When buying watches online, you might get scammed for a lot of money, unless you pay attention to details. Here is an example from what happened to me by buying a watch which I thought was a real deal.
HOW DID THE DEAL COME ABOUT?
I posted a Rolex for sale in a bunch of groups on Facebook. I had one person interested to trade mu Rolex for his IWC Ingenieur Laureus 323310. He mentioned that he had his watch on eBay but the current bit is only $1,500. He said he would rather trade the watch and cancel the auction. I told him I wasn’t interested in a trade but that I’d bid on his watch. I bid and won the watch for $1800.
DID I VET THE SELLER?
Sort of. I talked to him on the phone, traded emails with him, traded text messages, and had him friend me on Facebook. I did not ask for references or trade IDs. There are other things I could have done to make sure I am buying from a reputable sellers.
WHAT RED FLAG WAS THERE?
This guy threw me one big red flag which made me 70% sure he was a scammer. He had a “story,” which was that the watch was a gift from his ex-wife’s uncle and that they had a lot of money on that side of the family. That story made me think there was a 60% chance the watch was fake.
HOW DID I KNOW THE WATCH WAS FAKE?
When I received the watch, I started by inspecting it. The case, dial, hands, strap, and weight all felt correct. I unscrewed the crown and pulled it out to set the time and I noticed that the “tolerances” weren’t right. What do I mean by tolerance?
A genuine IWC watch is a precision manufactured instrument, and all parts are machined to the highest quality. On the watch I received, I could wiggle the crown way too much, and as I wiggled it, the dial moved with it. In fairness, it is possible that a gasket had come loose, so that alone isn’t proof that it’s a fake.
For that, you’ve got to open up the watch and look at the movement. If a fake watch has a movement that looks identical to the real movement, that is a very expensive fake. 90% of the time, there will be a generic movement that won’t look right. To find what a movement is supposed to look like, I either find a picture on Google or go to watchbase.com.
Needless to say, the next step I took was removing the caseback. Not much to my surprise, the movement inside was a generic automatic movement that did not have the proper stampings, logos, or serial numbers like a genuine IWC.
And besides that, the movement itself wasn’t a match. When I tried to reattach the caseback, it was very difficult to get back on. I have seen this same thing in fake Rolex, and it is simply another sign that the manufacturing tolerances are not up to par.
WHY DID I DO THE DEAL IF THERE WAS A RED FLAG?
I have done several transactions with similar scenarios that turned out to be legit. The seller happily talked to me on the phone, email, and text, and I went through his FB profile and didn’t see anything too suspicious. The retail price on this IWC was $8k, so buying at $1800 is about 23 cents on the dollar… cheap, but not unheard of.
Had the watch been priced in the $500 range, I wouldn’t have proceeded because that would be way too good to be true. But the real answer as to why I proceeded is because I knew that my total risk was zero and my upside would have been $1500-$2k if I decide to resell the watch later on. Even though we took the deal off the eBay, I insisted on paying by Paypal Goods and Services.
Paypal is very good about siding with buyers, especially when my Paypal is immaculate and I provided photo proof that the watch was fake. So when taken in to account: 70% chance the watch is fake, total downside is $0, total upside is $2k, I decided the pull the trigger and go for the long shot.
HOW DID I BUY A FAKE WATCH WITHOUT GETTING SCAMMED?
Since I suspected the watch was fake and insisted on paying by Paypal Goods and Services, I was protected from the start. The seller wanted to send me a request for money through Paypal, but I said “no need, just give me your Paypal email and I’ll send the money now.” This way I was in control of using Goods and Services instead of Friends and Family, which – while there are no fees – offers no protection. As soon as I inspected the watch movement, I opened a claim with Paypal and will have my money back within a couple of weeks. So yes, I bought a fake watch, but no, I didn’t get scammed.
WHAT SHOULD YOU DO WITH A FAKE WATCH?
I am holding on to the watch for now in case I need to ship it back to the seller for Paypal to process my refund. I don’t wear fakes, I don’t buy fakes, I don’t sell fakes. You can see the watches I am selling right now at my “store front” and you will notice I have a good taste.
At least that’s what I think. I don’t want to be associated with fake watches in any way, not even wearing one out in public occasionally, not even wearing it around the house. I would rather wear an authentic $200 Deep Blue than a fake $8k IWC.
In this business, you don’t want to be associated with fakes either, and you should never wear them either. I am hoping that I do not need to return the watch because the seller will definitely try to scam someone else with it. If I can keep the watch, I will destroy it and take it out of circulation, which is the only appropriate thing to do with a fake UNLESS you plan to keep it for educational purposes.
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