I've been scammed so many times on ebay, that I am always leary of buying something that I cannot walk out of a store with it in my hand.
That being said, I cannot walk into my local walmart and get the gear I am looking for. And the best prices are always on used gear here on BPL.
Before I buy anything, I always check and see their profile. They need to be active on a regular basis. It is helpful if they post in multiple forums besides Gear Swap, but not necessary as long as they have a track record of selling, with no bad comments or feedback.
Also, I never send cash, check, money order. Paypal only. If it is a small item, that I don't mind losing my money on, I don't mind doing the gift option. But if it is anything I would be upset if I got scammed over, I do Paypal standard.
I've passed on a lot of deals here in the past few months, just because I did not feel comfortable(new members posting thousands of dollars of gear for sale, or someone not active for many years, all of the sudden has half a dozen big ticket items up for sale). Not saying they are scammers, I'm just not comfortable with the situation. So, I pass and hope the next one works out.
BPL is a great resource and it is a shame that scammers have to steal from us instead of actually contributing.