was eventually bound to happen... %#$*@&!!!
When you sign
up for an online auction service and experience all of the marvelous stuff
they offer, it's real easy to get tunnel vision. It
has all the excitement of a third world street bazaar where
negotiation will get you the best possible deal for that one
item you've been searching for. Steamers are not immune
to the exuberance and high suspense of bidding in
competition especially for that one of a kind special steam engine
needed to fill a gap in their collection.
In the past, this hobby was obscure
enough to avoid huckster attention and small
enough to be self policing. No one was going to
get away with much chicanery, at least not for very
long. As this hobby has grown in popularity, it's
become much harder to know and communicate directly
with the whole community, making such self policing
a lot more difficult. Unfortunately, those nostalgic
days seem to be at an
end for our once "safe and sound" little collector's
world. It seems the Dark Side has finally found
us and is making a steady and consistent effort
to steal from the unwary among us. This is the reason
I'm writing, this, another laundry list of things to
The typical modus operandi for these
high tech lowlifes is pretty much along two lines. There
may be a few variants, but the basic scams are as
A legitimate seller posts an auction
offering a super nice item, in our case a
rare or very top end steam engine. He's taken the time
to give an accurate and fair description along with
very clear and revealing photos. Everything is quite
up front and honest in this auction so someone bids
and wins a beautiful new piece for their collection.
This is how things are supposed to work and for most
transactions it works nearly to perfection. But this is
also where the criminal element jumps into the picture. Their scams
take one of two basic avenues to part you with your
The Second Chance Offer.
bid on that engine for 7-14 days, with all the heart
pumping thrills and spills of being the lead bidder.
Suddenly the auction ends and you've been beaten out
in the last 10 seconds. That perfect engine is
now owned by some schlub with less than half your feedback
score . Many,
if not all of us, get somewhat emotionally attached to
"my new engine". Now it's gone
to a home that we're certain is less worthy. Yeah...
been there and done that too...(grin).
Low and behold, the next morning,
sometimes sooner, a message from the seller appears
in your email box. The first place bidder "has
refused to honor his bid", or
was rejected by the seller for "feedback problems".
He's offering you "your steam engine"
at the maximum price you bid. This is not normally a
bad thing and it happens quite legitimately every day.
The number two guy on the bid list is the one normally
contacted, but hey... so what if you were # 3, 4 or
maybe 5. You've got another shot at that dream engine
and all you have to do is respond to the seller's offer
by pushing that "accept offer" button.
it right there Sparky... and engage those little gray
cells between your hairy ears. You can bet grandma's
best Sunday china that you are only moments from the possible
beginning of your very own on line horror story.
Scammers have found ways to scan
and collect user names from ending auctions and have set up
automated software to send out these second chances
to all the bidders in an auction. You send the scammer
the money, by credit card or by an online payment service and wait for
your beloved engine to arrive. By the time you've figured
out it is not coming, the scammer has vanished and neither
the auction company
nor the credit card processor is going to invest much
effort to help you find him. You've
been had, my friend. We'll talk about avoiding this tactic
in a moment, right after we see the second basic scam.
The False Auction Scam:
one is more difficult for newcomers to spot, but
I'll share a few tips after the tale. It begins with
a visit to the auction search engine, where you type in "Steam
Engine" and arrive at the long list of available
goodies. There among the chaff is a solid gold nugget
of a steam engine. It's typically a high end, super nice
piece with the same kind well written description we
all like to read. The photos are generous and everything
looks just as it should. Hey!!!... there is a "buy now" button with a price almost too incredibly
low to resist.
As you roll your mouse into range
to blast the " buy now" button, you
should notice a few things that just do not feel right.
The seller has no feedback, he's only recently joined
as a seller and he's in the Baltics, Indonesia, Russia, or
most commonly these days, China. Put the brakes
on your mouse and park it. It's time for a bit of research.
Here is what you've just encountered. Someone
in China, et al, has also been doing research.
He knows that avid steamers will spend money quickly in
order to avoid
being overtaken by another bidder. Thus the reason for
the "buy now". He's banking on your
first impulse being much stronger than your common
sense. He's researched to find an auction that has recently
ended, although some have even chosen active auctions for
their targeting. Next, the thief copies the authentic
seller's listing including format, photos, layout and description
completely intact and lists it under his own seller's
name. He now has what appears to be a legitimate
auction offering an honest description, all the generous
photos and all the other touches that a real listing
will have. He has everything you want, except an
actual steam engine to sell you. Once you've paid him
he simply disappears and comes back later under another
name to "sell" the same steam engine, or perhaps
another real beauty.
Staying Out of
Trouble... or "What's a Mother To Do?
line auctions are awesome for finding what you
want, but your first and last consideration should
be objectivity and reasonable caution. You are trusting
that the other guy is honest and will deliver the goods
you win. There are some common sense steps to
assuring that the transaction is legitimate. Here are
a few, but I'm sure others will share their own precautions
as time goes by. I'll add some of those as they are shared with
Do not let an
to an item or an overly competitive nature blind you
to common sense. You are not going to win every auction.
Chances are that you'll see another
of the same item come up for auction sooner or later,
so patience is a virtue on line too. Over
exuberance of any kind has no place in your bidding
and is a sure way to eventually get you taken by
A Little Caution Is Not a Sign
The first important precaution is to NEVER....
