This is a post of advice about how to deal with doll scammers, mainly on ebay, though some of this will be applicable to other places. The BJD community is an attractive growing target, as these dolls are not cheap and we are willing to shell out crazy amounts for them--and since ours is still a relatively new community, newcomers are more often prone to pouncing on auctions that are, in the end, too good to be true. (Mind you, this guide has been constructed with an eye for doll-related deals specifically, but most of this can apply to other auctions too. Also, it's specifically aimed at scam auctions rather than scalping auctions--there is a difference, though again much of this is cross-applicable.) Please feel free to post further tips and suggestions! Some Basic Safety Tips Before Bidding 1) Auctions that have startlingly low or "good deal" Buy-It-Now prices should be considered with a great deal of care, even suspicion. Even though you might feel the need to click that BIN right now to ensure you win the auction, you need to be certain that the seller has actually got the item. Better to be safe than scammed! Thoroughly research the person's feedback (more on that below, #4), and if you'd like more feedback from other people, you can search DoA or make a post in DoA asking if anybody has bought from this seller. 2) Ask innocuous questions, if you're not certain the seller is legit. You can ask for something like different angles of the face, or closeups of the hands and feet. If you want to be really certain the person has the doll, you could ask for a picture of the doll by a current newspaper, or you could ask for a picture of the doll by some weird items, like a sock and a book (though this will give away the fact that you suspect the person doesn't have the doll at all). If you suspect a scam and you think the seller doesn't know what s/he is selling, you could ask a question you know is false: "Is this the version of the Sweet Dreams Mimi with the white cat ears or the pink cat ears?" when Sweet Dreams Mimi doesn't come with cat ears at all (credit to Pirate Wench for that one!). If the seller answers incorrectly ("this is the white ears version") or responds that s/he doesn't have a camera/camera is broken/used a friend's camera, it's almost certainly a scam. If the seller doesn't answer at all--to you or other people who ask questions--well, that's pretty shady and you probably don’t want to buy from a person who refuses to answer a simple question, right? As for sellers who post in their auction, "I'm going to be away for a week and won't be able to answer questions during this time," that can be suspicious too. Why post an important, expensive auction if you won't be able to answer questions and monitor it in a timely manner? Sometimes there's a perfectly legitimate reason, and sometimes there isn't. Use your discretion. 3) Beware of auctions that ask for Western Union money transfer or money orders only. Paypal is usually the safest and securest route to go. You can always contact the seller and say something like, "I live in the area, how about we meet in person and I give you the money order and you give me the doll." If the seller says s/he's out of town or can't meet, that's an extra warning not to bid. 4) Check feedback thoroughly! Don't just glance at the number beside the username, click it and see what people have said! A thorough check of a person's feedback is very important. a) Click on the feedback number, and then click "from buyers" to see how much feedback is from actual buyers. Some people will have most of their feedback from sellers, and haven't actually sold anything themselves, thus they have no record of mailing out items themselves. b) Next, still on the "feedback from buyers" section (if they've sold anything), check the completed auctions beside each feedback to see what the seller has been selling. Many scammers build up a "safety level" of 10 to 50 feedback, all buying cheap items or selling cheap things, in order to make bidders feel safe with them. c) Beware of shill bidding! If the person has sold before, be sure to check the bid list for completed auctions to see if the same people are repeatedly bidding on his items, to bump up the price. Remember, it's bad enough to be scammed, you don't want to be scalped at the same time! d) Check the feedback of the people who left feedback! If the seller has 100% positive feedback from 20 unique people, but all 20 of those people have nothing but negative feedback, be very careful, the scammer is probably working with somebody else or has a bunch of different usernames for shill bidding. 5) Check other sources to see if there's been similar auctions or scams, maybe a return scammer--check places such as the DoA Feedback Forum, Bad Dolly Deals, and BJD Feedback. Ask around, do some research, hit up Google and other forums. Also try contacting some of the people who bought from the seller before, ask them how the transaction went. 6) Also, for auctions that post only "official" images of the dolls, be certain to ask the seller for a picture of the actual doll (and accessories, if there are supposed to be any). It's not hard to open up a box and take a picture, perhaps with a current newspaper as mentioned above--and once again, be wary if the seller replies that s/he doesn't have a camera and that's why s/he's using official images. If the Person Turns Out to Be a Scammer... 1) If a thread is started on DoA or elsewhere and it becomes fairly evident that this person is a scammer, do not send the scammer the link to the thread. Do not let the scammer know you're on to him! Keep your emails and messages civil and innocent. If the scammer is unaware that he's been outed, it means he will continue to use the same username, and it will (hopefully) be easier to get him shut down. (Also, be careful since nothing's to stop the scammer from getting a new username with false information and starting anew. Beware of auctions that look suspiciously familiar to old scams, and similar email responses.) 2) If the scammer violates Ebay policies, for example by using stolen pictures from other auctions or deliberately lying about what the item is, send multiple emails to Ebay about the scammer, with your point in large boldprint in the first line of the email. If the person is scamming with multiple dolls from a single company, such as a dozen of the same Volks doll, contact the company and send them the links and tell them you've been contacting ebay, and they should too. This will hopefully get ebay's attention. If you have any proof--either the seller said he "borrowed" the pictures in an email you can forward or you have a link to the old auction the pictures were stolen from--include that information when you contact ebay as well. 3) (A potentially controversial point here, and one that is solely my opinion) If you win an auction that turns out to be a scam--whether or not you've actually sent the money or just refused to pay--it's probably the best bet wait and see if the scammer gets shut down before leaving negative feedback. But if he doesn't get shut down for that period where you can still leave feedback, you should leave it. It seems that too many people are afraid to leave negative feedback for fear of getting a negative in return and no longer having that shiny-bright 100% positive by their names, but let me tell you--what goes around comes around, and it's up to you to let other people know this person is a scammer. One negative might sting, but it's only one, and if the rest of your feedback is good, you haven't got anything to worry about…and the chances are that the scammer will eventually be caught and have his account canceled, and people checking your feedback will see that the negative comes from a user no longer registered, and discount it right there. But if it's a long-running scammer with lots of feedback--not all scammers are blatant about their scams, some are subtler and harder to catch--well, you might just have to bite the bullet, face the music, and all those other clichés, and leave that negative. Last but Not Least--Don't Jump the Gun to Condemn People! 1) It's always better to be polite when you come across an auction that looks a tad strange. There are people who happen to come across BJDs and honestly don't know what they've got and don't do any research, and end up posting auctions that look weird or have bizarrely low or bizarrely high prices. A polite email telling the person what s/he's got is a lot better than sending a frothing-at-the-mouth email with "SCAMMER!" written in boldface type as the opening greeting. Depending on the response, you may or may not want to make a post about it. 2) People do make mistakes and typos and sometimes just type something without thinking, maybe accidentally listing an old F-28 head as pureskin or saying that this doll was only available at one Dolpa when in fact it was released several times. Or maybe the seller was told something and just didn't know it wasn't true. Email the person first and see if the seller responds or changes the auction before making a public post about it. Most sellers who make such mistakes jump at the chance to correct the auction information. Please post more suggestions and tips. Let's all be careful and make sure to do our research!