How to avoid getting
screwed when buying used photo equipment via the Internet
Green flags mean
"so far, so good"
mean think twice.
Red Flags mean
think three or four times. Do you feel lucky?
Get an address and home phone number. Call the
phone number and speak to the seller. Check the address and phone number
match via an internet directory search. If the seller will only give you
a cell phone number that's a RED FLAG! Remember,
if you can't track the seller down now, you won't be able to if the deal
goes bad either.
Get a work phone number if possible. Some people
may only have cell phone service I guess, but any and every business should
have a listed phone number. Not everybody can take calls at work of course,
but again, if the seller seems evasive, it's a YELLOW
Unless you know the seller,
get a real email address. All ISPs give you an email address. Some people
(myself included) chose to use a hotmail, yahoo or other free email service,
but they should have a verifiable ISP email address that they can give
you. Failure or refusal to give a real ISP email address is a RED
FLAG! Some people do have free ISP service
via JUNO or NETZERO, but they are the exception, not the rule.
Do an internet search on
the seller's name. Anything odd turn up? Does the seller have a website
that looks well established? If the seller isn't found by any internet
search engine, that doesn't mean anything, but it's at least a YELLOW
FLAG! If the
seller has a long standing website, is an active participant in photography
forums and seems well know, that's a GREEN
Ask if the seller will
ship the goods COD if you pay all the additional charges. You may not want
COD, but if the seller absolutely refuses, it's another YELLOW
If the deal sounds too
good to be true, and you don't know the seller, then it usually is! This
is a YELLOW FLAG!
Yes, you can get real bargins, but they are rare. Probably rarer than scams.
Insistance on a cash payment,
or payment via some unknown internet service based on "E-gold" or other
wierd system should raise a RED FLAG!
If large sums of money are involved, consider an escrow service. If the
seller refuses to consider an escrow service (even if you offer to pay
all the expenses), then that's at least a YELLOW
If the seller insists on
payment to a P.O. Box, that's a RED FLAG!
Note that even a real looking street address
may be a MAILBOXES ETC. store or some similar service, so a real
street address is no guarantee that the seller actually lives there. Some
people (e.g. university students in dorms) may only have a P.O. Box, but
again, that's the exception, not the rule.
I've bought equipment form lots of people, including some very expensive
items from US sellers and some less expensive items from sellers in countries
like the Ukraine. So far, so good. I follow my own rules and have yet to
be scammed. Not that it's impossible of course, but I like to reduce the
odds of it happening as much as possible!
© Copyright Bob Atkins All Rights Reserved