You’ve just joined WTA and you’re super excited about the prospect of building a home based business in the luxury watch world. You’re armed with new knowledge and ready to start making moves. This excitement can sometimes block out the rational parts of our brain that give off warnings! So you start buying your first pieces. And obviously, start posting them for sale . . . everywhere!
Well we’re proud of you for taking action! That’s the first step to success! But action, all action, has consequences. Some good. Some bad. Some planned. Some unforeseen. Some avoidable. Some not avoidable. Either way there are some safety issues to be aware of as you enter watch trading, and some actions you can take to protect yourself!
A buyer in your local area reaches out and wants to meet in person to see the piece! The prospect of making your first sale is intoxicating. You make arrangements to meet without giving the situation a second thought!
Local area people with, let’s say, less than honest intent, see your postings. With just a little digital digging they find out where you live, where you work, where your significant other works, where your kids go to school, what pets you own, etc . . . With just a little recon they “case” your home knowing you have high end luxury timepieces on premises. Then they start planning when to make their move.
A third party with a digital skill set is probing your online footprint for weaknesses. They start with easy targets like online forums, email accounts, Facebook, PayPal, etc . . . They hack your account and start wreaking havoc! They target your watch sales accounts to lure in unsuspecting buyers with false ads for watches that don’t exist. All the while the buyer thinks he’s dealing with a “reputable seller”.
These scenarios may seem a little played up, but many of us have experienced losses in our watch business in all three of these scenarios, or at least variations of them. And let’s face it, there are more ways for the dishonest to target us than JUST these three scenarios. But these three cover the basics and give us a good platform to build off of. So the question inevitably arises, especially for new traders, how do I protect myself?
Most of us live in America and the right to bear arms is among our freedoms! And I know many of you were already thinking of Scenario #1 with Clint Eastwood’s voice rolling in your head saying: “Go ahead, make my day!” But the reality is you and your side arm likely won’t always be in the right place at the right time to protect your family, home, or highly coveted timepieces! So here are some steps to take in order to help protect yourself.
ALWAYS meet in a safe location when meeting a first time buyer/seller. And no, the lobby of your bank, Starbucks, or the parking lot of your place of work are NOT safe places. If you do some digging in the WTA Facebook group you’ll find stories of those who have had issues in such places. The “buyers” like to play nice, talk shop, and seem legit long enough for you to relax and lower your guard. Even handing over an envelope of “money” over! When you open it to count your Benji’s (you’re now distracted) . . . then a quick grab and dash to a waiting car and they’re gone with your Rolex! And you’re left saying there with an envelope of news paper clippings. This is a scenario I’ve seen played out numerous times. So . . . safe places?
A local police station. They typically have a room that can be used for such purposes. Especially if you are nice, polite, and upfront with why you would like to have a meeting there.
Your bank. But NOT the lobby. Your bank will have a private room where you can meet. Let the bank manager know the nature of your transaction and ask if he can let the security guards know as well. This will provide a safe place where the transaction will take place.
A local jeweler or Authorized Dealer. These locations typically have very high levels of security and are in high traffic areas. Clear this with the owner before you set it up. In addition to the security, they may be able to provide a certain level of authentication to you as well, especially if you’re the buyer and are unsure about the watches legitimacy.
And finally, don’t go alone if at all possible! Take a buddy along. Even if they don’t sit in on the actual transaction, just have them nearby and watching. The bad guys usually have backup with them. Bring backup with you! Make sure they’re ready to tackle them if they try to grab and run, and or, film the transaction if possible for further protection if anything goes sideways.
Now this one is a bit more tricky. Your trusty side arm, your attack dog, or your good old Louisville Slugger can go along ways if you’re home to deploy them properly. But let’s face it, smart criminals don’t show up at dinner time and announce their bad intentions! In this scenario the internet and your various social media outlets which are invaluable tools for selling your timepieces to perspective buyers, are also your announcement to the world that you have something worth stealing! But don’t despair, you can use that public exposure to your benefit as well! I‘ll explain more in a moment. But first, how do you protect yourself?
