Wherever there is a dollar to be made there is a scammer to be found. This harsh reality is learned by all of us at some point and a healthy amount of skepticism is necessary when making high value investments. This week’s installment doesn’t focus on counterfeit cards but rather on common scams that have made their way into the Magic trading market.
Paypal “Friends and Family”
Paypal tends to be a favored payment processor around the internet and is more or less ubiquitous as a payment option on sites that sell Magic products. Using Paypal through sites such as eBay and TCGPlayer are fine since they are reputable sellers and are bound to merchant agreements by Paypal. Issues using this payment processor tend to come up when dealing with private parties outside of major merchant networks.
There are two types of payment options when sending money to a private party via Paypal. One is for “Goods and Services” which incurs a $0.30 + 2.9% fee for the seller and provides purchase protection to the buyer in cases where the item is not received or is significantly different from what was advertised, along with other benefits. This is designed for merchants and will typically only use Paypal payment as their sole method when checking out through mainstream sites. The other method is for sending as “Friends and Family” which is fee-free but is irreversible in cases where your account was not compromised (i.e. sent willingly).
An example of this scam will involve working out a deal with somebody from a trading and selling group on Facebook. The person running the scam will insist that you pay via Paypal’s “Friends and Family” feature so that way a fee won’t be taken. Of course, you never receive the item or the item itself is not right but the buyer disappears and you never see your money again.
The best way to avoid this scam is to only use the “Friends and Family” feature with people you can actually trust. For in-person sales this can be a useful way to make high end purchases without the risk of carrying large amounts of cash.
Craigslist “Mom’s Attic” Deposit
A scam I have seen a few times while browsing Magic listings on Craigslist involves using a flashy picture of Power 9 and other high-value Reserved List cards to grab the reader’s attention. The claim will vary but might be something like, “My mom was going through some of my old stuff in the attic and found my old stash of cards I totally forgot I had. I need the money right now so I’m looking to move these to people with cash ready – even for lower offers.” Now, the open willingness to accept low offers is already a red flag in and of itself but let’s go a bit deeper.
The next part of this scam comes when you bother to entertain the seller’s ad and contact them. They will go on to say that they live in another part of the country but that their parent’s house is in the area where you saw the ad. Then they will want to meet you to facilitate the sale but will insist you put a deposit down before they bother flying out for the sale so that they “know you are serious”. You send the deposit (probably through Paypal “Friends and Family”) and the person never contacts you again. Sometimes you can find the same posting in various cities simultaneously. If a person was truly interested in moving the cards that quickly they would have their family member facilitate the transaction or be willing to take on the cost of travel themselves.
Shipment Never Received/Bait and Switch
The last major scam we will go over is from the seller perspective. For some background, eBay tends to be a buyer-oriented marketplace, meaning that disputes tend to be in the buyer’s favor, unless there is solid support in favor of the seller. Scammers try to take advantage of this regularly and some are successful.
In one iteration of this scam the buyer will say that the package was never received. An eBay dispute will be opened and in most cases will be decided in the buyer’s favor resulting in a refund for them and a lost item for you.
The other popular version will have the person acknowledge receipt of the item, but will imply that it is heavily damaged or even obviously tampered with. An eBay dispute will be opened and most likely decided in the favor of the buyer resulting in a refund of their money. However, this version takes it a step further and replaces the return item with another unrelated or damaged/tampered item which also leaves you missing your item.
The best way to avoid these scams is to use tracked shipping for items of moderate and higher value. For particularly expensive items it is also a good idea to film yourself inspecting the item and packaging it along with the shipping label in case you receive a dispute. It’s not irrefutable evidence, but is strong evidence along with tracking and confirming delivery.
There are scammers in all facets of our life, but don’t let that keep you entirely paranoid. I have only had a few bad instances buying and trading hundreds, if not thousands, of Magic cards over the years and I would generally say that it is an overwhelmingly positive experience. Have you ever been on the receiving end of scam or just barely dodged one? Let me know in the comments. You can also reach out to me on my YouTube channel’s twitter account: @mtg_vc.
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