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Old January 18, 2013, 10:23 AM   #1
db4570
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How to not get screwed on a long-distance private sale?

Thanks to a suggestion I received here in another discussion, I am interested in a particular pistol that (naturally) is pretty scarce. There aren't any on GB, but I finally found one in an on-line classified on the opposite coast.

I understand that Craigslist and other classified sites are dens of scammers. This guy looks legit, but I think I'd be a fool to send hundreds of dollars off to a stranger in the hope that he'll send me my gun, even if I try to vet him over the phone and Google.

I was thinking maybe have him send it from an FFL (I would have to receive through an FFL), but that would add another $30 or so to the cost, and I'm still not sure that's a guarantee that I'll get it.

Has anyone found a way to make this work?

Thanks!

David
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Old January 18, 2013, 10:29 AM   #2
hogdogs
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Many prefer to only use the USPS money order for tender... But it being across state lines, you have to use the FFL transfer unless it is a BP or Curio and relics if I understand everything right...

Brent
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Old January 18, 2013, 10:52 AM   #3
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Your FFL may not be willing to accept a firearm from a private seller, so it's possible that the seller may have to go through an FFL anyway. Even so, an FFL can ship a handgun through the USPS cheaper than a private person can ship a handgun through UPS or FedEx, so that may offset the FFL's fee on that end.

But even if the seller agrees to use an FFL, he's not likely going to just pay someone to ship out his pistol if he hasn't yet been paid for it, so I don't see how that in any way solves your concern. I know I wouldn't ship a firearm I hadn't been paid for.

There are escrow deals that can be worked out, but I've never been involved in one and it's only reasonable that the escrow agent gets paid a fee, so that adds to the price, as well ... if you and the seller can find and agree on an escrow agent.

Mostly, people I know us postal money orders. If the seller doesn't ship the gun, the postal inspectors get involved. Mind you, they aren't going to help if he described the gun as being 90% condition and you think it's only 80% when you receive it, but if you send him a money order and he sends you nothing -- they'll be interested. That's mail fraud.

Coincidentally, just two days ago I gassed up and things were slow at the deli/quik/mart and the manager was in a chatty mood. Turns out he's a retired USPS supervisor, and he got started about the postal inspectors. According to him, they are the absolute worst (in the sense of the most dedicated, ruthless, implacable) of all types of federal investigators. He said they were suspicious of one of the people he supervised, and they made life miserable for everyone in the entire department for months until they finally had the goods on the guy. He said they would have kept at it for years, that once they get their teeth in they just don't let go.

That's totally anecdotal, but it supports what I've heard previously about postal inspectors.
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Old January 18, 2013, 12:17 PM   #4
db4570
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I was assuming I'd have to pay in advance (by USPS MO) , which I'm willing to do if I feel reasonably secure. So if it may have to go through the seller's FFL anyway, is there a way to get that FFL to vouch for the seller? Maybe pay the FFL the total amount directly, and he pays the difference to the seller? Does dealing with an FFL necessarily get me any extra protection?

David
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Old January 18, 2013, 01:56 PM   #5
breakingcontact
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USPS money order + FFL should = a pretty safe sale
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Old January 18, 2013, 03:05 PM   #6
Rmart30
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Quote:
USPS money order + FFL should = a pretty safe sale
X2 ...... I have always been told to only use USPS M/o and I have seen one post by someone who did use a USPS M/o and not recieve his firearms and the USPS pursued it under interstate commerce fraud and got the guy his $ back.

Send a USPS M/o signature required mail , return receipt requested and you will get a copy of him signing for the M/o and ship to a FFL and you should be good.
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Old January 18, 2013, 04:36 PM   #7
db4570
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I appreciate the suggestions, and I like the fact that the full power of the USPS could come down on the seller if he tried to pull something. (An old friend got into hot water with the USPS years ago and they put a real hurt on him.)

But I can't help but assume a good scammer is going to operate the same way no matter what the form of currency. It is still money going to someone who may or may not be who they say they are, at an address that may or may not be legit. I get the impression these scammers set up fake addresses they use for this sort of thing. If so, then how is a USPS MO any different than a personal check? With either, if they are in possession of a check or MO with the same name on it as their ID, and it is as good as cash.

Perhaps I'm mistaken, though. Maybe they only do anonymous Western Union scams.

I hate to be paranoid, but Craigslist and all these other online classifieds always say NEVER do a long-distance deal, and then you hear all the stories.

Just trying to think like a scammer, here.... (yuck). I am interested in learning more about other ways this could go bad.

David
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Old January 18, 2013, 05:42 PM   #8
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I wouldn't do it. How does the guy "look legit"? I would not send money to anyone posting on Craigslist, Armslist, or any other anonymous classifieds. Anything for sale on those classifieds should be bought FTF. You still have to be careful, like not meeting someone in a dark alley or a bad neighborhood of course!

