Amazon, The World’s Online Marketplace, and without doubt a great place to buy signed items, but only if you know what you are doing, as buying on Amazon without the right knowledge could end up being a very costly exercise.
Trying to buy anything signed on Amazon can be something of a nightmare, at best you might just get something that’s genuine and has only cost you money, but at worst, you can be ripped off for many hundreds of dollars for something that does not even arrive on your doorstep! On the other hand, by following a few simple rules, you can consistently find some real gems, and bag yourself more than a few bargains.
Learning to spot a fake autograph requires many years experience and a trained eye, so here we will concentrate on showing you the things to look for that will allow you to spot the fraudulent seller rather than the fraudulent item, as this is a little easier.
Always check everything you can about the seller via Amazon, and there are lots of ways you can do this. Always read the full page at least twice, making sure you check all the sellers details, etc. Assume him to be a fraudster and find reasons to trust him, rather than the other way around.
1. Check their feedback for the same or similar items.
If the item you are after is rare then have they sold or do they have any others? Use Amazon price trackers like CamelCamelCamel to check what they have sold in the past 90 days as Amazon only allow you to check the last 30 days. This alone can sometimes tell you all you need to know.
2. Do they have many other rare and hard to find signed items?
Have they sold the same ones over and over again over the last few weeks? Are these items repeatedly sold at a lower price that other well know dealers are offering them at?
3. Are they using ‘Private auctions’?
Look out for that little bit that says, ‘this is a Private listing, your details will not be disclosed to anyone’ What does that mean? Well, it means the seller is hiding something, and despite what they may state in their auctions, it’s not because they are protecting you from spam emails or sellers with similar items. Their probable real reason is to prevent you from finding out the truth, because by using Private Auctions or Private Bidding, they are trying to stop you from finding out what they have sold in the previous weeks, and are preventing other Amazon users from warning you about the possible fake item you are bidding on.
4. Where are they located?
In the location spot, they may say they are ‘The best on Amazon’ and try and hide their real location from you. Some of these so-called ‘dealers’ are running their scams from another country, Spain, France, Cyprus, Greece, Italy, Singapore, and Australia all have forgers who have targeted the UK, because they simply can’t get caught by UK Police or Trading Standards. Don’t just accept what the item location says. If they are a registered on Amazon as a business seller, then they will have their full business address at the bottom of the page. Also, click on the sellers ID top right next to their feedback and that will also tell you which county they are in.
Those tips on not dealing with scam sellers on Amazon, but there are still other things to look for.
One scam that is sometimes employed is for the seller to show the real thing, but send you a fake. I have been caught with this one more than once, and there is no real way to be sure any seller is doing this, but if you check their past sales you can sometimes spot the same image more than once.
The really clever ones only start relisting the same items after 30 days, which is why you should use Goofbay to check every seller before bidding, as this allows a 90-day search.
Some sellers will have more than one account but alternate between them. This allows them to sell on one account for say seven days, and then move to another account selling similar items for another seven days and so on. If they get caught out on one account, they simply switch to another. You will find that sellers who do this often offer different items on each account, and change the location to try and put you off the scent, but will still make the same spelling mistakes, use the same terms or description, etc., so a little detective work here can pay off.
In my experience, a genuine item listed to start at a low price will normally finish at around 75% or higher of what a dealer would offer the same item at with a fixed price. And if you have been doing your homework, you will already have a good idea of what that Sinatra signature is worth won’t you?
If a seller will not accept PayPal, then I would be very careful about buying from them. PayPal does have its pitfalls, but from a buyer’s point of view, it offers you enormous protection. If a seller wants to use some form of payment other than Paypal or will only accept cash, then just walk away, as this is not only risky, but is also breaking Amazon rules regarding payment. In cases like this, the seller should be reported to Amazon . If you should get ripped off using this payment method, then Amazon will not help you.
Always avoid one-day auctions, only a fool or a fraudster uses these! One-day auctions are used to try and make a quick kill, and are the favorites of the Amazon ID hijackers, those people that send you those Phishing emails! Once they have your ID and password, they hijack your ID and then upload auctions for anything that will sell quickly (they don’t have the goods, so it really can be anything). They only use 1-day auctions, because it normally takes Amazon at least 24 hours to react to someone reporting a hijacked ID, so giving the scammers a full 24 hours to upload the auctions and make the sales. The money, of course, goes into a hijacked PayPal account and then to a foreign bank somewhere. Tip! Never use the same password for your Amazon account as for your PayPal account.
By getting to know a few of the good dealers, you can build up a rapport with them and be able to ask them advice about other items. I speak with other dealers on a daily basis, and this enables us to learn form one another and pass on valuable information.