SCADS - Stamp Collectors Against Dodgy Sellers - fighting stamp auction fraud

Stamp Collectors Against Dodgy Sellers

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SCADS Charter


1.  To solicit cooperation of sellers intentionally or unintentionally misidentifying stamps or failing to disclose stamps as being faked, forged, or altered

2.  To work with authorities of online stamp market venues, and encourage them to act to reduce philatelic fraud in their marketplaces

3.  To pursue investigative action against sellers known to practice fraudulent methods and who fail to respond favorably to requests to correct those practices

4.  To educate collectors on all aspects of stamp identification, forgery, and alteration, with the goal of helping them make more informed decisions

5.  To warn collectors of known misidentifications, fakes, forgeries, alterations, and other scams in on-line stamp auctions

SCADS History

US stamps alteration scam

SCADS was formed on 23 March 2002 in response to the alarming proliferation of fraud being perpetrated in eBay stamp auctions.  Much of this fraud was committed by a well-organized group of eBay users (later referred to by SCADS as the Saratoga Ring) who purchased low-grade US stamps, then re-sold them weeks later in an altered state that deceived bidders into paying multiples of the cost to the seller.

SCADS prepared wepages with detailed "before and after" comparisons of scans of early US stamps purchased by chickfrdstk and stazy4, fraudulently altered, then sold by schuylerac and pcheltenham. Links to these posted on chat and discussion board threads exposed the massive deception by these buyers and sellers, and provoked outrage in the eBay collecting community that eBay could continue to condone such blatant fraud. Complaints made by SCADS to eBay management received the reply that eBay is only a venue and that one cannot tell anything from a scan.

eBay's increasing censorship

Changes to the eBay board usage policy prohibiting the posting of "auction reports or member violations" caused the eBay collecting community to become increasingly frustrated in its attempts to educate others about misleading auctions and unethical selling practices. Those who followed eBay's suggested alternative of reporting fraudulent auctions and shill bidding to SafeHarbor received no response and saw no action from SafeHarbor.

In June and July, heavier censorship of the Stamps chat and discussion boards led to the removal of fraud discussions and threads containing links to the webpages prepared by SCADS. The Stamps discussion board was removed in late July, supposedly due to "lack of community participation".

SCADS website and publicity

In August, SCADS expanded and took on a more organized and public role in fraud prevention. The domain was registered and the latest updates on fraudulent activity were reported on the SCADS website.

On 15 August, the Jim Lehrer News Hour aired Richard Doporto's interview about stamp fakes and eBay censorship. SCADS also lent support to Richard Frajola's description fraud petition, which was submitted to eBay Trust and Safety Vice President Rob Chesnut in mid-August. A report on the Saratoga Ring's alteration activities was filed with USPS postal inspectors later in the month.

In October, MSNBC published the online article Cautionary tales of two auctions, which outlined the work done by SCADS in assembling damning evidence of the purchase on eBay, fraudulent alteration and sale on eBay of early US stamps by the Saratoga Ring. SCADS took this opportunity to release the detailed The Saratoga Fakes article, which gives an in-depth analysis of the scope of the fraud, legal issues, eBay features that have promoted it, and possible courses of action by collectors and law enforcement authorities.

SCADS prompts eBay to act against fraud

In March 2003, SCADS worked successfully with the APS (American Philatelic Society) to investigate questionable auctions and the David Holt image stealing scam. SCADS petitioned the APS to follow up the status of the SCADS complaint to the USPS on the Saratoga Ring, to consider ideas for educating collectors using the Internet through articles in its journal, and to negotiate with eBay to implement reforms to reduce fraud.

In early May, as a reaction to further censorship on the eBay stamps chat board , SCADS member George Kopecky gained the attention of Rob Chesnut, who promised to investigate the Saratoga Ring. Days later, action was finally taken against this group of buyers and sellers. The sellers were suspended and any further buying activity resulted in the suspension of the buyers concerned.

eBay then set up a Stamps Community Watch (SCW) group in partnership with the APS to vet questionable listings in the US stamps category. This group consisted of knowledgeable buyers and sellers in the eBay community, as well as ASDA (American Stamp Dealers Association) and PSE (Professional Stamp Experts) representatives. eBay liaised with SCADS when enlisting initial volunteers for the program and specifically requested the participation of SCADS members. Due to the trial nature of this program, eBay asked SCADS to keep publicity to a minimum until it was put in place, the details worked out and results could be measured.

Stamps Community Watch program reduces fraud

Since July 2003, the SCW program has resulted in the elimination of major sellers of fraudulent US stamps. Many other sellers have voluntarily complied when problems were raised with their item descriptions. Both eBay and the APS regard the initiative as a success.

Whilst SCADS works with eBay and the APS to report fraudulent activity and improve the education of buyers and sellers, it has retained its independence as a philatelic fraud watch group and continues to investigate and report on issues important to its members.

Additions to the website - Hall of Shame

Over the years, SCADS has slowly added to its website, eventually incorporating a Hall of Shame of sellers suspended from eBay since the eBay/APS partnership began. In early 2007, this was expanded to include known dodgy sellers still operating on eBay.

MSNBC article on the Saratoga Ring

In February 2007, MSNBC released a follow-up article on the Saratoga Ring. It showed how this group of buyer and seller IDs has sold altered stamps on eBay over the past 9 years, with the latest incarnations suspended at the end of January. In an MSNBC interview, George Kopecky of SCADS showed graphic examples of alterations from his database of nearly 2000 "before and after" stamp image matches from the various buyer and seller IDs, and explained his frustrations as various attempts to take the case to prosecution have so far failed.