Buying from someone on a forum such as this is another story. At least you "kinda" know the person, and other forum members can vouch for the seller. What I'd do is post a Want to Buy Ad on gun forums like this one, and see what pops up.
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Last edited by spanishjames; January 18, 2013 at 10:48 PM.
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Old January 18, 2013, 05:43 PM   #9
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Sometimes in life you have to make a leap of faith, to give people a chance to prove themselves as decent human beings.

That said..As a dedicated paranoiac I would still stay away from any CL transaction.

Good luck.
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Old January 18, 2013, 06:22 PM   #10
db4570
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It is on Armslist. Probably not as bad as CL, but in the same category of Buyer Beware.

I'd post my WTB on the classifieds here, but I don't have enough posts yet to qualify.

David
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Old January 18, 2013, 07:20 PM   #11
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Some ideas:

He tenders the firearm to an FFL who verifies that they have it and are prepared to ship. That may cost you an extra $30, but is that really too much to bear given the circumstances? If you want security, $30 is an insignificant amount of money in my opinion, particularly on a sight unseen or non-person-to-person deal.

Ask for "proof of life" i.e. send you a text message with a photo of the firearm however you wish it to be taken. That will at least prove the seller possesses the firearm and it exists. Won't really guarantee that he will not run with your money, but at least you move past that type of scam.
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Old January 18, 2013, 07:46 PM   #12
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One way to at least be sure the gun is coming, and its condition, is to go through a ffl at the seller's end, and have the ffl dealer verify condition by phone, for an additional fee before sending it.
This is the age of instant communication, you know.
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Old January 19, 2013, 12:31 AM   #13
FoghornLeghorn
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Quote:
and I like the fact that the full power of the USPS could come down on the seller if he tried to pull something
The USPS will not get involved in a single individual case. The notion that the feds will descend on someone who ripped you off for a couple hundred dollars just because you used a USPS money order is nonsense.

I've done such deals before. I've googled their screen names to see if anything negative turns up. You'd be amazed at what you can find. Some guy was selling a gun on a site, and he'd already ripped off some guys on the same gun on a couple other forums. And he used the same screen name everywhere.

I contact the seller and have him give me his real name and address. I do a people search and make sure it's a real physical address and not some empty lot somewhere. I also make sure the phone number matches the address.

And if I didn't find any negatives, and the above info checks out, I've bought the gun.
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Old January 19, 2013, 12:48 AM   #14
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"According to him, they are the absolute worst (in the sense of the most dedicated, ruthless, implacable) of all types of federal investigators. "

"The USPS will not get involved in a single individual case. The notion that the feds will descend on someone who ripped you off for a couple hundred dollars just because you used a USPS money order is nonsense."
Actually, they will. That is why USMO is so secure inside the US. If they didn't no one would use USPS MOs. My understanding is inspectors have pretty boring jobs and the fraud cases are the highlight of their day. If you start dealing with a person and they refuse MO as payment it is usually fraud. If they agree to it it probably isn't.
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Old January 19, 2013, 01:52 AM   #15
FoghornLeghorn
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No they won't. They will only get involved if it's a case involving a large number of fraud victims.
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Old January 19, 2013, 07:30 AM   #16
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There are members on this forum all over the place. You might start a thead asking who is your go to ffl in a certain area. Also ask seller who the ffl they use. Compare notes. Might even find a tfl member in the sellers area that would look at gun for you. Otherwise if you really want it and are uncomfortable with the options....road trip.
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Old January 19, 2013, 07:52 AM   #17
Nathan
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This is always a risk vs reward situation in my opinion. I limit my long distance buys to FFL's, people on forums with decent to high post counts and auctions.

FFL's are basically registered and tracked people, if you need to go after them. None of them are willing to risk their license or business rep over taking $500 from you.

Forums: IMO, it is not worth losing my ability to post here unharassed for $500. Maybe I'm overvaluing the forum experience.

Auctions: Again, these people selling on auctions are trying to make money. Ripping me off for $500ish is hardly going to pay the rent. A couple of bad reviews and you are dead on most auction sites.

Still, I try to get a person's name, phone number, address and check them out as well as I can. I did have a guy who refused these details. . . .About an hour of web searching an I had all that, pics of his family and more. I also called the FFL whom was doing the deal and yep, he was real and in posession of the gun. At that point, I was less worried and the deal was a few hundred bucks for a gun I wanted for sentimental value.
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Old January 20, 2013, 01:07 AM   #18
db4570
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Thanks for all the replies.

I think Nathan sums it up pretty well.

On an anonymous classifieds site, I think the risk is the highest. It seems like having an FFL at the seller's end handle it is good insurance.

I have bought stuff (usually smaller ticket, like mags) from guys on forums that seem like regulars, and never had a problem.

I have a certain amount of faith that the auction sites, or at least Gunbroker, have some safeguards in place to make sure someone isn't a complete fraud.

I haven't heard back from the guy with the gun I want (a Smith CS9), so perhaps he isn't interested in a long-distance transaction, anyway. We'll see.

I like the idea of a road trip, especially for something as fun as a new gun, but cross-country is a bit much. After paying for gas, it would be the most expensive gun I own!

