Regular readers of Street Sweeper know that I often report about online fraud and the subsequent criminal prosecution of the fraudsters. Recently, I have written about the increase in international scams involving the sale of high-end merchandise through eBay, Craigslist, and other well-known platforms:
Romanian Sentenced in eBay, Craigslist, and AutoTrader.com Scam
(Street Sweeper, June 30, 2011)
eBay Secure Traders (it ain't "eBay" or "secure") (June 10, 2011)
The Mother of Invention
The other day, I was informed of the existence of WeGoLook.com, a company that is the living embodiment of the maxim that "Necessity is the mother of invention" - or, as sometime more coarsely put, "Necessity is a Mother."
WeGoLook provides a rather unique service, which, the company describes as the ability to:
dispatch one of over 7,000 agents (background check verified) across the U.S. to the actual location of an auto, RV, boat, heavy equipment, auction or classified items on eBay/Craigslist or similar websites, property and even online dates to verify its existence and validate online claims.
Our agents complete an onsite report with current photos, video, observe a working demonstration, measurements, VIN, model, arrange transport and more! WeGoLook customers are better informed, avoid costly surprises and do not become victims of fraud, misrepresentation or crime.
Here are a few examples of what WeGoLook claims to offer consumers:
Look at an expensive item for sale on eBay or Craigslist
Check for storm damage to your vacation home
Check the condition of your out-of-state rent house
Check the condition of a loved-one's gravesite
Look at an automobile for sale online or in a classified ad in another state
Deliver an item you purchased online to the shipper
Lemme See What You're Talkin' About
Why would you want to use WeGoLook? As noted in some of my columns, many online bidders have been ripped off through fraudulent misrepresentations as to what is being sold, who is the seller, and the integrity of the transaction. Obviously, the more expensive the contemplated deal, the more is at risk.
To the extent that you are not willing or unable to go kick the tires and physically examine what's being offered for sale, you are at risk of unscrupulous sellers and dishonest business practices. The threat that you're going to arrange to have someone meet with the seller, confirm that the item does exist, and take a few digital pictures - well, all of that may prompt the dishonest denizens of the Web to scurry back into their holes and leave you alone.
Moreover, you may have an elderly relative or you may be the parent of an inexperienced and overly trusting soul who may be preparing to purchase something online - if you could step in and offer the services of a company like WeGoLook, you might avoid a lot of heartache.
3 rms Oceanview A/C Modern Clean
WeGoLook's services aren't limited to proposed purchases of cars or merchandise but extends to online sales/rentals of vacation properties or housing. I'm sure we've all been disappointed, when we arrived at our vacation home at the beach or in the mountains, only to see that the online photos and flowery description hardly prepared us for the dump that we stood before. Maybe a pair of honest eyes and an unbiased report could have saved us some bucks and a disappointing vacation.
Lookin' Over the Looker
Of course, yeah, it all sounds like a great idea but who the hell are the "eyes" that WeGoLook is using and how do you know that you can trust them? Alas, I can't offer any assurances. That much will still require you to ask around and do some research. You might want to start with the company's own "Looker" webpage.
According to the company's website, they offer a Preferred WeGoLook service, in which a Looker will ask the seller to demonstrate that the item is in basic working order (if applicable). Your Looker, however, is not an expert, and will not perform any tests beyond observing the most basic functions which the seller chooses to demonstrate.
For example, WeGoLook notes that a high-end stereo receiver may have literally dozens of features and functions, which the Looker would not ask to be demonstrated - the typical review in this case would probably be to have the receiver powered up, a CD played, or to tune to several radio stations. Similar reviews would apply for automobiles and boats, and, as such, would not typically include a test drive.
The Preferred WeGoLook service includes the Looker providing his or her general observations about the basic external cosmetic condition of the item (looking for the presence of obvious chips, cracks, dents, etc.) and report those observations to you. Keep in mind that the Looker is not presented as an expert and will provide a report based only upon lay observations made at the time of the observation.
Of course if this all takes weeks to negotiate, that's not going to cut it in the normally fast-paced online world. According to WeGoLook, you should get your report "no later than two to three business days after placement of the order, and most orders should be completed within that period."
Also, since WeGoLook typically does not take possession of the item or property (unless you order our shipping assistance service), the firm warns that it has no control over substitutions or changes that could possibly occur after the observation is made. Clearly, the online world is filled with con artists who have thought about virtually every scam by which they can rip you off.
Nevertheless, if you believe that any of the "hard information" (for example, model number, serial number, brand name, etc.) contained in a WeGoLook report is incorrect, you may submit a request for a refund to something called a Review Panel. The Review Panel may issue a partial refund, a complete refund, or no refund, in its sole discretion. We do not guarantee opinions or other subjective information reported such as descriptions of cosmetic condition or color, for example.
Online sellers are likely aware of the growing number of reports of fraudulent and criminal activities by their peers. As such, a WeGoLook report might be a worthwhile investment for a seller to demonstrate his or her bona fides. Similarly, some sincere sellers might even offer to refund the price of your report if what they promise is not supported by what a Looker sees.
DISCLOSURE: I have not personally used WeGoLook, am not aware of anyone who has, and have no personal/professional relationship with or financial interest of any kind in the company. I cannot vouch for the representations made above and urge you to do your homework. Nonetheless, if the concept is as presented, it does at least offer the ability to eyeball (albeit through a third party) what you will be buying (barring some unscrupulous switcheroo).