Spotting Signs of a Scam

Auctions can sometimes seem too good to be true: the merchandise is just too incredibly inexpensive for the quality being touted, the auctioneers are just a little too friendly, or the selection of products is just too convenient.  If any of these seem to be the case, you might very well be right -- it might not be true at all.  While you shouldn't go into every auction believing you're about to be scammed, you should certainly be on the lookout for some of these sure signs of a scam.

A fake U.S. dollar bill.

It's always a good idea to punch the auctioneer's name or auction house's title into a search engine and browse for reviews.  Google is a great place to start your research.  Don't even consider heading out the door before you've run the auctioneer and the auction house through some routine searches -- and then, if they have consistent amounts of recent complaints, you may want to rethink your trip.  You're probably walking into a living nightmare of an auction.

When an auctioneer rents out a non-permanent venue, like a hotel's conference room or a town meeting hall, you'll really want to look into their reputation.  The problem with a temporary venue is the ease with which a scammer can show up one day, sell ripoff products, and then vanish before the person who just bought a purportedly $1,000 watch for $500, only to find that it wasn't an original.  If any other possible scam signs show up, be sure to do some hard-core investigation if they're at a temporary venue.

Once you arrive, there can be some problems, too.  Because items at auction are sold on consignment, offering coupons or discounts based on the manufacturer of the item is usually not legal or viable.  So if the auction is offering special deals that seem a little odd, you might want to check them out and make sure you aren't going to an auction that's just a retail store's merchandise in disguise.

Planted buyers is something else to watch out for.  If it seems that the same people seem to be buying most of the items, especially early on, be wary.  Watch for cues that might imply that one or two of the other bidders could be planted by the company -- nonverbal communication with the auctioneer, nods with each other, etc.

Don't want to deal with the hassle of auctions?  Try garage sales for all your secondhand merchandise needs!  Hop on over to; we've got tons of tips, tricks, and resources for free.

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