People make millions of dollars each year off of online auctions as well as through traditional means. However, it's the online auction that you need to be the most wary about. It is very easy to be conned into buying something online in an auction thinking that you are getting the real deal. Below are a few ways in which you can avoid being ripped off with fake memorabilia.
One really important thing to note is how willing that the seller of the memorabilia is to communicate with you about how they got a hold of the memorabilia. A seller who seems nervous about wanting to discuss this issue and doesn't want to answer your questions about the history of the item he is selling, could be selling a fake or something that is illegal.
You should always be cautious about anything that is considered a reprint, prints and anything with copies of signatures. This is one of the most common ways people have been making money off of the sports fans by simply making copies of legitimate signatures and then reproducing the photos or posters. These things are generally worthless if you were to ever get them appraised so stay away from items like this.
Make sure that you have researched the different signatures of your the athletes so that you can make it easier to for you to tell the real from the fake. If you should happen to be anywhere one of these athletes might have a signing, pay close attention to how he signs and what his pattern looks like. This will be a big help to weed out the fake ones from the real.
Make sure to ask collectors you come into contact with in person if they would remove all cards and jerseys from the frames so you can check to make sure that the items are not fake. Understand that the light reflecting off of a frame and the thickness of the glass will distort how the memorabilia looks.
If you should happen to end up discovering that you have been conned into buying something that is fake, it is important that you don't just take it. It is your duty to call your local law agency and even the FBI when you have discovered that the items you bought were fake. This way you can talk to an FBI office that handles fraudulent sales and this will help put a stop to more people getting ripped off by the scam artist.
If the item you purchased was from a site like eBay it would be a good idea for you to report the incident of being sold fake memorabilia. You can also get help from eBay in learning how to discover fakes from the real thing.
You should also consider doing your own investigating on the background of someone that is selling sports memorabilia that you might be considering buying something from. There are a lot of different online forums and sites that hold auctions that have plenty of members who will easily point out which people to look out for when buying these kinds of items.