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Juneau, AK 99801

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Q. If an item I purchased turns out to be stolen, I understand I could be charged with the crime of "receiving stolen property." Besides actually bringing the item to JPD for a check of serial numbers, how do I do my own "due diligence" to be assured that the item is not stolen? If the seller writes a "bill of sale" does this protect me?

Dear Juneau Resident,

There was theft by receiving case many years ago where some property was stolen and sold through an ad in the paper. When officers contacted the buyers, after investigating the seller, the couple was embarassed and then realized that buying an item for a fraction of what a person would normally expect to pay was probably a clue that should have gotten their attention. The couple wasn't charged but they ended up being out the money and the property.

Running serial numbers through JPD is one way to check but common sense will take you a long way in this area. Does the seller have an original receipt from where they got the item? Are there altered markings on the property like an area where stickers have been removed? This may be an attempt to change the item's description. Is the serial number scratched off? Is the property being sold way under market value with an explanation that doesn't make much sense? An example would be someone saying the discount is for a fast sale because they are leaving town for a job down south but they don't know the name of the business they are going to work for off the top of their heads. If you ask enough questions someone who is lying will either get into an area where they are obviously uncertain or there will be contradictions.

You can also ask for the seller's name and even to see ID. That is what the pawn shops do. If someone is selling stolen property they will want to distance themselves and will not want you to know their name. If you become suspicious for any reason, it is always best to avoid that purchase. You don't want to end up out the money and the item.


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