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    Drop Shipping LEGO: How To Avoid Being Scammed


    In today's world, there are many swindlers and shysters trying to separate you from your money. This theft and deception even finds its way into the world of LEGO bricks. As a LEGO collector and investor, there are many places to buy LEGO sets. One of the best is eBay. But there is an ever increasing illegal practice that is occurring on the eBay site and similar auction sites and the LEGO fan needs to be aware of it. It's called “drop shipping.”

    Just to be clear...drop shipping, by itself, is not a scam. It is a common method employed by sellers to reduce inventory costs. Basically a seller either has an agreement with a wholesaler or knows of a price cheap enough that he will sell it to you and make a profit. There are many websites on the Internet that sell things they don't have in inventory, even large, brand-name sites do this.

    I have sold things to people via eBay and drop shipped them to their home because I could get it cheaper than they could so I could make a profit. There was a time when the cheapest prices were almost always on eBay but that is certainly not true anymore (I've been on eBay since 1997). Regardless many people only look at eBay to buy something and don’t have the time or inclination to price shop.

    Drop shipping is employed by scammers on eBay because they can use stolen credit card information to purchase an item that is shipped to YOU, so YOU are the first person contacted because of stolen credit card use as YOU received the stolen merchandise and thus benefited from the stolen credit card! If these scammers used a stolen credit card to ship to themselves, they would quickly be caught!

    I have been taken in by scams on eBay, luckily the last time I detected it but not before I had already won the auction. Here is what you should look for to determine if the eBay listing is a scam:

    • Look for low feedback scores, under 100.
    • Look for feedback scores on very cheap items (99 cents) on almost all transactions in the last month or two. Probably most are purchases not sales.
    • Look for the eBay account to be suddenly selling a lot of high-priced items they haven't sold before. Look to see if the account is selling duplicates of these items.
    • Look for stock Internet photos likely from Lego. It is better if the photos look original, but don’t rely on this as it is easy to copy pictures from other eBay auctions. The last scam I fell for had original pictures!

    NOTE: If I see #2 or two of any of the others I never bid on their listings. This is very likely to be a credit card scam and the items will be drop shipped to you.

    • All high-priced auctions end at the same time. Also check shipping terms to see if there is any delay in shipping. Some will tell you they only ship once a week or will be on vacation when the auctions end.

    NOTE: I actually saw one seller whose items all ended at the same minute, over 30 items! This is likely just a straight up scam without any stolen credit cards, the seller is hoping to make off with buyer's money before anyone realizes they won't get their item.

    • Look to see if the account has been inactive for a long time - usually more than six months and now has a lot of items for sale. And, even when it was active there was not a lot of activity.

    NOTE: This is likely someone's eBay account that has been hacked and is now being used in a scam. Someone who has recently been inactive may not notice anything is going on in their account, or they can't access their account for months.

    • Is the LEGO set priced BELOW retail(MSRP)? Many drop shippers will give you a great deal to quicken the sales process and sell more items. I mean, it's not their money, right? They are happy giving you a discount if it makes them $100+ a LEGO set.
    • LEGO set has to be available through primary retailers like LEGO, Amazon, Target, etc... so the thief can use the stolen card to send you the set from in stock retailers.
    • Is there FREE SHIPPING involved? Many drop shippers will throw in free shipping as a “bonus” to sweeten the pot. Plus many retailers will give free shipping on higher priced items, so it actually costs the thief nothing.

    What to do if you won an item and think it's a scam:
    In December of 2012, I won a LEGO 4842 set for $130. I noticed the seller had six for sale and had used the same original picture for all six, which all ended within an hour of each other. I got a bad feeling about the transaction, but it was too late. I looked at the seller’s feedback score of about 90, only to see they were almost all for purchasing 99 cent items and all in the last 6 weeks. My habit has been to pay immediately when I win something. But, I had a bad feeling about this auction so I sent an email to eBay. Then, I waited without paying for three days, at which time I started getting notices from eBay to pay for my item.

    I called eBay to talk with a Customer Service representative on the phone. You can do this if you first get a number code online that is good for 15 minutes and allows you to talk with an actual person.

    I reported what I thought was a scam and she said thank you, but they could not give me any information about their confidential investigations. I asked how long I had to pay for the auction and she said eBay had no set limit. I asked what I could do; she said I had the option of contacting the seller and asking that the transaction be canceled. Only sellers can initiate the transaction cancellation option in eBay.

    I waited four more days and was thinking that even if it was a scam I would eventually get my money back from Paypal; but I was concerned that I might be blacklisted by LEGO or Amazon. I went to the auction and looked at the feedback again and another buyer had said Lego had contacted them about credit card fraud.

    I sent a message to the seller asking that the transaction be canceled and the seller did cancel the transaction. I went back into eBay a week later and there was no registered user with the seller’s ID and I could no longer bring up the transaction I had won.

