I discovered an excellent post on the eBay Guides regarding Disney pin scammers and bootleggers. I have listed some excerpts from the post below.
About Unauthorized Pins…
“A few pins are innocent creations by fans who don't understand copyright laws; but most pins are created by people seeking to make a fast buck off the good name of Disney.
Some pins are obvious rip-offs of Disney characters: Roger Rabbit's wife Jessica Rabbit is routinely shown in various provocative poses on eBay pins. The same thing has happened to Tinker Bell being reduced to a porn symbol in certain poses. Disney's characters are combined with McDonalds among others. While there are a few Disney-McDonalds pins that are legitimate, the vast majority of them are unauthorized.
Mouse Club pins are an example of fan bootlegs. I don't fault the creators of the Mouse Club pins, as they were made to celebrate Disney and created by enthusiasts who gathered annually in Anaheim. Such pins were created to commemorate these events, but they were made without breaking copyright laws by not showing the faces of the one they were honoring (Mickey).”
“At times, an existing pin will be altered in some small way, or a character will be taken and placed on a different background. A lot of times, one pin design will be remade multiple times in different color combinations. Other times, the pose of the character will be mirrored on the bootleg. Some of these bootlegs are quite professional in their duplication, but if the pin was not created by The Disney Company and it features actual Disney characters, it is illegal and should be shunned by any true collector.”
“The world of Scrapper pins isn't new, but it's become so prevalent on eBay over the past 3 years that at any time there are literally 1000s of Srapper pins being sold on eBay. Most of Disney's authorized pins are made in China. Scrapper pins are ones purchased from Chinese factories that use old Disney pin molds to create unauthorized copies. (Think of this as if you were buying illegally-made DVDs from China.) When the pin is made - even limited edition pins - the mold that creates the pin is sometimes not destroyed. Then, the unethical company takes the molds and produces 1000s of pins not ordered by Disney or authorized by them for sale. Chinese companies then offer them at cut-rate costs to people willing to market the pins as being "real" Disney pins. THEY ARE NOT. If they are not sanctioned by The Disney Company for production, they are illegal at worst but unethical at best.
If eBay Sellers were to be honest about the pins and say, "These are 'seconds' from a Chinese factory," or "overruns," I would still be angered by their sales because it undercuts real Disney pin collecting...but at least they would be honest. Sadly, Scrapper sellers on eBay hide the source of their unauthorized pins, so they can make a quick buck at the expense of both Disney and Disney pin collectors. They sell them by the 100s and 1000s...I've even seen 5000-pin lots!. Shame on you if you market Scrapper pins!”
I have to admit that I was completely oblivious to the prevalence of these shady tactics. This is a great reminder of how important it is to do your research before buying Disney collectibles from an unknown source. While ultimately you will have to display some level of trust with your buyer, you still have to find out as much as you can about the product. One strategy that I have used to prevent fraud is to search for the product name in Google, followed by the word scam. This typically uncovers the biggest threats to fraudulent activity.