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Well, I can't keep quiet any longer. There are a whole bunch of fakes out there - and a lot of them aren't very good (One guy I reported had a Jeff Lynne autograph in capital letters and SPELT WRONG!!).

I get very angry at ebay for not policing this thoroughly, but realistically the job is so massive it is almost impossible. Maybe ebay could offer ebay vouchers to the people who run official fanclubs in payment for the fanclubs policing it? When I see fakes I always report them. I'm fortunate to have a bit of time spare in the day, so I try to take the time to report to Trading Standards as well. I usually inform the sellers of my actions - some have the sense to take the items off, others don't, but at least I've tried.

NEVER bid on the spur of the moment - take time to check the seller out. Look at their feedback - not only the positive/negative, but the comments as well. One that I read said that the item (a framed "signed" LP - not ELO) was good, but in a brown frame instead of the black frame shown on the picture - this suggests that the seller has a stack of these things ready to list. Take time to search out the negative comments - some of these sellers have been caught out, but once you've spent your money, it's too late. Contact the ebay member who was unfortunate enough to get caught out and ask them about their experience.

Look at the other items they are selling. If a seller has stacks and stacks of "INCREDIBLE FANTASTIC HAND SIGNED ONE OF A KIND RARE LP COVER FRAMED" (for example) and the LPs concerned are all of the sort you can pick up in a charity shop for a quid - BE WARY.

Forget Certificates of Authenticity - they are a joke. The item mentioned above with the bad Jeff Lynne fake had a C.O.A. Also - would you know a real C.O.A. from a fake one? You or I could print a passable fake at home in a few minutes.

Ask about the item - who are the signatures, where and when were they obtained. A genuine seller will always try and help. From my own experience, I can't always remember which gig I got an autograph from (age and vodka!), but I can usually remember the tour or some rough circumstance.

Question if the autographs are genuine. Again, a genuine seller wants you to be happy and will not mind justifying themselves. One joker I confronted gave me a sob story about the "signed" LP being sold for charity twice and finished by asking "You got a problem with that?" Doncaster Trading Standards now have his details.

Be aware of your timescales. For example, if someone were to claim that Jeff and Kelly signed his LP when he happened to see them last week in a pub in Dublin - think about it. The Orchestra were on tour, so Kelly couldn't have been there and Jeff lives in the U.S.A., so that is also unlikely - couple that with Jeff's attempts to ruin The Orchestra through the U.S.A. Courts and you know the guy is lying.

Again, be aware of timescales. If the artist you are interested in died in the 50s or early 60s, would they REALLY have signed that Greatest Hits LP (released 1982) with that sparkly silver felt tip pen (invented approx 1982)?

If in doubt, contact someone you know and trust to find out if an article is genuine. Maybe contact other fans that you know and ask them. Or maybe contact a band's website or fanclub to get authentication - it helps us all - the buyers don't get ripped off, the genuine sellers get more interest and (hopefully) the thieves go out of business.

Look at the counters provided. A genuine article will usually have stirred up quite a bit of interest.

Private feedback - this sort of paranoia suggests something to hide.

Ask the seller a question about the authenticity of the item - where it came from, how old it is etc. Firstly, see if they bother to reply at all. Secondly, see if they're happy enough with their answer to display your question and their answer on the actual item page. If they don't reply, avoid them. If they're not comfortable displaying their reply it may suggest a problem - think carefully.

If you believe a friend or relative would be likely to want to buy you an autographed item as a present - warn them off in advance!! These crooks have no morals and they will not get their money back.

If in doubt - don't do it. One fake item I noticed had only just finished (someone fell for it, unfortunately) and the seller immediately put up another similar item. It's rare that a genuine one-off item comes up - these fake sellers have living rooms full of this stuff and you'll see them there week after week.


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