More than two years have passed since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, which disrupted global supply chains and triggered a wave of firearms and ammunition purchases. The gun industry had a banner year in 2020, which saw 8.4 million new gun owners and an estimated 21 million background checks conducted specifically for gun sales, according to the National Shooting Sports Federation. All of these new gun owners needed ammunition, and ammunition became scarce on store shelves – many types of ammunition remain in short supply.
The years-long ammunition shortage has changed the way many hunters and shooters buy ammunition, with more and more online shopping. This change has opened a window of opportunity for ammunition scammers, who operate by creating fake websites that offer hard-to-obtain brand name ammunition at rock bottom prices. These scam sites lure in unsuspecting consumers, take their money, and then never deliver the goods.
There are dozens of these websites, and while legitimate online retailers are scrambling to keep scam sites off the web, industry insiders say they aren’t going away anytime soon. Here’s what you need to know so you don’t get scammed the next time you buy ammo online.
Like playing Whack-A-Mole
Outdoor living spoke with a representative from an industry-leading ammunition manufacturer who said that since the nationwide ammunition surge began in 2020, scam websites have popped up regularly.
“It’s really been over the past two years…and they’re getting more sophisticated,” said the rep, who asked not to be identified because he wasn’t authorized to speak on the subject.
Here are four examples of scam websites that were still active in the past few days: federalammunitions.com, shopremingtonammo.com, remingtonammos.com, and winchesterammosales.com.
These sites should not be confused with the legitimate websites of federalpremium.com, remington.com or winchester.com, which are the actual websites of manufacturers who sell ammunition directly to consumers.
Developers of fraudulent sites do their best to use URLs that are close to the legitimate branded ammunition URL. They also use branding and similar images (which they steal from the web) to confuse potential ammunition buyers who are unable to find the ammunition they need from their usual and trusted suppliers.
These four examples are just the tip of the iceberg. It would be impossible to round up all the scam ammo sites, but a quick visit to a few hunting and shooting forums reveals much more.
The ammunition manufacturer representative we spoke to said that he was able to get many of these scam sites taken down by contacting web hosting companies such as GoDaddy or Bluehost, who act as “gatekeepers.” Internet”. And since scammers often steal legitimate logos and product photographs from manufacturers to make their websites look authentic, it’s been easy for legal teams to attack these scammers from every angle. But it is impossible to track and eliminate them entirely.
“It’s like playing the mole,” he says.
Sometimes web hosting companies can track fraudulent websites to specific IP addresses, often leading them to specific malicious actors running the same system over and over again.
Read more : Where’s all that damn ammo? The president of Federal Premium has answers
Outdoor living contacted GoDaddy and Bluehost to try to find out more about who these fraudulent website developers are. Neither has responded to requests for comment, but a bit of research reveals that the scammers are almost certainly operating from overseas.
Looking at the contact page of remingtonammos.com, the scam website presents a non-functional map with an unknown location in Oslo, Norway. As for shopremingtonammo.com, the contact page lists its address as 3047 Beech Street in San Francisco, California. However, there is no Beech Street in San Francisco.
Neither winchesterammosales.com nor federalammunitions.com lists an address on their sites, but a closer look at the text on those sites reveals many grammatical errors and awkward phrases. Here is an example of a paragraph found on the bogus federal site:
The portfolio of rugged cartridges, including the innovative, high-load-weight line, Black Cloud continues on the traditional Federal moves in play. “More effective and efficient ammunition leads to better conservation effort by individuals and contributes to better national habits by maintaining a comfortable wildlife population for future hunters.
So while it’s impossible to stop ammo scammers from finding their way around the internet, it’s fairly easy to spot and avoid these scam sites when you know what to look for.
How to Spot an Ammo Scam Website
The first red flag is when the website does not offer a legitimate means of payment. None of the scam sites mentioned above accept credit cards. Some require payment in cryptocurrency only, while others will allow you to “pay” using a third-party service like Zelle or CashApp.
The goal is for scammers to make it difficult, if not impossible, for you to get your money back.
Which raises another red flag. These scam sites, unlike legitimate ammo dealers, will say they allow you to ship your order to all 50 states. But there are at least six states that currently have laws restricting online ammunition purchases. California and New York require point-of-sale background checks for all ammunition purchases, while Connecticut, Illinois, Massachusetts and New Jersey require residents to show proof of their license or permit to buy ammunition online.
Other major red flags include:
- Obvious typos or misspellings in the website URL or body text
- Strange logos or fonts that don’t match the real brand
- Outdated product photos and poorly formatted images
- Broken links
But perhaps the biggest red flag is when a scam website’s offers are just too good to be true.
“Your first clue should be that everything is in stock,” says the ammunition manufacturer’s rep. “They also let you buy as much as you want, and it’s really cheap.”
Any major, legitimate ammunition retail website is currently facing supply issues. Some ammo SKUs will be available, some will not. So, if a site says every product is available, you’re probably on a fake page.
Use legitimate websites for ammo purchases
Be sure to check out our guide on how to buy ammo online without getting scammed and use trusted online retailers, of which there are many:
It will probably take some searching between these sites to find exactly what you are looking for. But the search will be worth it, because when you finally buy the load you’ve been looking for, it will actually arrive.