Buyer Beware: Scammer using counterfeit FFL for fake online gun sales

A scam artist posing as a legitimate online firearm dealer with an FFL is taking orders and money for firearms but not delivering the goods, according to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

“We are working with the FBI and Secret Service to combat this (fake) FFL,” said Jane Kemp, ATF spokeswoman. “In one of the incidents someone lost $8,000.”

The scam starts with an online advertisement inviting patrons to contact the dealer by email or phone. Afterward, the scammer will reply with a counterfeit copy of an FFL, so the unassuming purchaser can order and send payment. Once funds are transferred, the scammer removes the ad and contact information without sending the product.

“We’ve seen some activity in the Kansas City and St. Louis area,” Kemp said, adding, “The referrals have mostly been for Class 3 dealers.”

Class 3 refers to a dealer in NFA firearms, which includes machine guns, short-barreled rifles or shotguns, and suppressors. And where these ads are posted is currently unknown.

To avoid the scam, the ATF reminds licensees that only transactions between licensees require the furnishing of a certified copy of an FFL. The agency advises licensees to consider only providing the basic license number to individuals (e.g., 1-75-12345), and that patrons confirm the validity of the license with FFL eZ Check on the ATF website.

“It is a good business practice for licensees  before shipping a firearm to another licensee, particularly if they have not done business with at licensee previously, to use FFL eZ Check,” said Larry Keane, National Shooting Sports Foundation senior vice president and general counsel. He also reaffirmed the ATF’s advice for consumers.

“Before sending money to an unfamiliar licensee you encounter online, request a copy of the license, check to see if it is signed and current. Then, use FFL eZ Check to see if the license is in fact valid,” Keane said.

The ATF asks that if you are a Federal firearms licensee who believes your license has been fraudulently used, stolen, or compromised, to contact your local ATF field office as soon as possible for assistance.