How to avoid getting burned in an internet gun sale.


January 1, 2008, 10:58 AM
I frequent another forum where posters can sell guns, much like this one.

A guy offered up for sale a highly desirable model. He only had about 5 posts.

He got some immediate responses. One respondant asked for pictures, but when he saw the interest said to forget the pictures, that he'd take it. The handgun was $1100 and he sent a postal money order.

The seller's address was a PO Box at one of these package/UPS stores that also rents such boxes. The buyer got burned and since it's just one transaction, no LEO agency appears to want to get involved.

What can we do to protect ourselves? I hate to be hard nosed but I think from now on, before I buy over the net, I'm going to require a few things.

1) A hard line phone number.
2) A legit street address.
3) References?
4) Should they have a specific posting history?

I know that I've posted a few items for sale and posters said they wanted to buy. They said they mailed the check and that I could go ahead and ship. And, you guessed it, the check never arrived.

What are your ideas as to how to protect ourselves when buying merch off THR?

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Eric F
January 1, 2008, 11:07 AM
well for
1 if you are the seller you are an idiot for shipping before the money clears.
2 my bank has cashiers checks for these they will cancel the check if there is a discrepency even if it has already been cashed.
3 never deal with out a real varifyable name and address.
4 try to go through paypal they have dispute protocalls

January 1, 2008, 11:07 AM
I've bought off other boards, never this one, but if I did I would apply the same basic principles. I look at post count. I check the feedback areas. Someone with no feedback or 25 or less posts...I'm not even going to think about it

just me

January 1, 2008, 11:09 AM
When I buy:
I look at post count, I search on other boards (and google) for the seller, and go with my 'instinct'. Sometimes '1st time posters' here are long-time members in good standing on other forums. If it seems too good to be true from a 'never before seen 1st time poster', it probably is.
I try to only use US Postal money orders.

When I sell:
I don't take personal checks, only US postal money orders or certified funds.

I don't ship until I've got the cash in hand from the bank (unfortunately, U.S Post Office money order counterfeiting is a big business).

4 try to go through paypal they have dispute protocalls
If you buy a gun through paypal, they are very likely to freeze all the funds in both of your accounts and cancel your accounts if they find out. If you have a dispute to resolve involving a gun purchase, this is what you're looking at. is a very 2A friendly electronic fund transfer service.

January 1, 2008, 11:10 AM
I would personally stick to sites like Gunbroker, which have rules and regs that can be enforced, and face to face in state sales.

I am young, but have always been a little distrusting of things. I have yet to buy a handgun or rifle on line.

I am not saying the community trading posts, like here on THR and other areas, are bad. I think if you follow the 4 things you posted you would be OK. THR has a user name search option, so another idea would beto search 1) the individuals posts and 2) search the forum for any feedback on the individual. Maybe send a PM to some of the moderators to see if it is a legit seller or someone they had issues with.

As to selling, pay pal or other online payment, would not be a bad idea. Again rules and regs that can be enforced to ensure a good transaction.

January 1, 2008, 11:15 AM
The answer is the same one I gave each of my 3 daughters regarding not getting pregnant.


Meaning if you do business on the internet enough times you're gonna eventually get burned.

The internet is almost the perfect venue for con-men/ripoff artists to ply their trade with little or no risk of getting caught or called to account.

January 1, 2008, 11:19 AM
I don't take personal checks

Not even if you hold the merchandise for a week after cashing? I'm doing that right now, as a matter of fact.

January 1, 2008, 11:41 AM
I do some dealing online, and around the various forums.

I follow different rules for myself depending on the amount involved, if we're over a couple hundred bucks I want a real address and a land line, and usually only deal with postal money orders.

Over a thousand dollars I want the transaction to go through a verified store-front FFL who will act as an escrow agent to make sure all parties are satisfied. I don't mind paying the associated fees, but once I hit that amount of money I want surety.

On the other hand, under a hundred bucks, if we have an agreement I've been known to ship before payment, send cash, etc, etc, at that dollar amount I figure if you screw me, eh, Karma comes around and I know one more scammers I.P.

January 1, 2008, 11:44 AM
Simple answer: don't do online sales.

Be patient, use Elite Deal Seeker, and do it face to face.

January 1, 2008, 12:30 PM
What are your ideas as to how to protect ourselves when buying merch off THR?

I haven't bought/sold anything off of here, but the sister site TFL is where I've done all of my sales.

