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Rachel Kosmal McCart is a lifelong horsewoman and the founder of Equine Legal Solutions, PC, an equine law firm based in the Portland, Oregon area. Rachel is a member of the New York, California, Oregon and Washington State bars and is admitted to practice before the U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon and the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California. Rachel currently competes in three-day eventing.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

New Internet Saddle Sale Scams Get Clever. Really Clever....

My assistant, Donna, suggested I write this article. Donna has been looking for a used Blue Ribbon western show saddle online and came across an ad on a tack resale website. The photos looked great and the saddle was really well-priced. So well-priced, in fact, that Donna (smart gal!) knew something was fishy. After a bit of digging, she found the exact same saddle offered for sale on another site by the REAL seller, at the REAL price! Wow.

I've seen similar scams on Ebay, where a high-end Western show saddle was listed for sale as an auction, complete with pictures and a realistic buy-it-now price. The only tip-offs that the auctions might be suspect were the seller's location (Asia) and the fact the sellers had zero or just a few Ebay feedback ratings. Within a day, Ebay had yanked the auction listings I saw, but what if someone had used the Buy-it-Now feature?

Here are some tips to avoid getting ripped off when buying tack and other horse equipment via the Internet:

(1) Don't look for tack on just any old website.

For new tack, stick with well-known retailers with an established reputation and clearly defined return policy, such as Dover Saddlery, Schneider's and SmartPak (all of which I've had multiple excellent tack-buying experiences with). For used tack, EBay is a good choice because you can view the seller's feedback and what else they have for sale before you buy. Also, EBay has a good buyer protection policy, just make sure your purchase will qualify BEFORE buying. All of the other tack resale websites I'm aware of are just classified ad sites and therefore can't offer any support if there's a problem with your purchase, other than banning the seller from posting any other listings on the site (which might help the next guy, but it won't help you!). Buying from someone who posted the item on an Internet forum is really risky, unless you know who they are in real life.

(2) Ask for the serial number.

Anyone selling a used saddle should be able to provide you with the saddle's serial number. You can then contact the manufacturer to verify that the serial number is a real one (because heck, anyone can make up a serial number that *sounds* real). The manufacturer can also verify that the details the seller provided are accurate, such as the saddle's size, when it was made, the model, etc. You might also want to check with Stolen Horse International to make sure the saddle hasn't been reported to them as stolen, and also Google the saddle's serial number for the same purpose.

(3) Ask for more photos.

The real seller of an item should have it right there, so they should be able to take a photo of any detail you want to see, and email it to you. Phony sellers won't be able to provide any more photos than the ones they've copied from another ad. Good one to ask for: Close-up photo of maker's stamp and serial number.

(4) Pay with a credit card.

If you use your credit card, your card issuer can help you in the event of fraud. While Paypal offers buyer protections for certain Ebay purchases, those protections don't apply to other types of transactions, like sending money to pay for an item purchased through a classified ad. If you pay with a wire transfer, cashier's check, regular check, money order, etc., you're trusting the seller to deliver the goods.

(5) Trust your instincts.

If the price is too good to be true, most likely, so is the deal. Someone in Hong Kong selling a Western saddle? Doubt it. You ask the seller a question and the answer sounds funny, like they're not familiar with saddles? Steer clear. Seller wants you to wire the funds somewhere weird, say, Bank of Nigeria? No way!

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