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How to avoid being ripped off! Last Updated: Thursday, October 22 2015
By Patrick Nabors - Thursday, October 22 2015 Comment(s): 0  |  Overall Rating:
I regularly run into customers who have been "ripped off" dealing online, and are reluctant to make the same mistake again. Unfortunately their approach is often to avoid buying online,since that was how they got ripped off in the first place.  From my point of view, this is silly, for while buying things on the internet is an easy way to get taken advantage of, the internet also provides a variety of ways to make sure that this doesn't happen to you! 
I started this business back in the early nineties, (sheesh, I guess it has been a while!) and "back in those days" you had a very different set of avenues for finding sources for dart frogs, geckos or other reptiles and amphibians.  Things like Reptiles Magazine, Vivarium Magazine,  and hobby oriented newletters were the main way to find a vendor.  You had to be really careful with these sources, because it was time consuming and difficult to check the individual vendors credentials.  It was a perfect environment for thieves and scammers, since the feedback loop was very slow. 
Of course since then the internet has become so widespread that many vendors never use anything but the internet, and a webpage can be put together for a few bucks, and suddenly anyone can appear legitimate.  Paypal and other ways of paying instantly add to the dangers!  However at the same time, the internet provides a way for almost instant communication, and gives lots of easy ways to find a lot of information on a vendor. 
So, without further ado, here are some ways to avoid being ripped off while shopping for frogs or animals, on the internet. 

First, search for this person and or business on google.com.  Google will pull up every mention of this person/business on the web for you to dig through.  Easy, right?  But many people fail to do this.  Businesses and individuals who have relatively long histories on the net, with positive mentions going back over several years, are very likely to be safe to deal with, and unlikely to fail to meet your expectations.  If they do, you are much more likely to have a good outcome in dealing with them on the resolution. 

Second, find relevant forums and post on these forums asking if the vendor is safe to deal with. Mention that people can privately message you if they do not wish to post public comments, or if the forum doesn't allow this.  Check with Fauna Classifieds, they run something called a Board of Inquiry, or BOI.  This resource has a lot of reviews of various reptile and amphibian vendors, and you may find your vendor there.  A recent spate of thefts occurred over a year or more in time, involving dozens of victims, who all bought dart frogs, terrarium supplies, plants and so on, from a vendor who was listed and reviewed in a very negative way on the BOI.  The catch was that most of these reviews were created when this person had a different business name....and spelled his own name just slightly differently than he did while committing the recent dart frogs scams.  But any one who dug around for a half hour would have most likely run from this vendor.....it was easy to see it was the same guy.....

Third, review and evaluate their online presence.  Is this vendor's ad posted on a forum?  How long have they been a member?  New members to forums offering really cool stuff at great prices? ..dangerous combination!  See if they have a website.  If they do, google that website domain name for any reports of issues that might not be tied to their name....Look on the website for indications that they have a longer history and perhaps some trade references or other ways that you can verify their history and reputation.  Look for a facebook page....if they have one, but no webpage, this may indicate a less permanent business and one that perhaps is less trustworthy. 

Fourth....when you are ready to buy, unless you are absolutely confident in the vendor,  for heavens sake, use a credit card, not your paypal balance or other method of payment!  This would save the majority of people who get ripped off.  While paypal also will come to your defense, I have found that their rules protecting you, the customer, are less forgiving than the credit card companies.  Besides, if you use a credit card to fund your paypal purchase, you have both paypal, and the credit card company to work with.  Once the vendor starts jerking you around, you have the ability to pull the plug on the transaction. Call your card company, tell them you wish to dispute the charge, and follow their directions.  If you have received anything from the vendor, return it through some verifiable method as soon as possible.  If not, then tell the vendor you are ending the transaction and will be filing a chargeback.  Keep in mind that the scammers seem to specialize in dragging this out, and giving excuses for why they cannot ship the animals. Some credit cards have fairly short windows within which you can file a dispute, so if nothing else, find out what your window is by calling your card company. 

Ok, well that is most of my thoughts on this subject, hope it helps a few folks avoid that terrible experience of getting ripped off!  


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