Comic Book Scams: Collectors Beware

by Joseph Overaitis

204906_dfb470c37ca4646cb5da20317d79a72158e9a343-202x300 Comic Book Scams: Collectors BewarePrices are up for many comic books. The comic book market place is booming even with Covid-19 constraints. Times should be good. Opportunities sometimes draw out bad individuals. I wanted to point out some current comic scams you should avoid.

Someone died and I want to sell their books

Situation #1

letter-232x300 Comic Book Scams: Collectors BewareThe first scam is the most common. We have all heard the story that an owner has died and a friend or relative needs to sell their books. I deal with this situation all the time. To avoid potential problems I use my Avoidance Information Detector (A.I.D.).  I ask very direct questions and gauge the seller’s answers to determine if I want to proceed with the deal.

Recently I met a potential seller inside Starbucks at Target. At the start, I did not like how she pushed the process. A major problem was that she was in a hurry and wanted me to pay without really looking at the books. BING. Next, she said she did not know the value of these books. As a result, I gave her an initial price I would be willing to pay. She said that price was too low. If she did not know the value of the books, how did she know my offer was too low? BING.

In addition, she then stated she had to be paid in cash to make things easier for her. BING BING. Finally, I asked her if she had any documentation stating she was the person authorized to sell these books if I were to pay with cash? She got mad at me for trying to protect myself by asking for proper documentation right after she said she needed to be paid in cash to protect herself! The seller got up and stated she had nothing and told me in no uncertain terms I was wasting her time.

A.I.D. Problems

In brief, when someone is in charge of an estate or trust they should provide you documentation proving they are in charge of the estate or trust. In addition, trustees and personal representatives hardly ever want to be paid in cash. They always need to document their transactions.

Take Away

You are in possession of stolen merchandise if you buy any collection from an unauthorized seller. The police will take your books and you may never see the money you paid for the comics again. Court documents usually have a seal. If a document looks fishy contact the court before you buy.

eBay charges too much in fees

ebay-logo-01-300x222 Comic Book Scams: Collectors BewareSituation #2

In my eBay account, I saved some key comic books I wanted to review in the future. I received a private message shortly thereafter. The seller was asking me if I was interested in the book I had saved. Of course, I was. I then received a reply with a private email address and a request to contact them there. BING.

I sent an email to that account identifying myself as the person interested in the book. I received a response indicating that this person needed to sell their books but hated the high price that eBay was going to charge. They offered me a deal. I would pay a lower price outside eBay so that they would not have to pay the fees and I could get the book for a lower price. It was a Win-Win situation. All I had to do is wire them my money and I would get my key book. BING BING.

A.I.D. Problem

eBay builds the cost to protect both parties into the fees they collect on transactions using their platform. If a problem exists they will TRY to rectify it. Here I was going to go off-platform and trust someone to send me a book after I wired my funds to an account they provided. That violates eBay’s terms and conditions to use their site.

Another person told me years ago at a comic show a story of how they did something similar. The buyer paid a reduced fee in a private sale initiated on eBay. He wired the funds but the books never arrived. The email and name the seller provided were to a fake account as well. eBay did not help him because he did not use their services. Remember, if it sounds too good to be true…

Take Away

A seller listed the item knowing eBay fees in advance. Be wary of leaving eBay to complete the transaction. The deal that they offer you comes at a price more important than savings. The true cost is protection from a potentially bad deal.

Selling in the Field

Situation #3

113055_67ccb5c0d7b5f76fbc9f98ec9dca50ef9da4d557-206x300 Comic Book Scams: Collectors Beware In preparation for this story, I was reminded of an experience someone told me in private. I will never reveal their name, but I was told I could tell their story. The seller used Facebook to sell some of their books because it was cost-effective years ago before “waffles”. They never had a problem, so my collection of cautionary tales fell on deaf ears. This individual was selling some unslabbed key Silver and Bronze Age books.  An online buyer seemed interested in a few of their books.

The buyer wanted to know if he could meet him in a parking lot for safety. The person showed up on time but brought a friend. He then said it was cold but could he see the books in his car. DING

A.I.D. Problem

Comic book buyers will walk through fire to get a hot book. If a person was willing to drive a half-hour in the cold why would he not go inside the mall to do the exchange? Instead, he wanted to do it outside in a parking lot.  He showed him the first book and he said he might be interested. When the more valuable of the books was handed to him the driver drove off.

