How To Avoid Buying Fake Autographed Sports Memorabilia CEO warns that unscrupulous autograph dealers often use eBay and other internet sites to peddle forged signatures. Fake autographs are a serious problem on the Internet. There are still people on eBay and other places online selling blatantly fake autographs on a regular basis. The industryís 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 autograph 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 canít distinguish between an authentic autograph and a phony one. You would have to look at hundreds of known autographs to learn the difference. 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 couldnít tell an autograph was fake by looking at an online picture, he or she likely isnít going to recognize a forgery when itís received in the mail. Not even a lack of negative customer feedback on eBay is a guarantee that what has been shipped isnít fraudulent. Dealers of fake items have an endless supply on hand and ship orders quickly to create the appearance of legitimacy. Many buyers donít learn an item is fake until they send it in to be authenticated or until someone experienced in autograph collecting 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," says Kelly Johns, chief executive officer of Sports Memorabilia & Equipment and an editor for, an informational blog that exposes illegitimate autograph dealers. ( reported 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. The victim of the fraudulent seller explained, "I thought I did my homeworkÖI read his feedbackÖbut the item I got didnít look anything like the item in the eBay auction." The full story and a warning about the seller are available at the site. 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 donít 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. spends a significant amount of money advertising the blog to get the word out across the industry. The site also is in the process of adding top autograph experts to the editorial staff. Sports Memorabilia & Equipment encourages sports collectors to Invest In American Sports History tm with authentic sports memorabilia. The goal is to educate consumers on the increasing value of autographed sports memorabilia while providing authentic autographed items for sports fans worldwide. By Kelly Johns Published: 3/17/2005