Obviously, the best to protect yourself is to never do business online. However, since there's no sign of online sales going to the toilet, I can only say to do some research.

If the member is new, then I wouldn't even bother without disclosure of history of other sales on other sites. I look at seller's feedback on the forum and occasionally PM the buyer to get the straight poop.

I think you're pretty safe buying from one that's done quite a bit of business as a private seller. Generally speaking, established members on gunsites are more honest. Some sellers own their business and advertise here. They don't want a tarnished reputation on a firearms related board. News travels fast...

There's always the risk. But, I've been screwed over by big box stores right in front of my face, so I think it's pick your poison...

January 1, 2008, 12:40 PM
There are absolutely no reasons to avoid selling online provided that you follow these procedures. Buying is another matter.

Don't ship anything till payment clears. Consult your bank about this. Tell them you want to be certain that everything is legit.

Personal checks are just fine. Make it clear before you sell that you will not ship until payment is cleared by your bank. Make sure you communicate with the buyer. If the bank tells you it'll be 15 business days to clear a check, email the seller and tell them that.

Ship only to a verified FFL. You can go to the ATF's website, and check the ffl number. It'll tell you what their address is. I would have absolutely no qualms about shipping to a verified FFL. Make sure the address you are shipping to matches the one the ATF has on record. Call the FFL to make sure they are expecting the package.

Online FFL Checker (

That's a stolen handgun. I can't imagine why LE would not be interested in that.

You have to ship a handgun to an FFL holder (unless it is in state). I don't think we're getting the whole story here.

So, basically if I get my money, and the gun goes through an FFL, I don't need to know anything else.

January 1, 2008, 01:52 PM
i bought & sold a few guns online. if i'm buying from a forum i'll get a phone number & close the deal over the phone. i'll also ask them what other furums they are on if the have a low post count. i will not take a check under any cirumstances, if you go to their bank & cash the check or to a check cashing place to cash it & they give you the cash then it turns out to be hot it is up to you to return the money to the bank or check cashing place & then try to collect the money from whoever wrote the hot check. when i buy or sell i use postal money orders because they can be cashed at the post office & you will know right away if its a fake. but if the postal nomey order is lost or stolen it will take at least 2 months to get a refund if it wasn't cashed.

the only problem i ever had with any online transaction was with a seller on gunbroker that had very good feedback, my payment was lost in the mail & instead of trying to resolve it & let me get another postal m.o overnighted to him along with a photo copy of the receipt from the first one so he would know it was sent. instead of working with me to fix it he had to act like a prick & since i paid him once i wasn't about to send him any more money until the post office issued me a refund for the first m.o. i sent.
in fact i outbid him on a rifle this morning, i'm gonna test his wallet

January 1, 2008, 02:23 PM
i have low post count trying to sell 4 sigs thats why id rather do FTF no taker yet.

January 1, 2008, 02:42 PM
Get a phone number and address and verify it through MapQuest, Verizon People Pages, or something similar.

January 1, 2008, 09:12 PM
Use your head and use the good advice mentioned on the board. I have done good online business on THR. Looking on the bright side of things it is a good way to meet people. Research whom you are dealing with thoroughly.

January 1, 2008, 09:53 PM
Both use the services of FFL! This makes sure that no fraud is involved.

January 2, 2008, 01:32 AM
There has to be some sort of escrow service available. A five second google search brought up this...

For a $1,000 gun, the standard fee would be $32.50, well worth it in my world.

I was also thinking that an FFL dealer may be willing to act as an escrow service. Over a certain amount of money, I'd be more than willing to pay an escrow service fairly.

January 2, 2008, 01:57 AM
I wouldn't buy anything more than a Saturday night special over the internet, and I'd be hard pressed to even do that. I've been in the music business for years and dealt music gear via ebay and other means on the net for a while now. There are more scams and idiots selling stuff on the net now than ever.

Postal money orders mean NOTHING! You're just as safe with taking a personal check and waiting for all funds to clear your account. There are some fantastic looking phoney postal money orders out now.

If you're going to get hooked up with Paypal, get a dedicated bank account to do this. When the money shows it's arrived in that account transfer it to another account. Paypal has a building full of all sorts of merchandise that's being held due to disputes. They will also freeze both the sellers and buyers bank accounts and hold the money in their bank if there's a dispute. Once the money is in their bank they're in NO hurry to help either the buyer or seller. I don't think you're allowed by Paypal rules to pay for firearms though their service.

