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Counterfeit or Fake Guitars on eBay.

There is a growing epidemic of counterfeit fake 'Top Brand Name' guitars being offered on eBay, sometimes used and therefore appearing genuine 'fire sales'.  The vast majority of these fakes are coming out of China and many via Hong Kong (less sales taxes). There is also a worrying trend of people reselling these from the USA implied as genuine used second hand and emergency sales to rasie cash, or indeed from what appears to be 'US sites' but where the item actually gets shipped from Singapore or Taiwan, etc.

This includes counterfiet versions of such established mainstream manufacturers as Fender, (and the sub-brand Squire) Gibson, Epiphone, PRS, Gretsch, etc. We have been campaigning to stop this epidemic which leaves a trail of misery.  Please endorse our campaign by voting 'yes' to the 'helpful'. Paypal and eBay are right behind us in this matter, as we all want to clean up eBay and keep it just for good honest folk to trade easily between each other. 

There are some key clues in identifying this scam:

1. The listing is most probably from China/Hong Kong (payment in US dollars usually), but may be from US too.

2. the guitar is (very) cheap for what it is described as being and the Shipping cost high (this is so refunds are for the 'item cost' and they make their money on the shipping). They tend to offer quite substantial discounts in Shipping charges for large volume order, trying to snare musical instrument dealers in bulk 'stings'. I know of some who has been burnt by these Counterfeiters and lost £000's as a result.

3. There tends to be a regular style or feel to the listing which uses out of normal content analogies and strangely worded comments in pigeon English, often with the same listing repeated using images borrowed from other legitimate sellers, or blurred/out of focus photos for which apologies are often given. Cut and pasted specs and referrals back to the manufacturers site. 

4. Descriptions tend to be deliberately vague, linking to spec on other sites and the photos are hsoted elsewhere and deleted before the item arrives making comparison difficult. They will often refer the buyer to the photos for details and confirmations. "it's as per the photo", "see photo for confirmation of what you are buying". This photo them vanishes after purchase.   

5. Descriptions and 'About Me' pages waffle on about China's culture and their work ethic. A little strange, if not ironic, but true... or of course the sudden financial difficulties of the seller meaning this usually expensive guitar is yours for 10% of usual new price or whatever. They may even make a big deal of a small piece of damage or missing part as the justification for the low price. Also, they sometimes use genuine hardcases to conceal the true nature of the guitar, so your initial response is based on the case is genuine so the guitar should be, etc.

I've been playing and building/modifying/customising guitars for 20 years, so I can tell from the weight if it's real or not and from 10 feet away! Get an experienced friend trusted expert to take a look...   

6. The sellers often have 'Private' feedback and bidding to conceal negative feedback and to prevent other eBayers warning bidders about the scam. Honest sellers have nothing to hide! Look for any signs of some who clearly knows the subject matter or who has identified a 'problem' and reported it in feedback to warm others of suspected counterfeiting.

7. The item selling prices are ridiculously low, sorry but you can't get a genuine Les Paul Custom or Fender Highway Strat for $100! If you could I'd have loads...! Do your homework. I've seen lots of sales and purchases taking place and never has a genuine quality guitar changed hands for a rediculously low price...except when damaged (accidents happen, even to careful owners) or of course a part-exchange being in the equation. 

8. Don't be mislead into false sense of security by apparent verified paypal, powerseller status, square trade, etc. etc. false shop details or alluding to warehouses that don't exist, or having an 'About Me' page with plausible content. All these images can be cut and pasted, edit or just plain fabricated! 

9. Very often the item is miscatagorised and the description seems out of context, as if listed by the inexperienced. This is usually to avoid being trawled by the TradeMark and Intellectual Rights protection teams that work hard to avoid items being sold via eBay that arn't real. This does work, but only where they are looking!  e.g. Fender is also a car part and Gibson is also a famous actor!

10. If you are ever in any doubt about the authenticity of a guitar you are interested in, ask lots of questions and be specific. Get written evidence and if in doubt don't buy. As always, if you feel it's too good to be true, it very probably is! Even the most desperate seller can get a fair price for their REAL quality guitar from any decent shop or genuine buyer.

If you are contacted by these scammers, who very often contact bidders on legitimate items through eBay Messages, or find a listing for one, PLEASE REPORT THEM TO eBay ASAP and help protect your fellow eBays from the misery of being scammed. 

I have first hand experience of these items. I have seen one of these bought by a well meaning chap (eBay newbie - bless) who when he received the item, was immediately suspicious about it's lack of weight and the roughness of the fret wire ends on the neck. It was to put it kindly, total rubbish. The finish was very poor, the machine heads were very badly made and loose, the humbuckers were hissy and had poor output, the neck was not straight, the intonation was dreadful and action high, the hardware was a soft cheap low-grade metal with poor quality plating and the body was plywood. No 'bargain'. Even the case was poorly made, but was the right shape and colour, etc.

It was very pretty to look at, so we advised hanging it on the wall as an ornament, as that was less sickening than binning it and losing all his fard earned £200.  Poor chap. Lesson learnt. (The real ones sell for about £1500 by the way).

Please vote "Yes" if you find this guide in any way helpful in stopping the plague of scammers.

Voting for this guide below, will help us to warn other honest eBayers and avoid them getting scammed, and may go someway towards keeping the marvel that is eBay safe and fun for everyone to use.

Best wishes, be careful and good luck. Hope you find that genuine bargain that eBay is all about!

Real Life Experience:

I personally have close hand experience of witnessing the process, where a reasonably well informed and experienced guitarist bought an Epiphone Limited Edition ('Custom Shop') guitar listed as 'genuine' and new (pictures and spec appeared correct and seller confirmed the item was) with a view to adding to their personal collection, but it was immediately clear on delivery to the buyer in the in UK, that the item was a fake version bearing a genuine serial number. I inspected it and confirmed the bad news. Despite raising a Paypal dispute, the seller managed to retain the (paypal) payment funds (£300) and this was despite the buyer supplying an independent expert report from a Luthier and Restoration Studio (costing £40) in addition to my own confirmations that the item was indeed a fake and also used and second grade parts had been used. It was wortth about £40 as parts! (It was scrapped by the buyer to prevent recirculation). It did come in a genuine (used) hardcase that had been rather curiously described as possibly fake by the seller.... the seller valued the item at £40 "for customs reasons"(?) then accused the buyer of attempting to defraud the seller via reversed payment and destroyed their positive feedback record. the seller was carefull to imply to the buyer that they knew the had bought a fake and were trying to get a real one for fake money. The buyer was needless to say horrified at the eventual outcome and was left £350 out of pocket. That buyer has not bought a guitar on eBay since.  

Please take note of this cautionary tale.

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