The seller was safe, but he could not see the license plate and could only describe the vehicle make and color.  It turns out that the Facebook profile was a fake account. The three “friends” this person had were only friends with each other.  He did his research too late and he did not have his books insured.

Take Away

Get the name of the person you are dealing with in these sales. Conduct your business in a safe setting like inside a police station.  Finally, not all comic collectors are the Sheldon Cooper type.  Some can be dangerous. Burner phones, stolen and or fraudulent IDs, and the ability to present a deal too good to be true are tools of their trade.  Protect yourself at all times.

How to protect yourself

One of the biggest things I suggest is never trying to score a deal where the price is your safety. Bring a friend. Conduct business in person as much as possible in a safe location. If you are selling books go into a police station. If the person does not want to go inside a police station it should set off a red flag. Before buying books, contact your credit card servicing company and ask them what protections you have for online sales. The most important thing I can say is to remember there may be only 50 copies of a book in the CGC census, but there is only one of you on the planet. Be safe out there.

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9 comments

octoberland January 19, 2021 - 12:54 pm

Nice report. The only thing I would mention is eBay is not seller friendly right now. I stopped using them for selling based on this story. I will keep it short-ish, but enough to let you know the scam I was hit with this past August.

I listed a book, Eternals 3, raw and uploaded scans. A buyer purchased it and I did what I always do: write them a message; explain what I am doing for packaging; and include pictures of the process. I have done this hundreds of times. I sent the book.

After it arrives, he tells eBay he ‘Got Batman’ and wants a refund. I send him a message asking if he maybe bought two books and thought my package was the other one? Or just some general confusion. Zero response. He proceeds to send A book back.

His package arrives, and it is Dark Nights Death Metal 1. Also a store exclusive cover. I’ve never owned that book or listed it for sale. Plus I would have had to seek it out specifically as it was not a general LCS cover. I informed him and eBay that this was not the book I sent and that I’ve never seen it. I told them to check my photos I provided, and to look back through all my sales to see they were not reused / stock images. I refused to give the refund. I called out the buyer in direct message. No response.

All of this through eBay’s system so they are privy to every exchange. Two days later eBay just sided with the seller and took the funds without my releasing them. I sent another message to the buyer calling him a liar and a thief. No response. I took it up with eBay who told me that they rarely change the course of the ruling. My messages sent and unanswered by the buyer, and my photos of what I sent plus the book he sent back meant zero. I was out money and my book.

If I were being accused of something I did not do, I’d have tried to defend or engage. If I were eBay and I had a seller with over 1000 sales and a viewable history of transaction photos saying one thing challenging a person who only said ‘I got BATMAN’ with no further proof, refused to answer any messages, and was on multiple people’s block list (I found that out after the fact complaining to an online group), I might consider the seller’s side. They did not.

To turn the screw he had 5 copies of the Eternals 3 listed on his own page at the same prices. Even that didn’t matter. Why would he buy my copy, having at least 4 already, and then sell them at the same price? There is not even a mark up there so he wasn’t buying cheap copies to flip.

Bottom line, while eBay is a safer place for many reasons, they are heavily on the buyer’s side. Scammers figured out this loophole and are taking advantage. While it’s better than a random parking lot, you can still get screwed.

As another note, two weeks prior I sold a book (Morbius 1) and the buyer told me when it arrived they had bought the DVD. There is no DVD and it clearly stated it was a comic book. They kept it and got a refund anyway. It was not an expensive book so I (foolishly) let it slide since I’d be paying them to ship back a book that by then I’d be upside down on. Had this come after the Eternals debacle I’d have handled it differently.

Just be ware that buyers are finding ways to scam you just as much as sellers on eBay. Thank you for your work here. I’ve been reading quite a few of your posts lately.

– Craig Coffman

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Joesph Overaitis January 19, 2021 - 3:03 pm

Octoberland

Um ouch. Thank you for sharing. May I guess not even having insurance for something like this would protect you. I could not think of a way to prevent this type of scam. Can any of you readers think of something you could do to prevent this from happening? Has it happened to others and is is happening much more frequently?

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octoberland January 19, 2021 - 3:31 pm

Fortunately this was a raw book, so the cost was lower. All told it was a $45 dollar sale that I was only into for $8 (I’ve been buying Eternals heavily the past six years). But it’s more the response from eBay that surprised me. As a model that only makes money if I sell items, it seems like they’d want to at least consider my side. They did say if I had paid for their top seller (or whatever it’s called) level I’d only be liable for half or something to that regard. Being honest I was fuming at that point and not really fully listening. I was pulling down all my listings. But that would mean I’d pay more per sale to offset thieves. That doesn’t feel right.

