own pictures. This man even got highly insulted when I called him out on it.
You can go to the extreme or just stop when you feel comfortable:
• Google search the seller’s full name, ham call, telephone number (if you have one).
• Do a property search by going to their county property appraiser and entering their home address. This is public information so you should be able to find it. If they rent, no such luck.
• Google map their listed or given address to make sure is not an open field in the middle of nowhere.
• Look the name up on Facebook, LinkedIn and Tweeter.
• Google their call and full name and include the words; problems, complaints, scam in the search.
• Always get a phone number and call them. Although this in not definitive proof of identity at least you will have a number and a way to trace it back to a specific location. You should initiate the call and don’t allow the seller to call you as he/she might be using a pay phone.
• Make sure their phone and internet IP address matches their FCC listed location. You can do this on-line but most of the swap sites already have this feature available.
• Buying from a non-ham selling ham gear should always be done very carefully as we are always proud of our call so I would be a bit hesitant as to why a person is selling ham equipment but is not a ham or does not want to disclose their call.
Lastly, does the sale make sense? Is he/she a novice or tech with no look ups selling a ton of HF equipment at garage sale prices? Close the deal on the phone not via email. Not the safest but PayPal is better than personal checks, cashier’s checks or money orders. Western Union money transfers are a “BIG” no no. Although nothing is 100% safe, I usually walk away if the seller will not accept PayPal which adds another ledger of inconvenience to a scammer or thief.
• Finally, used lot’s of common sense and go with your gut feeling.
Just my two cents worth….73 de WY4J
Discussion of ways to help ensure a safe trade, so you don't get ripped-off. Do not discuss individuals here. Use the Feedback Forum instead.
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