Thursday, May 5, 2016

Social Media Trading: I got ripped off. You don't have to be.

Have you ever been swindled? Had a trade, sale or purchase go south. Well in the last few weeks, I myself have been ripped off.
On the Wargames Buy Swap and Sell page on Facebook (which I have never had issues with before and will continue to use) I posted that I was WTT (willing to trade).

I had up for offer a
-NIB still shrink wrapped 2 player Hordes starter set
-Brand new mint condition faction books for both factions in the box
-A limited ed Malifaux model
-4 Mantic Zombies as a little cherry on top

In total, this was approximately $180 MSRP, + Shipping.

I wanted NIB or NOS (new on sprue)
-6 Kataphron Destroyers
-5 Electro Priests
-A Magos Dominus.

I got contacted by one Robert Davis of Harvard (or West Groton), MA who was willing to make a deal. He had no negative feedback on the boards, and had other people he was looking to trade with. He sent me pics of all the items. Seemed on the up and up, the only thing was he was a little slow to communicate. However he is not the first person I have encountered like that, so I was okay with this. We exchanged addresses. I got his stuff mailed out the next day and sent the tracking number. He said he got his out the next, and that his wife mailed it. No tracking # provided. Uh-oh.
I played it off. He said his wife sent it, and it was a Friday. I contacted him again on Tuesday to see if my stuff had arrived and to see if he had found the tracking number for mine. He said they had to look for it again but he had got my stuff. Okay. I asked a few more times, still no number or evidence he had actually shipped my stuff. Crap.

Told him I was going to contact the admins because I was getting uncomfortable, to which there was no reply. It had been 11 days at that point since he said he had shipped, and mine got to him in 4. Finally contacted the admins and got some advisement, all of which (and more) I will put into the tips below. I ended up giving him 1 more day with an ultimatum that if my stuff didn't arrive or he didn't provide me with a valid tracking number so I could track down my stuff,

I told him he could either pay me for the goods he received or I was filing a mail fraud complaint.

Of course he didn't want to pay and just maintained it was sent.

So at this point I filed a police report and a mail fraud complaint.

What is a mail fraud?
18 U.S. Code § 1343 - Fraud by wire, radio, or television
Whoever, having devised or intending to devise any scheme or artifice to defraud, or for obtaining money or property by means of false or fraudulent pretenses, representations, or promises, transmits or causes to be transmitted by means of wire, radio, or television communication in interstate or foreign commerce, any writings, signs, signals, pictures, or sounds for the purpose of executing such scheme or artifice, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 20 years, or both. If the violation occurs in relation to, or involving any benefit authorized, transported, transmitted, transferred, disbursed, or paid in connection with, a presidentially declared major disaster or emergency (as those terms are defined in section 102 of the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act (42 U.S.C. 5122)), or affects a financial institution, such person shall be fined not more than $1,000,000 or imprisoned not more than 30 years, or both.

Essentially if you mislead someone into getting something, for nothing, via basically any means other than face to face, you have committed mail fraud. While this part doesn't detail all the punishments, if it is not in an emergency or against a financial institute, it is punishable by up to 20 years imprisonment and/or $250,000 in fines. Doesn't seem worth it for $180 in Warmachine does it?

So what do you do if you have been ripped off?
Well first of all, make sure you have been. If the guy gives you a tracking number and insured it, he didn't rip you off, it just got lost. Contact the postal service and attempt to find you package. If it is gone entirely, file for the insurance. If they did not insure it for extra, priority mail comes with $50 insurance standard. Work a settlement between you and the other party for how much they owe you beyond that. It is the senders responsibility to ensure goods are delivered.

But lets assume for this case YOU DID get ripped off. What to do?
1- Contact your trade sites ADMIN ASAP. There may be others having issues with the same seller (in my case there were 3 or 4 of us). This will ensure the guy gets banned from your group so he can't rip off others.
2- All victims need to file a Mail Fraud Complaint with the US Postal Investigation Service. THE FORM IS HERE. It is important to note, even if you are not a US Citizen and this is international, you can and should do this. This is the investigating body for this time of crime. The more of you who file, the more likely an investigation will occur and the criminal be brought to justice. It is important to note that this does not guarantee you will get your goods or money back, but in the prosecution of mail fraud, compensation is one of the primary goals of the court. Make sure you provide the tracking number for your package (if it was a trade) and any/all pertinent information and keep your receipts.
3- File a report with your local police and the other party's local police. They may or may not be able to do anything (they typically do not have the jurisdiction to), however it is good for record keeping and they maybe able to help.
4- If you used PAYPAL, file a complaint/resolution with them.

Ways to avoid being cheated:
1- For sales and purchases, ONLY USE PAYPAL. Select PAYMENT FOR GOODS AND SERVICES. Unless you personally know the individual, never EVER send money any other way, this includes paypal friends and family, bank wire transfer, and western union. If they insist on anything else, turn the offer down.
2- For trades you can still back it up with PAYPAL (wish I had now). Establish an agreed upon amount for the value of the models in the trade. So if it is $100, you transfer $100 to them and they do the same to you. SELECT PAYMENT FOR GOODS AND SERVICES. There may be a small charge for both of you, but consider this an insurance fee. Now if the goods never arrive or they gave you something other than you traded for, you can still file with PAYPAL and get your money back.
3- Check feedback on all trade sites. Typically there is some file or message board. If they have anything negative against them, don't go through with the deal. Check multiple sites you are a member, in case one group has good or no feedback on the person in question, but another has negative feedback. If possible, talk to others they have done business with to verify they are on the level, particularly for really big trades.
4- Use google to reverse image search any pictures they send you. Make sure they just aren't using random pictures of models and products found online.
5- Be patient and be suspicious. If you posted up something rather large or are looking for something particularly rare, be wary of anyone who immediately contacts you and has exactly what you want.
6- If you have the smallest doubt, DO NOT GO TROUGH WITH THE TRADE. Your intuition is there for a reason. Trust it.

I hope this helps. And if you are the person doing this, you are a jerk, and I hope you get caught. This is an amazing hobby. Don't spoil it for everyone. It is already expensive enough and people are really just trying to enjoy the game. By ripping someone off, you have not only stolen value from them, but also stolen a bit of their hobby fun.

Oh, and if you happen to know Robert Davis of Harvard MA, give him a swift kick to the groin for me.