Go to your favorite gun shops in your area and have them help you locate what you're trying to find. They have people they've dealt with in the past and they can trust.

*in my humble opinion, your milage may vary*

January 2, 2008, 02:02 AM
i have low post count trying to sell 4 sigs thats why id rather do FTF no taker yet.

Now, if that was an ad, it is one I would pass up. Low post count, poorly written, vague description of the item, no photos, ect...:neener:

Sorry xrod, I'm just jerking your chain. Good luck selling your sigs.:D

January 2, 2008, 02:19 AM
Postal money orders mean NOTHING! You're just as safe with taking a personal check and waiting for all funds to clear your account. There are some fantastic looking phoney postal money orders out now.
Don't cash the postal money order at your bank cash it at the post office. They can verify it as genuine and you'll walk out of the post office with cash.

Anyway I've been buying and selling online for quite a long time, use your smarts and its no biggie. If some new guy pops up out of nowhere with no reputation don't send hundreds of dollars to a PO box. Get some contact information from the seller. Does he have an ebay account with good feedback? Is he on other forums? Do you have his home phone number and address? If you look him up in a phone book does that name and address come back to the one he's asked you to ship to?

January 2, 2008, 02:28 AM
Stories like these are the reason that I primarily buy and sell face to face in my local area with cash. On the few Net buys I have done, I sent off a personal check and received my merchandise promptly. It sounds as if I have been fortunate.

Harold Mayo
January 2, 2008, 02:31 AM
Buying off of the internet is perfectly safe as long as you are careful. Several posters are overly paranoid. I've bought and sold online for years and never been burned.

Some of what I do:
1. Get the name and address and use zabasearch and zillow to verify a "good" address
2. Post counts plus post content. Lots can be found out about a seller by reading his posts.
3. Phone number. Talk to the seller on the phone. Get a few personal details in conversation and then run it through Google to see what you can find. Do a phone number lookup to make sure it's really their number.
4. See if anyone else has bought from the seller and contact them.
5. See if the seller has feedback on eBay or any other auction or sales site.
6. For very little money, you can become a member of various sites that allow you to do a little digging into public domain records that can tell you things like driving records and criminal past as well as professional licensure and things like that. If you're more savvy than me, you may be able to access some of those records without being the member of such a site since it's all public domain.
7. In pretty much any situation, you can get your money back if you've used checks or money orders and have been defrauded. It just takes a little time and diligence. There is just as much egg on the face of a bank or other service that cashes stuff for a criminal as there is one the buyer's and they are normally pretty good about aiding people who have been defrauded.

I feel pretty confident that I won't ever get burned as long as I follow the above steps at least in part. I just won't buy from someone whose identity I can't confirm or who doesn't seem to have a residence.

January 2, 2008, 03:37 AM
I try to only use US Postal money orders.

thats right, if you pay via USPS money order, and ANY part of the transaction becomes fraudulent, the issue becomes a FEDERAL investigation... postal investigators will prosecute, and they have nationwide jurisdiction...

if you pay by other means, or send the payment by means other than the USPS, then you have to have one local jurisdiction file a case with another one across the country... something that rarely works out well

January 2, 2008, 05:30 PM
thats right, if you pay via USPS money order, and ANY part of the transaction becomes fraudulent, the issue becomes a FEDERAL investigation... True
postal investigators will prosecute, and they have nationwide jurisdiction...
If the amount of money involved is large enough or the case has some special interest otherwise no. Most gun purchases won't involve enough money and the inspector/investigators won't do anything at all.

Harold Mayo
January 2, 2008, 06:28 PM
I beg to differ. While I haven't been burned because of my inborn paranoia, a friend of mine with an online gun business had several occasions to use the USPS as a weapon against others. In his experience, at least, they were VERY responsive and diligent. It's their job, after all. I didn't have much faith in the USPS until I saw his interactions with them turn out good.

January 2, 2008, 06:44 PM
ive got a family friend that is a postal investigator... he tells me that they follow up on every complaint, and they are actually required to do so... the only thing he hates to do is to pull his gun... apparently, every time he does its like 14 pages of paperwork hes gotta do.... if hes executing a warrant with cooperation of the local PD, DEA etc... he'll let them do all the armed work, just so he doesnt have to file all the damn paperwork

January 2, 2008, 06:51 PM
I NEVER purchase ANYTHING through the Internet unless I can pay by credit card. If you get ripped off, you get your money back with most cards. I passed on a gun today because the seller wanted a money order, and wound up buying from another seller who took cards.

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