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How to Minimize the Chance You Could be Dealing with a Scammer ...while using the classifieds.

Think you're dealing with a scammer on VAF?  Send me their userID and I'll lock the account down.  There is scum in this world and they often try to scam people out of their hard earned money.  Don't give 'um a chance.  Read every single word of this entire page.


1. Buyer BEWARE! 
 Do your homework!

If you feel like you got ripped off, or the package arrived damaged, or whatever, before you e-mail me complaining about it ask yourself if you did a proper amount of due diligence.  Nobody forced you to buy anything, and I literally have begged everyone over the past decade to be very, very careful buying anything used off the internet.  The responsibility IS ON YOU the buyer and YOU THE SELLER to smell around each other's tails enough to where you're both comfortable with the transaction. Don't kid yourself and assume that there aren't criminals searching the site on an hourly basis trying to figure out how to scam you out of your money.
 Do your homework, or at the very least don't send more money than you are willing to lose.

2. You own a smart phone and/or computer.  Use FaceTime/Zoom/Skype and make a video recording (instructions below) of both the seller's face and the product they are selling.  You'll need permission from them to do this. 
Have the person hold the item(s) being sold up and spin it around so you can see them and the item (and the wife and kids in the background).  Maybe they can show you a water bill.  Have them verify the house number outside and show you the street sign.  I'm not telling you you have to do all this, but if you think buying a used multi-thousand dollar piece of avionics on an internet classified board is without risk, I would suggest you are a much braver person than me.

If they're not willing to talk on the phone via video chat and show you their face while holding the avionics, you can rest assured you are communicating with a scammer.

Tell them you're going to record video and audio before you press record.  Get permission.

If you use a Mac laptop or Mac computer you can record video and audio with a couple of clicks.  How to HERE.  Youtube will show you how to do this on a Windows based machine.

If you want to use your iPhone, you'll need a 2nd device to record the audio.  Again, this method will only record the image - you will need a second device next to your phone to record the audio (pocket memo dictation device, your spouse's phone running the voice memo app or using the video part of the camera app, etc).  The screen record feature does not access the mic on your phone, which is why you need the second device.

How to Record On an iPhone.
- Bring up the Control Center and look for the button circled in red below (how to add the Record button to your Control Center).  Start the video chat session and press this button.  It will record everything being displayed on your phone as a video file.  Go back to that button after you stop the video chat and press it again to stop recording.  You now have the person's face, house, voice (if you used a second device to record it), and the item being sold.

Sounds like a lot of work, but it's nice to have a video and audio of the person who is trying to sell you a $5,000 piece of avionics, $30K engine, or $150K plane.

This precaution is free and in your pocket.  Just saying...

Ok, so you want to buy and you feel pretty confident it's a legit person.  Ask yourself if you're willing to loose thousands of dollars to a incredibly motivated and sneeky criminal eliment.  If not, let's proceed to step #3.  The most important point on this page.

3. Use Stein as a middleman when selling or buying avionics.  Any Avionics!


If it is a piece of pricey avionics, have Stein from Steinair.com act as an intermediary between the buyer and seller.  Guess what Stein can do?  He can tell you if the radio is stolen!  Pretty helpful, right?  The seller will ship it to Stein, and he will check it out and hold it until the funds clear, then he will ship it to the buyer. You will have to pay Stein a small fee for doing this, of course, but it won't be as much as you think. It's a lot cheaper than buying a stolen radio, or one from the grey market that can't be used.
Scammers won't be willing to do this.
www.SteinAir.com    651-460-6955.

4. Expect Hi Res Photos ...hosted somewhere online.
If you are selling an item, use the macro function on your digital camera (it will most likely look like a little flower) to take extremely close-up photographs of every square inch of the item being sold. The macro function will allow you to show every little scratch and nick and wear point in painfully excruciating detail.  This will avoid the unpleasant "you didn't tell me how worn out it looked" conversation after receiving it.

The person selling should use an image hosting site (smugmug.com will give you a two week FREE subscription) to upload HIGH RES PHOTOS for potential buyers. If the seller is unwilling to upload high-resolution images (and I'm talking a dozen pictures from all sides), including pictures with THEM holding the item, I would recommend running away from the deal as fast as you can.  This one simple act costs the seller nothing and minimizes the chance of confusion down the road.

An example:

(an album I set up to show you an example of macro photography
 - click on the link and maximize your screen)


5. No links to eBay, Barnstormers, Trade-A-Plane, etc.       No exceptions.  These are deleted by the mods.

6. Search Engines Are Your Friend
Google (or equivalent) the item that's being sold. You might find that it appears on several different online bulletin boards, and that the seller has already been outed as a scammer.  Google the seller's email address. You might be surprised that it appears on a scam list somewhere.  No hits whatsoever?  Might be a scammer's new 'burner address'.

7. Document the Packaging Before It's Shipped
If it is a large item like a tail kit, or something that requires proper readying for shipping, make sure the seller sends you detailed pictures of the item in its packaging container to satisfy you that it is been packed correctly. Things get dropped during shipping.  Trucks bounce around.  Insurance is your friend.  Surely you took out some sort of insurance for shipping, right? The buyer and the seller negotiated that in advance, right?

8. Give yourself a way to 'cancel the check'
Pay using something like PayPal.com. Something you can cancel if things go south. If the seller demands the funds in advance and it's avionics, I would run away from the deal unless somebody like Stein acted as an intermediary.  But hey, it's your money not mine.

9. Save every piece of correspondence
You might need it to give to the Police.  Or your lawyer.

10. Question a Low Post Count
If a seller only has a few posts, and/or they are all items for sale, your red flag should go up instantly.  And high. 

11. Don't send more money than you are willing to loose
You're buying something used off the internet, after all.  Do your homework. 


In closing, you might think I would be very comfortable buying and selling items on my own website classified board. I am not. Would I buy a propeller sight unseen from another state, trusting that it would be shipped correctly and show up exactly as I was hoping?  Not in a hundred years.  Would I buy a $2,000 GPS sight unseen without doing any due diligence? And I mean a lot of due diligence. Not on your life.

Use the RV White Pages to find somebody who lives near the item being sold. Ask them if they would be willing to go look at the item to make sure everything is legitimate. Send them money for a nice dinner out.

Sorry to sound like such a stick in the mud, but it seems like every few months somebody gets ripped off buying an expensive piece of avionics gear, or a propeller, or an engine that has had a prop strike, etc. To be honest I'm kind of getting tired of getting the e-mails from people who somehow think I need to be involved because they failed to do their own research before shelling out the money. If it seems like it's too good of a deal to be true, it almost always is.  In nearly 100% of these cases, I've never met the two parties involved, they live in different states, and I know nothing about them or the item.

I think in 20 years I've bought two items off of my classified board, and I think they both cost around $20. Maybe my threshold for risk is higher than the average person. Maybe not.

Don't give your password to anyone.  Ever.  Don't 'click on this link to reset your password' that gets e-mailed to you by someone that you think you know.  It's a phishing scam.  Don't click on a link PM'd to you asking you for your password.  Ever.  It's a phishing scam.  Make yourself aware that identity theft and online scams are very real and a way of life these days.   We are a huge community.  We are a target.

Bottom Line: 
Don't wire more money than you are willing to loose.

PLEASE do your homework, a lot of homework, and always give yourself a way out.  Or five ways.