    I belatedly got an email from eBay telling me that some transactions I was involved with had been canceled and I could take it up with Paypal, if I was out any money.

    So, if you win an item, then discover it is likely a scam, don’t pay(although you will receive annoying reminder emails to pay) and you can always ask the seller to cancel the transaction! I would also suggest that you call or email eBay to ask them to investigate the seller. At the very least, it will be noted by the eBay Customer Service representative in your file and this will help protect you if the case ever gets escalated into a criminal matter. It is true you can go ahead and pay and will probably get your money back, but I’m more afraid of being blacklisted from a site like LEGO or Amazon!

    I have since seen similar sellers and each time they were selling multiple LEGO sets, but the auctions always had under six items available. I think selling six identical LEGO sets(or any item) is under eBay’s radar. Many years ago, I interviewed with eBay for a programming position and they told me at that time they had more than 45,000 active algorithms that review auctions for fraud prevention. So, while I think eBay is very active in trying to prevent fraud (I wonder how many listings we never see?) those algorithms will never be quite as effective as your own brain! Be safe out there!

    eBay and PayPal(...and other large retailers) have improved their fraud fighting qualities and cover most types of consumer issues, but the only way to stop it 100% is for the educated buyer not to buy from these scammers. The best piece of advice I can give you on stopping drop shippers is to ask yourself this simple question before purchasing an item...IS THE DEAL TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE? Basically, why would any legit seller, who is in their right mind and not a large retailer clearing inventory, sell you a non-retired LEGO set below MSRP and with FREE SHIPPING? The answer is...they wouldn't! 99.9% of the time, the seller is not legit. Thank you and good luck in your LEGO acquisitions...
    I have also had experiences with illegal drop shippers and have had my LEGO account temporarily frozen because of one. It is everyone's issue. These crooks cause our prices and fees on LEGO sets to go up because of their fraudulent activities. I've become a lot more aware of these kinds of listings, and this article will give you a good start on battling this sort of crime. As Talon pointed out in the above article, there are numerous red flags to pay attention to. He listed many of them, and if a questionable auction checks off several of those red flags, maybe it is best to move on to another auction.*Ed*itor's Note:
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    Guest skfdlty

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    We all definitely needed this article! Lol math. I hate math I don't shop on eBay as often as stores where I can actually see what I am buying so I haven't been scammed....yet.

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    Great Job Talon, it's really a great article for many of us to learn from. I don't think everyone know this issue exists out there and it will help them be smarter buyers.

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    Hi, thanks for this article. It's very informative and I learned a lot from it. Your article is probably only tended to cover scams associated with drop-shipping LEGO, but I did want to address a couple of the points you made in your article and respond to them as I think someone doing a cursory read-through might think your warning signs apply to all LEGO re-sellers on eBay... "I actually saw one seller whose items all ended at the same minute, over 30 items!" - As a seller on eBay I use selling software which greatly simplifies and speeds up the process of uploading all of my listings. The software will upload all of the listings at the same time, and so all of the listings will end at the same time too. For example, I've listed 100 items at a time. "All high-priced auctions end at the same time. Also check shipping terms to see if there is any delay in shipping. Some will tell you they only ship once a week or will be on vacation when the auctions end." - I have a full time job in addition to my part-time job selling LEGO so I may not always be able to get to the post office the day after someone pays for their purchase. Obviously I do my best but sometimes it's convenient and I do write on my item descriptions that I may sometimes send items out a couple of days later. That being said, I always email the tracking information immediately after I send it. Great article, thanks again for taking the time to write it.

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    Keep in mind that just because a buyer received a dropshipped item doesn't automatically mean fraudulent activity was involved. There are a bunch of legitimate dropshippers. Even major retailers like target.com dropship.

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    I suspect that dropshipping scams aren't as prevalent as plain fraudulent listings where many of your points mentioned are covered: - seller has feedback from buying/selling cheap items. - inactive account, suddenly active - listing lots of high-valued items at the same time (ie: UCS Falcon, Taj Mahal etc) - Listing multiples of the same item for a low price (ie: 10 x 10188 Death Star for US$149 with FREE shipping) - LIsting items with images clearly copied from other sources/sellers. In relation to that last point, I recently saw a seller who was using the watermarked images with another sellers name (DOH!). Found the other selling who was selling the same items at high BIN prices. I emailed BOTH the seller and eBay and the listings were yanked in a day. If you do suspect a fradulent listing, you can email eBay customer support and they can launch an investigation. Having said that, there have been times where I've had good deals because the seller: - didn't put anything other than a stock image and this doesn't encourage bidding. - seller doesn't put any description beyond say, New in Box. - mis-spelt the item name (therefore not bringing it up in the search engine) Safe buying to all!

