If you're considering writing a check to pay for a gun online, stop right now. It's frequently done, but it's a dangerous idea. Thankfully, there are much safer options available.
Why is it dangerous to pay by check?
This isn't just about ordinary scams. Yes, scammers love checks and money orders. They can easily cash one and disappear with your money. But that's not the worst thing that can happen to you when you send a check. With checks, you can lose far more than the amount you wrote down.
Imagine a scammer who steals people's identities for a living. What information does he need to impersonate you and take your money? He can do a decent job with just a few things:
- Full name
- Bank name, routing number and account number
Guess what appears on every check you write? All of the above. That's your identity on a silver platter. The only missing piece might be your social security number, which is easily purchased for $1 on the dark web. One personal check can be enough to ruin you.
What if you don't think the seller is a scammer?
First, how well do you know the person you're sending your check to? You are probably mailing it to someone who is essentially a stranger. Even if it looks like a business, it could easily be a fraudster using a real business's name and logo.
Next, even if you know and trust the recipient, do you know and trust their security? Are they using a locked mailbox? Do they have trustworthy employees? Do they shred checks after online deposit? Do they use a bank that redacts account numbers in check images?
The list of security protocols goes on. But it boils down to one question: Are you willing to entrust the security of your identity to someone who asks you for an insecure payment? (Hint: Your answer should be "hell no!")
Are checks dangerous for sellers too?
Maybe you're on the other side of the transaction, and you're selling a firearm. Maybe you don't care if checks are wildly insecure for your buyer. You just want to get paid. Turns out checks are still a bad idea.
Did you know checks are subject to chargebacks just like credit cards? That's right - if that check was stolen or fraudulent, or if the buyer just wants his money back, those funds can be charged back. That means the money will be yanked from your account without warning. Plus, your bank will hit you with a chargeback fee. Then, if you don't have sufficient funds after those two withdrawals, your bank will hit you with an insufficient funds fee. Good luck getting all your money back.
What are the best alternatives to checks?
You should always handle firearm payments some other way – checks are just too dangerous. But PayPal, Square Cash, Venmo, etc. all prohibit firearms, so they're out of the question. Here are some other options:
- Pay cash in person. Obviously this doesn't help if you're far away from the seller. And if you feel uncomfortable with the idea of carrying a wad of cash to a meeting with a stranger carrying a gun, obviously this isn't for you.
- Use your bank's "Bill Pay" feature. Your bank will mail a check that doesn't have your account number or signature on it. Of course, this is still a slow method that doesn't help you with shipment or transfer. It also doesn't offer protection against fraud.
- Use GunTab. You can pay instantly and securely online. Plus, GunTab will coordinate the shipment and transfer to a licensed firearm dealer, and protect you from fraud. We might be biased, but we think it's the safest, simplest way to pay for a gun online. It's free to open an account, try it now.