EVER.... use the links, buttons, or
even the graphics in an email to respond to anything supposedly
sent by the online auction company or a seller. This one
simple precaution will prevent you from
becoming the victim of a fake log on page which is meant
to steal your password and account . Don't ever forget
that you gave your credit card and banking information
when you joined up, along with a lot of other very useful
identifying stuff. It's all too easy to steal an
identity if a thief can gain access. Always log
onto your auction account using your bookmark or by typing in the address
and then go directly to the "My Account" or
Any true auction related correspondence will be listed
there. This includes any legitimate notices sent using
their real internal messaging system. Auction companies
are not in the habit
of using regular email to speak with you and they will
never ask you for passwords or other account financial
Use Some Common Sense
A second chance offer is quite
often legitimate, assuming you are the number 2 bidder.
I've successfully bought nice items using such offers. If you are
number 3 bidder or lower on the list, then chances are much greater
that you are being offered a scam. Once again... log
onto your account in your normal manner and check your "My
Account" area. If the same second chance offer is listed
there, then contact the seller from the original auction
screen, just to verify that he indeed sent it. I still
advise using caution if you were not the number 2 bidder.
Too many second chance offers being sent out could mean
there is a problem with either the seller or perhaps
his steam engine. When in doubt, err far to the side
Spotting a Fraudulent Auction
If a "Buy Now" offer
looks too good to be true, it almost certainly is. "Buy
Now" is one of the most useful tools the auctions have
added to their systems. It can often be the means of
grabbing an impressive steam engine, at a good price,
long before your buddies even know it was being offered.
It's as much fun as a good last minute sniper bid and
the gratification is much more immediate. However, take
a minute to look at a couple of things before you get
A seller with a very low feedback
ratings for non steam related sales or purchases may
be an indication of a falsified rating. A newly
minted zero rated or even a low score seller is not
always a scammer, but it sure does raise a red caution
flag. Seller locations in China or Asia in general,
the Baltic States, Indonesia and other exotic places,
combined with the same low or zero feedback rating
are huge flashing neon warning signs. This is especially
true when the item being offered is a real tempting
When in doubt ask for the seller to provide
you with a photo with some specific item placed in a
certain manner to be included in the shot. If the seller
is straight up he'll be quite pleased to do as you've asked.
A scammer is going to ignore you or stall you with excuses,
hoping you'll either go away or fall for his bait. Run...
do not walk.. away from anyone who balks at providing
you with comfortable proof that he is in possession
of the item being offered. This applies to any seller
you feel uncomfortable with, domestic or foreign.
time goes by you'll begin to notice certain known steam
engine sellers using a recognizable style of writing,
maybe a font that is a little different from everyone
else or an auction template that is instantly identifiable.
These soon become comforting beacons for many of us
and we expect them to offer good pieces. These are guys
who have worked hard to maintain high feedback scores
and take pride in providing quality engines. They are
also quite often the targets of the thieves who lift
auctions and run them as fakes. Hey... I guess
if you're stealing anyway... why not steal the very
Watch out for these familiar looking
auctions with unfamiliar seller names attached
to strange locations. These are scams of the purest
form. Report them to the auction security section and
they will sometimes, but not always, cancel the sale.
I also highly recommend notifying the original seller
from the real auction if at all possible. Watching
one of these faked auctions come to successful completion
is like watching a slow motion train wreck. You know
a fellow steamer just lost his hard earned toy funds
to a criminal, one nobody is going to help him chase
On line auctions have become a lot more
dangerous over the past couple of years. Due care and
a large dose of awareness is usually enough to keep
you out of the clutches of unscrupulous vermin. Bottom
line is... check feedback for steam related items
having been sold or bought as well as for negative entries.
When in doubt, take a few simple, but reasonably effective,
steps to verify the seller is in actual possession of
the item. Never get so attached to an item that you
can't walk away from a seller who can't or won't give
you additional information as requested. If you don't
have warm fuzzy feelings, listen to that inner voice
that is nagging you that things just aren't right.
can and will find many opportunities to transact perfectly
honest and productive business using any of a number
of on line auctions, stores and businesses. I still
enjoy buying and selling at auction but I do temper
the enthusiasm with a little more careful scrutiny these
Want to see the problem at its absolute
worst? Try a search for "steam engines" (or
any other item) on any auction system offering
access to China. It seems that only one in about every
one hundred or so auctions appear to be even remotely
legitimate. It is a truly scary insight and
something we can only hope never happens to auction systems
of the information listed above should be considered
to be legal advice. I am not an attorney, even though I
do sometimes stay at the Holiday Inn Express. These
ramblings are solely based on my own personal experiences
and those of other steamers I've communicated with.
They are meant to be used only as a generalized resource
and offer no sort of guarantee of avoiding becoming
a victim of these or any other auction based fraudulent
transactions. These are simply common sense personal
precautions that I and others have learned and use
in order to avoid falling prey to a fast growing
terms "My Account" and "Buy Now"
are used herein only as generic descriptives used
in the public domain to describe generalized online
Auction services and in no way implies that
the problems described above are limited to any
specific online auction service. I
use online auction services and strongly
support their efforts to fight a fast growing
criminal element who seeks to devalue and destroy a
highly useful and important worldwide online asset.
The information contained in this
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to change without notice. Creative Edge Design nor the owner of this
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