U.S.A. — The old saying “buyer beware” has now been extended to the Internet age. There has been an epidemic of scams proliferating the World Wide Web, and the firearms community is not immune from criminals trying to separate people from their hard-earned dollars.
These scammers target their victims with incredible deals that are hard to pass up. When it comes to the firearms community, these deals are usually for ammunition. You might see deals that proclaim to save the buyer over 50%. These deals litter the pages of social media sites like Instagram with messages like “DM for orders.”
These scammers have also launched websites with names similar to legitimate ones, including AmmoLand News. We recently received reports of a website named Ammolandusa.com selling ammunition at massive discounts. Once a user places an order, they will receive an email asking the buyer to send money through Cash App, PayPal, Venmo, or Zelle.
If a purchaser sends money, the seller will disappear. The buyer will be out of their money and will never receive their purchase. PayPal has buyer protection, but most scammers insist that the money be sent via the “friends and family” option. The “friends and family” option removes all protections for the end user.
There are several signs to recognize a scam. If a deal looks “too good to be true,” it probably is an attempt to steal your money.
The markup on ammunition and firearms is less than in other industries. If real, the prices on these scam sites would mean the businesses would be selling products at a loss.
Beware of any online retailer that only sells through social media. If a company has no website and only sells through Instagram, it is most likely a scam. Since it violates Instagram’s terms of service to sell ammunition and firearms on their site, no business will put their livelihood in the hands of the social media giants.
Just because a seller has a website does not mean they are legit. Look at the site contact information for a phone number. Be very careful if a retail site doesn’t have a phone number. If a phone number is listed, call it. If the site is a scam, the number will likely not work or go to a voicemail system. Scammers tend to use services like Google Voice to appear legitimate. In the rare instances when a scammer answers the phone, they will most likely have a thick accent. Most fake companies are run out of Nigeria, India, or Eastern Europe.
Finally, look at the payment methods. Never use PayPal, Venmo, Cash App, or Zelle. These payment methods have policies against selling ammunition and firearms; legit businesses do not use these services. Scammers know it is almost impossible for buyers to recover money from these apps. Also, never give in requests for payment via Bitcoin. Once the Bitcoin leaves your wallet, it is impossible to recover.
There is no way to prevent these criminals from attempting to scam online buyers, but we can bring awareness to the gun community. Only when the scamming stops being profitable will these scammers stop.
About John Crump
John is a NRA instructor and a constitutional activist. John has written about firearms, interviewed people of all walks of life, and on the Constitution. John lives in Northern Virginia with his wife and sons and can be followed on Twitter at @crumpyss, or at www.crumpy.com.