The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives has put out a general alert to the public to keep an eye out for fraudulent tax registration forms being used to swindle would-be buyers of National Firearm Act-regulated firearms.
The ATF warns that there appears to be an online scheme to bait FFLs — gun shops — into putting down a deposit on one of these premium firearms with altered NFA Form 4s for a deposit and then never delivering any guns. When printed on a regular sheet of paper these false documents appear to have ATF approval, although a closer look may reveal more.
“A typical scam starts with a perpetrator (seller) claiming ownership of an NFA firearm through an altered Form 4,” warns the ATF. “If the FFL expresses interest, the seller then requests that the FFL pay a percentage of the money upfront via cashier’s check and the remainder of the money after the ATF Form 4 paperwork is finalized. All communication is done via email.”
To see if the forms are legit, the ATF says to check the altered scans on-screen, magnified, so that the altered sections become more apparent. The fraudsters alter the serial numbers on the tax stamp and it stands out when blown up.
As far as Internet scams go, this one is pretty specific. If you run an FFL and if a random stranger offers to sell you something and passes along a scan of a Form 4 out of the blue, be sure to keep in mind that it might be a ruse. And check the spelling on the documents as well because these scammers aren’t the best transcribers.
If the forms are written as FFL-to-FFL transfers be sure to run the info through the ATF eZ Check website. The eZ Check system is a quick online way to ensure that the FFL is real or not, for free. You can also download a copy (.pdf) of this ATF warning for more info and details.