gunsamerica.com reports that police have nabbed Internet fraudster Paul Webster. Not to put too fine a point on it, Webster has been selling guns that don’t exist. Lots of them. “He has claimed victims from nearly every popular internet discussion forum, posting guns for sale several hundred dollars below their value, and he has also surfaced on all of the major gun buying and selling websites, as well as the internet gun auctions.” gunsamerica.com is pissed—at other blogs . . .
GunsAmerica is the only website involved in this case that has had active and aggressive contact with law enforcement. Emails to several internet selling venues and discussion sites with buying and selling boards by the USPS went unanswered, and the case would have gone cold. Listen up internet gun community!! We can’t be silent about internet fraud.
Roger that. According to the gun sales site’s timeline, Webster has been on the loose since 2008. In the interests of providing an ounce of fraud prevention, here’s gunsamerica’s advice for buying a firearm from a private source.
- If it is Too Good to be True, ITS NOT TRUE. – Everyone knows what guns are worth. We have price books even. If you see a gun for sale at hundreds of dollars under its value, there is a 95%++ chance that it is a scammer trying to get you to contact them. Also, never agree to do anything even questionably illegal. With that you have a 100% chance that it is a scammer trying to get you to send them money without the ability to report it when they rip you off.
- New Sellers – No offense to new sellers here or anywhere else online, but the facts are that our fraud prevention system catches fraudulent accounts, usually very quickly. If you see a new seller with no transactions, get their payment address and contact information from them before you agree to anything. If you use Google Maps you can often get a street view and ask them what color their house is, how many neighbors they have, etc., to see if this looks like a regular person selling their own guns. THE MOST COMMON type of scam these days are “mail forwarding” services that involve these mailbox pack and ship places. If you Google Map someone’s address and it comes up as a shopping center or anything besides a residential house the seller can identify, steer clear.
- No Knowledge of Product – When we send out a security warning on a suspected fraudulent account we get back probably 5 responses saying that they didn’t send money for every one that did. These 5 people often say “he didn’t know anything about the gun” or “he didn’t answer my questions” and even “he hung up on me when I asked the serial number of the gun.” Ask questions that only the owner of the firearm could answer and you’ll weed out the marjority of fraudsters out there.
- Pop Me a Cellphone Picture – Most of us have been walking around with camera phones for more than 5 years now. If the person is a new seller, or your suspect something, there is nothing wrong with asking them to pop a quick cellphone picture of the gun that they can text or email to your phone or computer. It is a leap of faith to send a seller money with no guarantee of them sending you what you paid for. A quick picture to verify that they own the item is not a lot to ask.