As the saying goes, if a deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Before you purchase anything of value from an unfamiliar source, ask for the serial number of the product. Legitimate sellers shouldn't hesitate to provide it to you. Although a mere 2 percent of Americans record the serial numbers of their valuables, checking serial numbers against stolen property databases can protect you from receiving stolen property.
Contact your local police department. Tell them you're suspicious that someone may be selling stolen property. Provide the officer with the serial number so that he can check the stolen property database for a match.
If you are purchasing an item through an Internet service like eBay or Craigslist and you are suspicious the item might be stolen, you can file a complaint with the Internet Crime Complaint Center (see Resources). The ICCC will investigate the issue for you.
Register for a free account with Trace (see Resources). Type in the serial number of the item and the service will check its online database of stolen property.