Caveat Emptor. Buyer Beware.
When it comes to buying used NFA Firearms nothing is more true. And in the world of the machine gun where every item is used, old this warning applies in double. Consider the average machine gun purchase. An out of state seller demands money up front, they then transfer the gun to your dealer who then transfers it to you. It may be as much as a year before you see the gun and six months before you realize your dealer has not received it as expected. Such a world is ripe for the con artist.
So what is a buyer to do?
Communicate. Communicate. Communicate. A legitimate seller will expect questions, they will want to sell the firearm, and they know you will be nervous. They should do everything in their power to allay your fears and make you comfortable. If they are not willing to go out of their way for you before they have your money what makes you think they will once they do have it?
Trust your gut. If the deal is too good to be true, proceed with caution. No one is giving away valuable firearms.
Demand the use of a trusted intermediary. Ask for the gun to be inspected by a FFL. Preferably one near you, but if not, at least one you know who won’t be a part of a scam. These are used firearms. It is not unreasonable to have an FFL take the gun in for a cleaning and a repair while the sell is going on, and as long as legitimate maintenance is occurring the dealer can hold the gun on a repair letter. Alternatively, have the intermediary hold the money. (However, most sellers want their money today!)
Verify the registration. Ask for a copy of the form. Ask for a copy of the form pictured with the gun next to the serial number. Request copies of identification for the registered owner. (And if it is owned by an entity, ask for that documentation too.)
Refusal to provide information, or worse, vague answers, are a red flag. Other red flags are requests for money orders, bank checks, pay pal, or other similar no-recourse cash transfers.
Search for a scam. Simply searching the internet for prior postings of the serial number, contact information, phone numbers, or any other identifying information may tell you much.
As an example:
I recently had a “Colt Thompson” offered to me for $21,000. The figure alone was enough to make me wonder and cautious. Upon an enquiry the fellow sent my dealer pictures of a nice gun (see below) but no form. The email came from a gmail account. A request for the form was returned with an offer of an inspection period as long as I transferred $6,000 in earnest money to him through pay-pal. This email came from a hotmail account. We suggested using a licensed FFL to hold the money after verifying the existence of the gun. At that point the seller disappeared.
The free email accounts were a red flag. The use of multiple email accounts was even more of an alarm. The real give away though? The serial number provided by the seller, #7183,was involved in an identified scam less than a year earlier with the gun originating from another state. Unfortunately, these offers are all to common to many FFLs. Be cautious, investigate the seller thoroughly, and try to see the gun first hand. Always, buyer beware.
As an aside, if you are the owner of the Colt Thompson Serial Number 7183 above please feel free to contact me.