Home security & automation. In our modern digital age the technology available to protect ourselves, our families, our home (and the timepieces in it) have come a long ways. And with the added automation features can actually prove to be valuable tools to you as a watch trader! For example; wireless (cellular) connectivity with battery backups. The bad guys can no longer simply cut the phone line and power to house and have free reign. Your system will continue to work and have you protected! Remote access via smartphone apps.
Keep an eye out and get instant alerts to your phone if someone so much as steps foot on your lawn, porch or anywhere else on your property! Doorbell cameras and remote door locks. Both features work well in dealing with deliveries when you’re not home to receive them. This is something that I have personally used many times. Asking my UPS/FedEx driver to hold the box up and move it around so that I can see it’s un-damaged. Then giving them verbal permission to sign for me. Then unlocking the door so they can set the package inside, all the while watching them through the doorbell camera. Then re-locking the door, re-arming the system and sending the driver on his merry way! These are just some basic examples of how a good security & automation system can help you protect your family, home, and business while being a useful tool as well.
Some additional steps to take would be investing in a good home safe. And talking with your insurance agent about your business and have it covered in whatever ways are available to you. Also be sure to let your insurance agent know about your security system! There’s a discount for having one (as long as there is actual live monitoring incase of break-ins, fire, etc . . .) In other words, cameras and alarms that don’t actually alert anyone outside of yourself do not qualify for the insurance discounts. And of course these items (security systems & safes) can be used as tax write off as well!
Now as was mentioned, your online presence is a HUGE tool in making these home protection steps more effective. When it’s being installed, BLAST your social media outlets with the news!!! Let everyone know the steps you are taking to protect your family & business! The same bad guys that use your social media to target you, will also see that you’re well protected and think twice before targeting your home for timepieces!
As WTA members you have access to the number 1 rated home security & automation service in the nation. Vivint. We have a group code setup and all WTA members always get free installs (and any other discounts & options I can throw your way! It changes monthly). Just contact me for more information.
To be fair there are TONS of variations hackers use. Search the WTA Facebook page and you’ll find the most popular are very well documented. But this is the most disconcerting of the three scenarios, because for the most part there’s nothing we can do but try to cleanup the mess after we’ve been hacked! But that’s not entirely true! More on that in a moment.
First, the most common attack I’ve seen is on the major watch forums. The Rolex Forum, WatchUSeek, etc . . . They are easy places to gain access to. Now hopefully you or the forum admins catch wind of the fact you’ve been hacked before any major damage is done. In which case it’s standard procedure to lockdown the account permanently. Well, not actually. You can have the account reinstated by contacting the admins and going through a process, which usually involves a fee, to get the account reinstated.
One of the main ways hackers use to get your forum info is by sending you an email. It can look like it’s from the forum, or a forum member. The key thing is there is always a link that you need to click. This link will be to “pictures of a watch” they want to offer on trade for yours. Or it will be to see a private message from another forum member. Or anything else they can come up with to get you to click the link.
NEVER CLICK THE LINK!!
It’s an embedded web crawler that captures all of your stored cookies (which includes recent password entries)! If it’s supposedly a link to a private message on the forum, just go directly to the forum and check your messages. Never use the link. If it’s a link to pictures of a watch they want to trade you, reply that the “link isn’t working” and they need to send the pictures via text to your cell phone. If it’s a legit message it will be in your inbox on the forum. If it’s a legit trade offer they’ll gladly send you pics via text. Either way you’ll never get duped into clicking a link that compromises your forum profile.
Another way to prevent this from happening, or at least help prevent damage from being done if it does happen, is HOW you list your watches. Don’t rely simply on the private messaging system provided by the forum. List direct contact information in the listing like your cell phone number and or email. Most buyers will use that info rather than the in house private messaging system. If you do start to suddenly get lots of messages in the forum private messaging system, especially in regards to watches you don’t have for sale, you know somethings up. And this is why. The hackers like to troll the WTB (want to buy) forum listings. They contact the person, posing as you, saying that have the watch they’re looking for and to email them at . . . (and they give their own email account).
The person who posted the WTB add sees a message from a reputable seller with good feedback on the forum. Long story short they get duped into sending a bank wire and their money is gone and they have no watch. All the while your good reputation is being dragged through the mud!! Now what often happens is the person they are trolling won’t actually respond via email as directed. They’ll reply directly to the message in the private messaging system on the forum. That’s when you get a heads up that’s somethings going on! And if you do, take action, IMMEDIATELY.
