How To Spot Fake Autographs on eBay & Other Internet Sites
By Kelly Johns
Fake autographs are a serious problem on the Internet. The industry's leading autograph authenticator, PSA-DNA, claims that only 33 percent of more than 10,000 Tiger Woods and Michael Jordan autographs it scrutinized were real. That means more than 6,600 of the 10,000 signatures PSA-DNA sampled were forgeries.
eBay is a prime place to sell fake autographs because they are easy to pass off as authentic. Typically, the dishonest seller provides an image of the autographed sports memorabilia and a description. To the uninformed buyer, the signature looks authentic.
Some bogus dealers even trick customers by providing a Certificate of Authenticity (usually from their own company) and a 100% satisfaction guarantee.
Most buyers can't distinguish between an authentic autograph and a phony one, noting that viewing a scan of the autograph only benefits experienced authenticators.
Certificates given customers to build their confidence often are designed on personal computers by the scam artist. Meanwhile, the guarantee is in place to promote a false sense of security.
If a customer couldn't tell an autograph was fake by looking at an online picture, he or she likely isn't going to recognize a forgery when it's received in the mail.
Not even a lack of negative customer feedback on eBay is a guarantee that what has been shipped isn't fraudulent. Johns says dealers of fake items have an endless supply on hand and ship orders quickly to create the appearance of legitimacy.
Many buyers don't learn an item is fake until they send it in to be authenticated or until someone experienced in autograph collecting and familiar with sports memorabilia informs them.
Seller feedback is a smoke-screen for a fake eBay autograph dealer. Most usually maintain a very positive feedback level.
Although the FBI put more 60 people in jail a few years ago for dealing and distributing fake autographs, the dealers who sold on eBay all had excellent feedback records.
All I have to do is go into any sports category on eBay and I can find at least one new seller per day selling fake autographs.
BlogForSports.com recently listed a questionable seller on eBay who was stealing images from legitimate auctions and listing them as his own. The seller then sent an item to the buyer that was similar to the item in the stolen picture.
A few days after this article was posted on the blog, Johns says, a victim of the fraudulent seller explained, I thought I did my homework I read his feedback but the item I got didn't look anything like the item in the eBay auction.
The full story and a warning about the seller are available at the BlogForSports.com site.
Johns says the blog was created to help prevent unsuspecting customers from buying fake autographs. The goal is to educate people on how legitimate companies obtain autographs, so customers don't fall into the trap of buying fakes.
When a new sports memorabilia customer buys fake autographs they become disenchanted with the whole industry. This hurts the reputable dealers in the business and it hurts the hobby in general.
The blog includes photographs of fake items, comparisons to known authentic autographs and helpful hints on how experts determined the item was questionable.