Originally Posted by cplager
That's actually a pretty easy problem to solve. If the seller lists the wrong number and the correct number shows up on some list, EBAY can fix the problem (i.e., return the bike to the original owner and refund the buyer).
Not all bikes have serial numbers, but that could probably be worked around as well.
Again, a nice idea, but that leaves the buyer to confirm the serial number after purchase and to search every possible data base in and around the seller's area (assuming the seller isn't smart enough to steal from outside of his region). Only if the buyer finds the serial number on a list and reports it as stolen could any action be taken. I don't know about your area, but around here law enforcement doesn't take bike theft very seriously and they don't even check their own databases much less make it easy or convenient for bike buyers. In this area there is no comprehensive database of missing bikes and, while I consider myself an honest buyer, I'm not going to spend hours checking all over the tri-state area after I buy a bike off Craig's List. My precautions are limited to not buying from anyone who won't establish their identity (show me a driver's license), sign a quick bill of sale (handwritten is fine), and let me take a snapshot of them with the bike with my cell phone. Some people have looked at me funny but once I explain that it is to assure that the bike isn't stolen, I've never had an honest seller refuse. I have had one disappear in a hurry without completing the transaction.
My daughter's bike went missing in the fall a couple of years ago and I immediately reported it with make, model, description, accessories list and serial number. I called back every few weeks to see if her bike had shown up. Nope . . . Nope . . . Nope. . . I gave up when the snow flew. The next spring I contacted law enforcement to see if they had any unclaimed bikes they wanted to donate to a regional bike co-op for an earn a bike program. They had a couple so I went back to the impound rack and what did I find? My daughter's bike, now rusty from sitting outside all winter. I found out that it had been recovered within a week after it went missing, found abandoned just a few days after I reported it. I had them pull the report and confirm the serial number. They let me take it but days later I was talking to an officer and asked why they hadn't checked a nice bike like that against missing bike reports, he changed the subject and told me something along the line of You know we didn't have to let you have it back. After 90 days unclaimed it becomes the property of the city.
Now realize that this isn't a big city where there are 100s of abandoned bikes, it is a rural community where they deal with maybe a couple dozen bikes a summer. The rack was between two city buildings not 50 feet from the front door of the police station and apparently the report and follow up phone calls I made never went past the front office.
I've also heard that in a neighboring larger city, in addition to watching eBay and Craig's List, many owners seeking to recover a stolen bike watch the local police auction as even if bikes are recovered they are not always reunited with the proper owner and end up on the auction block.
Last edited by Myosmith; 02-14-13 at 10:26 AM.