Contact the admins and change your password. Then start messaging the people that were contacted falsely and let them know what’s going on. It will take awhile to clean up the mess, but it’s doable. I know from personal experience! But do it quickly, what most people don’t know, is that you can be held liable for damages if your identity is compromised or stolen! More on that in a moment.
The point of all this is to be cautious and aware of current scams going around. The WTA Facebook group is a great resource for learning about these. Also the forums all have a thread for current scams that are going around and what to look for. Now more on how to actually protect your identity, and not JUST for trading watches!
First, a little education. Identify theft is the fastest growing criminal segment in the world. Over 400% per year. We hear about it constantly in the news, major data bases and companies that hold our private information being breached and our information being compromised. The reality is, experts agree that most of the US population has already had their personal information compromised. Your info is already out there! It’s just a matter of if and when someone decides to use it! Our stolen information sits in huge private data bases on the dark web waiting for someone to buy the information. What can they do once they buy it? Get drivers licenses, take out auto loans, apply for medical benefits, open credits cards and bank accounts, even have you legally proclaimed dead!! And usually walk away from it all Scott free! And that’s just the tip of the iceberg!! The sad part is, any and all financial damages that are incurred, are YOUR RESPONSIBILITY!! So if the offender is never caught (and most often they aren’t) you’re responsible for all damages incurred by your identity being stolen. This is why acting quickly to stop a scammer from using your identity to rob forum members of their money is so important! Again, this isn’t well known, but it eventually will be. And someone who gets scammed out of $20k for example may be pretty well motivated to learn what legal recourse they have!
Now I know that some of you think, oh that won’t happen to me! Others think your bank or credit card company has you covered. Others think because they pay $10 a month for a stand alone service or to their credit card company they’re secure. FALSE on all three accounts!!
At some point you or a family member WILL be compromised. There is a good chance it will be a currently minor child as they are the easiest identities to target and use without raising red flags. Often going unknown until the child turns 18! You may already be compromised and just don’t know it yet, as it’s typically 5-7 years after the fact that the damages occur, are discovered and connected to you personally.
Your bank or credit card ONLY cover fraudulent charges on their cards. If your identity is stolen and the above listed criminal activities take place, your bank or credit card company won’t be there to help you.
The $10 service . . . the best way I can describe it is like having liability insurance for your car. It legally allows you to drive. But if you t-bone PJ’s Lambo, or take out a soccer mom and her kids in their mini van . . . you’re screwed! It really doesn’t provide active monitoring for your ENTIRE digital footprint, and there’s no finical aid provided if you are compromised!
Now with all that being said, there IS a way to protect yourself AND your minor children. There’s not a lot of GOOD Identity Theft companies out there because this is a new industry and a rapidly growing problem. But there is one I can recommend. ID Seal. It’s the most comprehensive identity protection service on the market. Giving you proactive alerts to potential threats, credit monitoring, and gives you a team of professionals to walk you through the process of fixing damages when they occur. And a zero deductible $1 million dollar coverage in the event of damages occurring as well. It covers not only your financials, but your drivers license, passport, emails, social media profiles and dark web activity. It gives you local sex offender alerts and can monitor all of your minor childrens online activity and social media profiles, even alerting you if they view pornography or any other undesirable websites. We pay to protect our homes, our cars, our health, even our life!! Why wouldn’t you want your identity protected as well? As WTA members, I can also assist in getting you setup with ID Seal as well. Just contact me directly.
In conclusion, I know for new members this may all seem scary. But these are just the realities and liabilities of doing business in our modern world. They’re not insurmountable obstacles, especially if you’re armed with knowledge. And that’s what WTA is all about. Arming people with knowledge, that if applied, can lead to great success! So do your due diligence. Go through all of the training courses. Utilize the WTA Facebook groups. Read the special articles like this one when they come out. Become a professional at what you do in the luxury watch world. Whether you plan to become a full time trader or not. You can absolutely be a part time professional. But professionals train, constantly. They are always striving to learn more, to be more.
So take advantage of these amazing tools provided and go change your future!! And remember, stay safe WTA Family!