I've been working on some updated safe trading information, and wanted to get some comments and suggestions on it.
Many of the cases of people being ripped off arise because lots of traders have a lack of knowledge of how to properly protect themselves when trading online. Here are some tips and tools to use to help you.
1. Always search the Bad Trader Alert and Confirmed Bad Traders lists, using http://forums.magictraders.com/search.cgi?action=intro&default=3 Don't just search for a name or email address as both are easily changed. Always begin your search with the last name, street name, city and zip code, then see if the address of the person you are trading with is in one of the search results. One reason for this is that a ripper may intentionally misspell a city and/or street name or swap a couple digits in the zip code, relying on the postal service to catch the mistake and deliver it while not getting caught on a BTA/CBT search. When searching, do NOT use the "Search by User Name" option. This will only find posts that the specified username has posted on. Many rippers never respond to their own BTA threads, so this option isn't very effective. Use the "Search Words:" box, and type their username in there for more complete results.
2. Check their references. Do they have more than 1 or 2 poor refs? How many bad references do they have compared to the overall number? Are the bad references from a long time ago, and they've learned from past mistakes, or have they been a good trader until recently? Review the comments made and decide for yourself if they were warranted. Look at the dates of the references. Do they have none or very few from the past year or so? Be wary of a hacked account. Use the "Send e-mail to 10 randomly selected, confirmed references" link at the top of the reference list. It's there for your convenience!
3. For email-only offers where they claim to be a MOTL member, check to make sure the email address actually matches the user. Pay special attention to the difference between 0 (zero) and O (capital o), 1 (one) and l (lower-case L) and I (capital i), which are commonly used tricks of rippers. I always copy the email address and paste it into the MOTL member search just to be sure. Also watch for slight misspellings (maybe a doubled-up or non-doubled-up letter, or underscore or something) in the email address. Make sure the domain matches (email@example.com vs. firstname.lastname@example.org)
4. Be sure to check both the confirmed list and the Bad Trader Alerts Forum. If they are confirmed do NOT trade! If they are in the Bad Trader Alerts then use your best judgment after fully reading any and all cases against them. If there is more than one, that should serve as a red flag. See if they were posted for sending late on a trade, backing out of trades, or ripping.
5. If you feel uncomfortable with a trade even though you can't find them on our list, I would recommend using a 3rd Party trader. This is done by finding a trustworthy impartial person. They will collect both parts of the trade, and when they receive the cards from each of you, they will send the cards on. This usually will cost a little extra to compensate them for the extra shipping, but it's a small price to pay to insure you don't get ripped off. Do be wary of those who demand that you use "my friend so-and-so" as the 3rd Party trader. The whole idea is to select someone that you both feel comfortable with and trust. You may also use an escrow service such as www.escrow.com for large deals.
6. If things just don't feel right after all of that, even if they aren't listed in the CBT or BTA, and they either decline 3rd Party, or you can't both agree on a 3rd Party, simply decline the trade and move on. There are plenty of other traders out there for you to deal with.
The items listed below are things that may raise suspicion. Honest traders may do the same things, though, so don't jump to any conclusions because of these things. Just be a bit more careful.
1. When replying to emails, they don't keep the text of old emails, so trade details aren't included. This is sometimes the result of an email provider, though.
2. The trader won't give a real name, only their MOTL handle or something in the address, such as:
The Bad MoJo,
123 Nowhere Road
Somewhere, OR 12345
3. The offer is heavily in your favor. Remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it almost certainly is.
4. They don't have any trading lists posted.
5. They always seem to have just the cards you need, particularly better ones that aren't on their trade lists.
How to be a responsible trader:
1. Spend some time looking through the Bad Trader Alerts forum. Read through cases, and you'll get ideas of how rippers operate, what bad trading practices people are getting in trouble for and how cases are resolved. The more of these you read, the better informed you'll be.
2. Send your packages with insurance. Per MOTL rules, the sender is responsible for ensuring that their package arrives at it's destination safely. Costs increase significantly when sending overseas for this type of service and aren't always available, so you may want to check on this before agreeing to a trade with someone from another country.
3. Keep all emails of trades at least until the deal is fully completed. Without these, you won't have the evidence necessary to post a BTA case should you need to. I would recommend permanently keeping emails in a "MOTL Completed Trades" folder for reference. You never know when you might get someone asking about a specific trader and your deal with them or need to verify someone's address.
4. Make sure to exchange addresses with the other party before sending. The address exchange is confirmation of the trade. If one party is sending first, then the deal is confirmed when that party receives the other's address and when the cards will be sent. Note that if money is being paid through PayPal, giving the PayPal address is a sufficient substitute for a physical address since nothing will actually be sent to the real address.
5. Before exchanging addresses, ask the other party to confirm the editions, conditions and language of the cards you are to receive. Do not assume that all cards are English and near-mint condition. When discussing condition, be sure to agree to a common standard. Your idea of NM may be entirely different than someone else's. A scale such as this with pictures and descriptions can be helpful. Scans are good, but can be misleading, so be careful.
6. Many members choose to trade with members with a high number of refs until their own ref count is high enough to not have to send first to those with very few references.
7. Make sure to confirm the trade by email if the deal was worked out by instant messenger, MOTL PMs or other mode. This provides a more reliable record of the trade for reference, and given the ever-increasing size limits of online mail systems, should provide ample storage for all of your trades over time so you can refer back to them later when you receive an email from someone checking up on references of someone they are planning to trade with or just to see who you've had good trading experiences with and would like to try and trade with again.
If you get an email from someone that appears to be an impersonator (an email-only offer from a different email address or the email address is slightly different), please contact a BTA Moderator immediately. They will give you further instructions. You may be asked to fake a deal with the impersonator to obtain their address. If, and only if, you are instructed by a Moderator to do this, you will not be in any trouble for backing out of a trade or any other such actions.
What to do if you think you have been ripped off:
1. Communicate, communicate, communicate! Ask the person when they sent. Ask if they can have their package tracked. Try and resolve any disputes by yourselves. The BTA is a last resort to use only if the other party is unresponsive (be sure to give them ample time to get back to you, not just a day or two) or the two of you can not reach a resolution after a good-faith effort.
2. Know the appropriate timeframes. For a trade within the same country, you need to wait 2 weeks. For international mail, wait 1 month. Yes, most mail arrives much quicker, but give the other trader the courtesy of being patient.
3. Have all of the information necessary. Prove that they received your cards. You sent with a form of tracking, right? Follow up and make sure the postal service shows it has been delivered. Was this a simul-send situation but they didn't send at all or sent late? Note the postmark on the package.
4. Include all relevant information when posting a BTA case. When in doubt, post it. Make very sure to post all email headers. If you don't know how, contact someone to find out. This is necessary evidence to prove your case.
5. Don't be shy about posting a BTA case if you've done all of the above. Even though they have more references than you or they seem like a good trader, you have a right to post them.
Even taking all of the precautions available and doing everything you can to protect yourself, you most likely will lose cards at least once. For this reason, NEVER send out cards that you can't afford to lose.
Other trading guidelines:
You are required to specify if your cards are Collector's Edition, World Championship Deck cards or the like. Any card that is non-tournament legal (has a gold-bordered front or a non-standard back on it) fits this category.
If your cards are heavily played, bent, written on and such, you are required to disclose that before confirming a trade. Cards should be at least Excellent condition unless you notify the other party.
Please report posting violations!
There's no need to fear, UNDERDOG is here!
[Edited 7 times, lastly by nderdog on June 03, 2009]