Whilst there is no foolproof method of making sure that you don't get ripped off during the purchase of a doll, there are some sensible precautions that you can take to protect yourself in a purchase.
Like most things in life a lot of it is down to common sense.
If a deal looks like it is too good to be true, then don't let greed or glee at getting a bargain put the blinders on you. If it seems dodgy, let the opportunity go!
Pay attention to the detail! Really look at the deal you are being offered, read the small print.
Find out who you are dealing with! Sellers hiding behind strange names where they won't tell you what their real name is and are cagey about sharing information with you.... run... in the opposite direction... as fast as you can! The same goes for people who are operating under multiple names.
Find out your sellers return policies... what will they do for you if the doll you buy isn't what you were expecting or is damaged.
Ask for a written agreement between you and your seller, I imagine this sounds intimidating but really, it's not! An agreement between the two of you protects you both, you can agree what you both expect to happen. How long your payment plan (if you need one) is. What happens if one or other of you can't fulfil the deal. What terms are for returns. All sorts of issues can be thrashed out in a formal agreement and once its in place, you BOTH know where you stand and what is expected of you.
Any good artist would be happy to prepare and sign an agreement and if they aren't... well what does that tell you?
Ask for close ups, artists like to take artistic photos but you can guarantee they also have close ups of all the essentials, hair, lips, eyelashes and eyebrows, fingernails. So if you don't see all detail you need in the photos, ask!
Ask other collectors for recommendations on artists, buyers don't recommend artists they have had a bad experience with, so ask around, ask other buyers who they would recommend to purchase from.
And pay attention if you see lots of bad feedback on an artist and they are offering bargain basement deals... ask yourself, WHY? Could it be because they have got such a bad reputation they are having to offer drop down prices?
Ask the artist you are interested in purchasing from for details of previous buyers that they can talk to and get feedback on your work. Good Artists will not think twice about giving you the chance to talk to previous customers.
And finally, be realistic in your expectations, whilst there are lots of artists out there offering good work at very reasonable prices if you are being offered a doll at a ridiculously low price when you know the sculpt and supplies used to make it are twice or three times the asking price.... does that sentence really need finishing?