David
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Old January 20, 2013, 11:27 PM   #19
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Even on Gunbroker you can be ripped off. I once bought a Colt Python listed as "like new in box, flawless" and when I got it it would not even fire on the second shot and the stock were totally mis-matched, something that did not show in the photos. It had to be shipped back to Colt to be fixed and it cost me $250 for new grips. Gunbroker did not stand behind their protection policy because they said I fired the gun, if i did not fire it I would not know it would only fire that one time.
I have learned that if they do not accept a credit card I do not buy from them or if they have a lot of good feedbacks I will buy.
I am a member on another forum and was about to send a USPS money order for another Colt Python when I read from another member that he just bought the same Python as he gave the serial number out and other details. It turned out this member was a police officer and was able to do a check on the seller who was a felon that was not even supposed to own a gun. He was using a front address (an innocent person who was paid to accept mail). Luckily I never sent my m.o. and this member was able to get the post office to stop delivery.
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Old January 20, 2013, 11:44 PM   #20
breakingcontact
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I do feel more comfortable selling than buying on gunbroker.
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Old February 1, 2013, 01:02 AM   #21
db4570
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Well, I bought my gun and it worked out fine.

Here's how it went. I agreed to buy a pistol from a guy out of state, and we agreed on the price. He looked up my FFL on the BATF web site to confirm he was legit. My FFL had him email a scan or picture of his drivers license (or other gov't ID with picture works, too). The seller shipped the gun to my local FFL along with a self-addressed stamped envelope. I went to the FFL with a USPS money order for the total amount, which I gave to him to send out in today's mail in the seller's SASE. I completed the paperwork with my FFL and everyone's safe and happy.

It took me a while to figure out how to do this so both buyer and seller are comfortable. My FFL acts as a middleman to vouch that he in fact received a gun and not a rock, and that my USPS MO was the real deal. I think FFLs are so protective of their licenses that they take NO chances with this sort of stuff.

I tried to make another deal with another guy today and explained how I had this figured out, and he still wanted it to go through his FFL also, which I would have to pay for, and he wouldn't ship it until he had received my MO. I think something was a little fishy. Maybe the condition was worse that he implied.

I'm interested in other experiences.

David
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Old February 1, 2013, 02:45 AM   #22
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I had a positive experience with buying from out of state via Armslist. the guy I dealt with was selling a Beretta Minx with the 4" barrell. He and I ended up paying via paypal, which worked for both of us. We talked a bit, and we initially agreed on my paying part up front, and part upon reciept of a tracking number. I ended up sending the full payment while he was in the FFL, and I got the weapon as described, with no snafus. I still consider it a good transaction.
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Old February 1, 2013, 09:55 AM   #23
AH.74
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Quote:
The seller shipped the gun to my local FFL along with a self-addressed stamped envelope. I went to the FFL with a USPS money order for the total amount, which I gave to him to send out in today's mail in the seller's SASE.
That sounds very odd, and not something I would personally agree to. I would never relinquish possession of a gun without being paid first. I have sold one gun on another forum and was paid first.

I have never heard of someone agreeing to what you describe.

There is also nothing fishy about wanting to have money in hand before giving up the gun, like anything else. Once you give up the gun, you have lost any control over the situation and there are too many things that could go wrong.

I have done a few of these deals here and there, two in this forum. The members here were both around for a long enough time and had enough posting history for me to feel comfortable.
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Old February 1, 2013, 10:12 AM   #24
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I would never relinquish possession of a gun without being paid first....I have done a few of these deals here and there, two in this forum. The members here were both around for a long enough time and had enough posting history for me to feel comfortable.
Therein lies the difference. I'd much rather buy from a fellow forum member with posting history, than from someone posting in the classifieds elsewhere. The OP was buying from an unknown person, not a forum member.

But I agree, letting go of the gun before payment would make me uneasy.
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Old February 1, 2013, 10:51 AM   #25
db4570
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This is all very interesting. I guess I wouldn't hesitate to send a gun to an FFL if I had confirmed he's legit and had discussed it with him first. Maybe I need to re-think that. I know an FFL is a real person, good or bad, but at least I know their address is real, as certified by the ATF, and I would think that if something went bad an FFL would be easy for the authorities to find.

Why would you guys hesitate to send a gun to an FFL? Just curious what sort of potential problems you imagine.

I believe the arrangement I described where the seller sends the gun through the buyer's FFL protects both buyer and seller. But I think that for the buyer to send off a postal money to a complete stranger on the internet protects the seller, but not the buyer at all. I would be comfortable sending the money order after an FFL at the seller's end has possession of the pistol, but don't want to pay an extra $25 for an extra step I believe is unnecessary.

I was pleased and maybe a little pleasantly surprised that the seller was so cooperative sending the gun before payment. He did look up the FFL on the ATF site, had a chat with him first, and had me send him a scan of the USPS MO.

I agree that I would have liked to have purchased from a forum member here, but was prohibited from posting because I don't have enough forum posts yet. I posted on a couple other forums, but no response. It's a fairly hard to find gun, apparently.

David
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