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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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    Hi, and thanks. I am one of those scammees. I just couldn't resist the prices, even though, in my heart, I knew that there had to be something up. Wishful thinking made me hope that it was just people cashing in their VIP points, but of course it wasn't. I got the warning from Lego that they could discontinue selling to us if we kept buying on eBay. So, temptation or not, there are consequences to buying, other than just risking whether you'll get your package.

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    Good article. I unknowingly took part in this type of transaction when I recently bought two sets off eBay. In my case, the price was only slightly lower than typical market values, so no big warning flags went off for me (and shipping was also free). Also, the seller's feedback included two eBay veteran buyers who had bought the same sets. I paid via PayPal immediately, and a couple days later I received a message from eBay indicating that the seller had been suspended. I contacted the seller requesting tracking info, which they provided immediately. A couple more days later, the sets arrived, clearly drop-shipped from WalMart with a packing invoice indicating higher prices and shipping costs than I had paid. My question is this: what is my liability to WalMart or the (presumably) stolen credit card company? It seems to me that the answer is 'none'. I carried out a transaction in good faith, as opposed to a clearly suspicious transaction, and I paid for the items I received through legitimate channels (eBay and PayPal), as opposed to some underground, shadey route. I even have a bill of sale and receipt. Obviously, I'm more the wise now, and I'll be a little more careful next time, but right now I'm not feeling like it's my responsibility to follow up with WalMart. Given the suspended user status of the seller, it's clear that eBay is aware of the apparent scam, so I also don't need to follow up with them.

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    "My question is this: what is my liability to WalMart or the (presumably) stolen credit card company? It seems to me that the answer is ‘none’. I carried out a transaction in good faith, as opposed to a clearly suspicious transaction, and I paid for the items I received through legitimate channels (eBay and PayPal), as opposed to some underground, shadey route. I even have a bill of sale and receipt." For the U.S., legally you are receiving 'stolen' goods and at a minimum could be required to return the sets and receive no compensation for the money you spent. 'good faith' doesn't matter, ignorance of the theft doesn't matter. In reality, most stores won't go after you unless it continues to happen - stolen goods shipped to your address. Then, they may ask you to return the goods and may also ban your address from receiving ANY products in the future. It is unlikely you would be prosecuted (bad press for the store), but technically you could be as it is against the law to receive stolen goods even if you don't know they were stolen.

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    thanks for the info, wish i would have read this before my latest purchase of a lego tower bridge a couple of weeks ago. turns out it was purchased with a stolen credit card. I had no idea this was happening on ebay.

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    WOW...I didn't realize this was so prevalent. Good article after reading everyone's comments it sounds like I'll need to be very careful. I haven't bought on ebay in a few years and I don't know if this was going on the few times I bought in the past. At least I'm more aware now, hopefully I won't get scammed. Thanks everyone...

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    This article was great if only for the comments regarding stock photos. As soon as I hit submit comment I'm getting to work adding photos to all of my multiple item listings which I currently only have a stock photo on.

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    Great article. It it very interesting article.I don’t think everyone know this issue exists out there and it will help them be smarter buyers.

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    i would recomend not using a site called ioffer. ordered the death star 2 months ago and just got a knock off coin purse paypal is investigating

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    Wow - I think that I just fell for this scam. I bought the City Garage 4207 from a seller on Artfire.com for $90 ($80 + $10 shipping) and it is currently en route by FedEx with an origination of Olive Branch, MS. Boy do I feel stupid. I became concerned about the purchase after seeing that the seller site was gone last Thursday. I asked for a refund and the seller responded that the item was shipping. It still seemed suspect for obvious reasons so I just googled "Lego Olive Branch, MS" and found a number of reports about "drop-shipping scams". Not sure what to do now. I made the purchase through PayPal so not sure if I can get my money back from the seller. And I don't want to be black-listed by Lego. Anyone have any suggestions?

