My 7 Rules to Avoid Watch Scammers
Updated: Jul 24, 2019
As the watch collecting hobby has continued to flourish and grow, with numerous online retailers, micro-brands, watch forums, subscription services, and unboxing channels exploding onto the scene in recent years (guilty as charged), so too has the influx of unsavory elements, looking to prey on the unsuspecting, over-trusting, and uninitiated.
Just as there are criminals in everyday society, the watch forum community is just a smaller microcosm of the world-at-large. And given the streamlined and efficient manner that money can quickly change hands electronically, via numerous platforms like PayPal, Venmo, CashApp, etc., it bears emphasizing the importance of sellers and buyers, to do their due diligence, to ensure transactions are completed smoothly, without issue. What follows, are my lucky 7 rules to avoid being scammed, while in pursuit of your next grail piece or watch-of-the-day.
1st Rule: This is almost a universal truism, if it sounds too good to be true, it usually is. It's rare that any person will sell something, that has real value, at a significant loss. One of the simplest scams out in the watch community, is the person trying to sell a luxury / vintage timepiece, and acting as if they know nothing of the value, making you feel like you're getting one over on them in the deal.
2nd Rule: It is the sellers responsibility to provide accurate descriptions, and clear pictures at varying angles, of the timepiece being sold. As a buyer, don't hesitate to ask the seller to provide additional pictures, or inquire about possible defects shown in the photos. Yes, the defect could just be a shadow or light trick, but it could just as easily be a scratch, blemish, or dent.
3rd Rule: If purchasing a luxury timepiece from a private seller, outlet other than an authorized dealer or reputable online retailer, always request from the seller to have the timepiece authenticated. If the seller balks or refuses, this should immediately raise a Red flag and be cause for concern. Authentication is important, as there are many high-quality replicas being produced these days, even down to the outer boxes and packaging, with some so good, they require an authorized dealer to inspect them internally, to determine if the timepiece is authentic. Some authorized dealers may charge a fee for the authentication, but paying a nominal fee, against possibly losing thousands of dollars spent on a counterfeit timepiece, is like purchasing piece-of-mind.
4th Rule: If purchasing privately, or via online forums, don't be shy about asking for references. I understand that many watch buyers, myself included, have a need for immediate gratification, desiring to snatch-up a great deal on a highly sought-after timepiece, as quickly as possible. While it may take a little extra time, checking references can at least give you a snapshot of how well the seller or buyers recent transactions have gone, and their current standing within that particular watch community. Keep in mind, the buyer or seller may be new to your forum community, so the references they provide may be from forums or exchanges outside of the current platform where you are transacting your business. It may take a little extra leg work to verify references outside of your current forum, but doing so will increase your confidence level in the transaction.
5th Rule: Check the buyer / seller forum activity. A user that is very active over a long period of time, shows engagement within the forum community. There are also forums that archive past sales forum posts, which is an easy way of tracking a users previous sales or purchase activity.
6th Rule: Trust your gut. If there is something that seems off about the interaction with the buyer / seller, politely decline the transaction. A lot of forums have compiled lists of scammers and people that have conducted bad business. It's always a good idea to reference these lists. And if you've been had by a scammer or a deal gone bad, make sure the individuals name is added to said lists, once the situation has been properly researched and confirmed by the moderators of the forum.
7th rule: If you're still having some hesitation about entering into a deal, utilize the services of a middle-man within your forum community. Basically, the middle-man is just as it sounds, a trusted forum community member that helps facilitate the deal by being an intermediary or go-between, with the buyer and seller. Merchandise, and possibly money, will pass through the middle-man, to ensure all is good, before being settled between the buyer and seller. Some middle-men charge a nominal fee, but there are others that will provide this service free of charge.
Abiding by these 7 rules, should help you avoid many of the pitfalls of purchasing timepieces through online forums, and being taken by the scammers that are ultimately looking to exploit those on the hunt for the next watch deal of the century.