LAS VEGAS (KSNV MyNews3) -- If you're thinking about buying a rare book or any antique online, be very careful.
Internet auction sites are a multimillion-dollar industry, but an industry that is also ripe for fraud.
The works of authors such as Truman Capote, James Michener and John Grisham, which would seem to be perfect additions to a book collection, were at the heart of a scam.
"The suspect worked this scheme by purchasing unsigned first edition antiquarian books on eBay,” said U.S. Postal Inspector Al Herzog. “He then forged the signatures of famous authors and resold them on eBay for much higher prices."
There were more than 450 stamps used to create near-perfect signatures.
"Took the actual genuine samples of the authors signatures, took them to a local stamp company and had actual stampers made so the stampers could be used to mass produce the fraudulent autographs," Herzog said.
Book prices ranged from $50 to $1,000 each, depending on the author and book. Buyers -- skeptical of the signature -- began complaining to postal inspectors who started checking the defendant's background.
"We made some purchases of our own, and eventually we were able to obtain a search warrant,” Herzog said, “and that's how we were able to obtain the heat stampers."
If you are buying rare items or memorabilia online, exercise caution.
Postal inspectors recommend always using credit cards -- not debit cards -- for online purchases.
Credit cards offer dispute rights, making it easier to reverse a fraudulent charge, whereas using a debit card can instantly clean out your checking account.
And always research the seller.
"In this instance, the defendant was one person operating out of his home,” Herzog said. “There was no business, no licenses. There was no reputation, if you will, in the antiquarian book business."
The defendant in this case was sentenced to more than two years in prison and ordered to pay $120,000 in restitution.