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    Quote: "For the U.S., legally you are receiving ‘stolen’ goods and at a minimum could be required to return the sets and receive no compensation for the money you spent. ‘good faith’ doesn’t matter, ignorance of the theft doesn’t matter. ...It is unlikely you would be prosecuted (bad press for the store), but technically you could be as it is against the law to receive stolen goods even if you don’t know they were stolen." Actually, this is not correct. Look on any legal site and you'll see that one of the requirements of being charged with receipt of stolen goods is knowledge that the goods are stolen. So ignorance of the theft does matter, within reasonable bounds (i.e. if you were buying out of the back of some guy's car for a fraction of the MSRP, etc.). The only possible charge would be possession of stolen goods, a much more minor charge. But even this charge is, I think, sketchy at best. There are too many parties involved - the actual thief, the credit card company, Walmart, eBay, PayPal and the buyer, as well as the buyer's credit card company (who, incidentally often include fraud protection with on-line purchases).

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    "one of the requirements of being charged with receipt of stolen goods is knowledge that the goods are stolen" Actually you are correct, I would have fixed it if I could have, but I can't edit my comment here. My main point was not that you would be charged, but rather that the goods can be taken from you without recompense whether or not you have knowledge of them being stolen. I doubt this happens often with a Lego set, but it is a possibility and as I have read here it has happened to some members on brickpicker where they have been asked to return the merchandise. Perhaps your credit card company might reimburse you if that happens.

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    eBay has been refusing to help fix this problem. I've reported sellers who are drop shippers and eBay didn't suspend their accounts. They are still illegally selling sets...

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    Well I never came across any of those but i do think this is a major problem and Ebay shoudl try and deal with this somehow or in some way, its throwing a bad light on real lego sellers

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    also going in and reading the feedback helps. Saw 1 with a seller having 3-4 big ticket items, (green grocer, Eifel Tower, Taj) at same time as someone else mentioned, but in the feedback, 6 different "buyers" had posted the exact same feedback...word for word. Check feedback rating (number of feedback) and also check the profiles of the "buyers" who left them feedback as well. $600-$1000 a set is nothing to sneeze at so as the saying goes...if it looks to good to be true........

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    follow up to previous post..... this eBay feedback is exactly what I was refering to.... http://feedback.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewFeedback2&userid=rarelegosets&ftab=AllFeedback&myworld=true Has London Bridge, Grand Carosel and Eifel Tower as only items for sale

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    sorry, Statue of Liberty, not London Bridge, but it is pictured. Notice all the "Good buyer, prompt payment, valued customer, highly recommended." from different buyers but all said exact same thing to the letter.

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    Great article. I had seen someone on Ebay selling six R2-D2 10225 sets for $150 each. I thought this was a crazy deal and was debating whether or not I should buy it but then began to think it's too good to be true and might be a scam. I looked a few hours later and they were all gone. People had already bought them. I checked again the next day and the user had added 5 more and those had gotten sold too. About a week later I checked the user "hendoscloset" feedback and there it was filled with red. He just collected the money and ran. He did the same thing with the imperial shuttles. So if you think something is too good to be true, it most likely is. Buy carefully my friends.

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    heathx3 - Thanks for confirming my concerns about this seller. I was seriously looking at purchasing a big ticket item this week, but it doesn't add up having now read these forum remarks. I consider myself to be fairly astute when purchasing items, but I must admit I wasn't aware of this 'practice' until I read Brickpicker. Looks like this forum is going to save me money and heartache from day one...

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    I wrote this article (Ed did some great editing) and I just recently got caught in the same type of scam on ebay. The seller was selling a Horizon Express Train set at $15 below MSRP with free shipping. Not a great deal, but good enough that I was interested. Turns out he had signed up with some website that had promised discounts large enough for the website to make a profit and the seller to make a product. The seller signs up and is given some products to choose from and he then sells those on ebay. The seller probably has good feedback and the website is using stolen credit cards to purchase the items. So, the thieves are using another level of obfuscation to prevent being caught. Luckily for me the seller was horrified and promptly refunded my credit card out of their own pocket. I returned the Horizon Express to Lego. Unfortunately this left the seller out the money, but I did leave good feedback for his efforts. Unfortunately none of the things I put in the article and have learned worked in this case as it was an honest seller who didn't recognize a website scam. I would stay away from all of the websites that ask you to sign up for drop shipping services, even the ones who don't use stolen credit cards seem to misrepresent MSRP and discounts on items. Just like items listed for sale, if a deal to make profit seems too good to be true - run the other way!

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    Thing is, after finding out this was happening on Ebay it has been pretty easy to spot several scam listings. They usually don't last long, but there are A LOT of them as well.

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