If it were a more valuable book I’d have it insured, but since the tracking both ways only shows delivery, not what was delivered, I am not sure I could claim it?

I do know there have been various scams happening during this Covid world, many like what you are describing above. I’m not sure, but it does seem to have squeezed some grime from the woodwork. On a bright note, I have found My Comic Shop as a great solution. In a nutshell:

Ship your book(s) to them
You can also call someone directly who can tell you about where your books are in the process
Slabbed books get received and sent to their page, you set BIN / OBO / Auction just like eBay
Turn around time is roughly two weeks
Raw books get in house grading, then sent to page for BIN/OBO/Auction just like eBay
Turn around time is roughly three weeks, but you do not pay for their grading service

They take 10% up to $300 and then less as your books cross dollar thresholds. Note that it is less for every dollar OVER the threshold, so $350 is 10% of $300 and then 8% (or whatever it is) on the remaining $50. I do think $50 is the minimum value they prefer, but I’ve sold books in the $30s. I think they just have a minimum charge for books under $50. They pay by check the week following a sale.

You do not have the immediacy of eBay, so it is not for flipping quick sales. But if you are moving more stable books where a few weeks does not matter as much it is great. What really won me over is they list on their site AND eBay, no different charge for where it finally sells. And once it sells, you are clear. No matter what happens after that, once the book is paid for you have your money and can move on. No shipping, dealing with buyers, etc.

I started using it after the eBay debacle and have done very well on my returns. Plus it has some security built in since they are a massive store putting buyers at ease. If you can get around the not immedate list / pay side of it, I strongly suggest them.

Also, as a side note, they cracked a slab on site. Instead of telling me it arrived that way, they sent it to CGC for re-slabbing at no charge to me. I thought that was classy.

FWIW – I do not work for MCS or get anything for talking about them. I just really love their service.

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Ed Dee January 19, 2021 - 2:01 pm

Another scam that occurs on Ebay is the buyer purchases your raw comics. Tells you that the comic was damaged or not described correctly and then substitutes their bad copy with your good comic when they send it back to you. Ebay NEVER NEVER sides with the buyer. So what you have left is a beat up comic that is not yours and the buyers money was refunded. So they get an upgrade on their comic plus they get it for free. Don’t think that Ebay is helping you for a second. There are inconsistencies with their customer service. One customer service rep tells you that you are correct and then the next thing you know your money was refunded to the fraudulent buyer.

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Joesph Overaitis January 19, 2021 - 2:51 pm

Ed

Is there any way to avoid this? Take film of you putting it in the mail? Insurance?

PS thanks for sharing to help others avoid this problem!!!

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octoberland January 19, 2021 - 3:47 pm

Joesph –

FWIW I shoot photos of the book / packing process every single time and it didn’t matter in my cases. Both the Eternals and the ‘bent in shipping’ book. I still think it’s smart, but in my experience it has not helped. Though it might dissuade people from trying something seeing the included documentation?

– Craig Coffman

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Joesph Overaitis January 19, 2021 - 6:08 pm

I cant see how much more you can do unless you hand delivered the books.

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octoberland January 19, 2021 - 6:27 pm

Totally agree. Even then there’s likely a loophole.

octoberland January 19, 2021 - 3:39 pm

Ed –

I’ve heard of that happening to others. It worried it was happening to me four years ago, but we resolved a lower price instead of refunding the whole price. I know I still got screwed, but there was zero way the damage claimed would have happened in shipping. I thought it was better than trying to sell a book that would only bring less than what I was willing to knock off the price (if that makes sense). Bagged/boarded books do not get 1″ hard creases at the top right cover that break color, yet do not show on any of my original photos.

To be fair, these three total situation are the only three that happened to me on eBay. I do not want to come off as eBay is 100% lousy. I’ve had hundreds of sales that were smooth and easy. It is likely just the natural variance of chance, but those events stick with you. Once bitten and all that.

Sadly I do agree that eBay gives zero concern to sellers in conflict cases. My thought is that if they make their money on sellers but think the sellers are typically shady liars, then they should stop associating with sellers and switch to a buyer’s premium service.

– Craig Coffman

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