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    Great article. I see several of these types of auction every week. Also, they usually end pretty quickly as the price is just too good to pass up for most people that don't realize it is a scam.

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    Nice article. I found this line really funny, "Is there FREE SHIPPING involved? Many drop shippers will throw in free shipping as a “bonus” to sweeten the pot. Plus many retailers will give free shipping on higher priced items, so it actually costs the thief nothing." None of this costs the thief any money! They're using someone else's credit cards! ;)

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    Well done article, Talon! This is a very serious matter that everyone needs to know about. No if's, and's, or but's. I consider this a 'must read' for every member, new and old.

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    I'm currently in the process of clearing up a possible drop shipping issue. I became aware of the issue when I realized the packing slip in the box was from a retailer, and about $30 more expensive than the price I paid. I called the retailer to make sure I wouldn't be liable for any charges should the credit card not go through, since the only name and address the retailer has is mine. Alarmingly, they informed me that the credit card that was used was in my name. I'm not sure if the customer service rep knew what she was talking about, but i put a fraud alert on my credit and requested a credit report just to make sure someone hasn't signed me up for a new credit card. The retailer has a fraud form but it requires a police report. The police station requires the credit report before they'll do anything. This is going to be a long process just to clear my name from an ebay purchase.

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    "Look for stock Internet photos likely from Lego. It is better if the photos look original, but don’t rely on this as it is easy to copy pictures from other eBay auctions. The last scam I fell for had original pictures!" About this, I list hundreds of items (as do many other sellers), so if there is a stock photo available, I usually use it. This saves me from having to take hundreds of photographs and upload them.

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    Wow, great comments! I know this article is not comprehensive and certainly, as several of you point out, legit sellers do sometime fall into my categories of things to look for! That is why you really need two or more indicators that it is a fraudulent listing (except in the case of the weak, cheap feedback!). Perhaps we need another article on similar fraud from store websites or just expand this article to include website store fraud? In the end it is all a judgment call on guessing if the seller is legit or not. There simply are too many factors to list all possible situations so rely on your own judgment the most! What you are looking for is all the clues that would help you avoid being banned from a major retailer! Thanks for all the great comments!

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    I was taken in by a similar scam on Bricklink. I placed an order with a seller and he gave me a paypal address to send the money to. I didn't find out until later that he also placed an order for about the same amount with another seller and gave me their paypal account address instead of his own. So the other seller received a payment from me (thinking that it was from the scammer) and then shipped the scammer's order to them! When I didn't receive any Lego, I filed a complaint with paypal and eventually got my money back. The other seller got the chargeback but lost the merchandise that they already had sent to the scammer! I know that a lot of other people were taken in by this scam and there was police involvement but I never heard if the scammer was ever caught. You need to be really careful when buying things online, especially from private parties like on ebay or bricklink.

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    One thing not mentioned is that sometimes the seller is also ignorant to the scam (or at worst, senses something weird but continues because of their profit share). In these cases, the sellers have responded to ads that seek out those with established ebay/paypal accounts (long selling history, lots of positive feedback, etc.). They are lured in by the near-effortless involvement required and ~20% share of the sales. I only bring this up because the main method suggested in this article for sorting out good listings from bad was the feedback of the seller. If it is like the above case, it will seem completely on the up-and-up.

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    Very good article. Definitely has been a problem for the 13 years I have been on ebay. I never buy if the only picture is a stock picture. I have been scammed only once on ebay and it was by a buyer using stolen credit card. But I have seen many of the suspicious or outright fraudelant listings as described in the article.

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    Hey guys.. been lurking around this site for a few days. Great community, very informative! I actually wrote my college application essay on Lego investing a couple years back. Thought I was pretty innovative at the time haha... But anyway: I've been wondering about this whole dropshipping thing... how do the dropshippers get the stolen credit card? Because most of the dropshippers I know of use Paypal. Why would they choose Paypal? Doesn't that only make it easier for the buyer to cancel their payment?

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    Hi. Great article. However, I would ask you reconsider the use of the term "drop shipping" because it makes legitimate drop shipping practices sound bad. As you pointed out, major businesses do drop shipping (merchant advertises product, Person A buys the product, and merchant pays the drop shipper for the item which is sent to Person A. In this scam, the merchant doesn't use his own billing info at the drop shipper to ship the item to Person A, but instead uses (knowingly or not) the credit card of Victim B to buy and ship the item from the drop seller. Real and honest drop shipping is a good thing. But stolen cards are not, and is a separate issue than drop shipping.

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    This is an excellent article. I got caught up in one of these scams trying to get the tower bridge around Christmas. The seller was removed from EBay and the item I purchased was not available. Thankfully E-Bay has the protection and I did receive a full refund.

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