It’s not every day that a scam is exposed in nearly real time but Time and Tide posted a fascinating bit about a scammer who literally groomed a seller by pretending to be interested in a small retailer’s wares and then swapping a Patek Nautilus for a fake during a break in the negotiations.

A watch dealer,  Gautaman Senivasan, in Singapore was approached by a young man who wanted to buy a F.P. Journe Chronomètre Bleu. The buyer came to Senivasan’s house to make the deal but was especially interested in a Patek Senivasan had for sale.

Everything seemed normal at first until Senivasan let his guard down.

Gau stood up and walked across the room to the fridge – a distance of about five metres. He returned with a couple of ice-cold Cokes. “I wouldn’t have been gone more than 15 seconds – it was really quick,” he said. “But when I sat down, I don’t know, I just felt like the atmosphere had turned a little tense. This guy was putting the Nautilus back on the cushion for me, which was a little bit weird because I’d been handling that tray. But I didn’t say anything to him or think much of it.”

The buyer asked to see the Nautilus’ box and papers and Gau’s wife brought them down from upstairs. But as the conversation continued he had a sudden change of heart and decided that he was now leaning towards the Chronomètre Bleu again. Now, he asked to see the F.P. Journe box and papers.

In that instant, the buyer swapped the Patek with a fake he purchased for the exact purpose of defrauding Senivasan. The rest of the post is a great exploration of the scam and a fun little look at how good fakes are getting. Could you actually spot the fake below? I honestly couldn’t.

Senivasan offered a few great tips on avoiding getting scammed in the future. Here’s hoping none of us have to use them.

Prior to the sale, be very, very familiar with your watches and the condition that they are in. Take pictures of any marks or scratches. Also get photographic evidence of the reference, serial numbers, the box and papers. Document everything.

During the sale, before handing the watch over to the buyer, check the serial numbers together with the buyer and reference the serial number for them against the card. Do that before they inspect the watch so that they know that youknow what the serial number is. That way they can’t mess around with you.

If you’re showing multiple watches, know exactly how many there are and display them in a specific pattern that you’ve memorised so that you can immediately notice if one of the watches has been removed. This enables you to know at a glance whether everything is in order.

Make sure you re-check the serial numbers, cards and tags before putting the watch back in the box. Any time you are showing watches, always put the watch back in the box and seal it yourself. That way you know you are leaving with your watch.

Do reference checks on the buyer on forums before your meet up to (hopefully) avoid scam-artists and time-wasters. Sure, it’s not fool-proof but it’s another step of due diligence that should help you to know who you’re dealing with.

By John Biggs

John lives in Brooklyn and has loved watches since he got his first Swatch Irony automatic in 1998. He is the editor of WristWatchReview.

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