Photographer Lists a Camera on eBay, Gets Scammed by a Buyer Because of a PayPal Loophole

Photographer Lists a Camera on eBay, Gets Scammed by a Buyer Because of a PayPal Loophole

At some point in our lives, we all have found ourselves looking for or selling gear on eBay. But, how much can you place your trust into this online marketplace when parting with your expensive equipment?

It may seem that it's hard to fall for a scam but sometimes you want to believe in the best of people and help others. I myself recently put a piece of photography equipment for sale on eBay, which was bought by someone outside of my listed postage area. Although their account said they are based in the States, they asked me if I can calculate shipping to Russia instead, and send it there because they have moved address. They also requested this to be done urgently because it was meant as a gift for someone. After spending far too much time reading about international deliveries and customs process in Russia, I decided it poses far too many risks for me as a seller and had to unfortunately cancel the transaction and apologize to the buyer. Whether this was a genuine request I'll never know.

However, Joanna Rose Hufton, a professional photographer from the UK, wasn't as fortunate and was caught up in a scam when trying to sell her camera on eBay. She sold it for £1,300 ($1,670) on the auction site, and later on after the sale the buyer asked Hufton to change the delivery address because it was meant as a gift for their daughter and they had forgotten to change the delivery address on their account. The buyer sent her the new address in a message. Hufton didn't think much of the request because she had done it before and transactions had gone through with no issues.

A PayPal refund screenshot

After the camera was successfully delivered to the buyer and Hufton had received proof that they had indeed received and signed for it, the buyer opened a case on PayPal and claimed that they hadn't received the item after all. The scammer didn't file any complaints via eBay but instead went straight to PayPal. To ensure a secure sale, PayPal terms and conditions state you should "ship the item to the shipping address listen on the PayPal Transaction Details page", which didn't happen in this case because the buyer requested the address change. This resulted in PayPal ruling the complaint in favor of the buyer, giving them all of their money back and and they also kept the item. 

Although Hufton tried to appeal this, PayPal said there is nothing that they can do, even though she claims two members of PayPal staff told her that they are aware of this type of loophole. The photographer has also contacted ActionFraud and they are currently investigating the matter. A PayPal spokesperson responded that they "have looked into Ms Hufton's case and unfortunately it appears she has fallen victim to a scam" and "if a buyer asks you to send it to another address then you will not be eligible for reimbursement under PayPal's seller protection program".

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42 Comments

Jeff Walsh's picture

Paypal, "We are aware of the loophole, and we don't give a fuck."

chris bryant's picture

I think that is an accurate appraisal of the situation.

It is actually NOT a loophole. The terms are clear. Never ever ship to a different address. Tell them that they can cancel, or too bad.

Matt Williams's picture

If people are exploiting it for scams, it is a loophole.

It shouldn't be difficult for Paypal to review the messages and interactions between them and deduce that they were asked to send to a different address and then tell the buyer to go to hell.

Yes, you should never send anywhere other than the verified address. But that doesn't make it ok for paypal to acknowledge the issue and do absolutely nothing about it.

And either way, it is a loophole.

Not what a loophole is. A loophole mean that they are doing something legal to get something they ought not get. What they are doing is not legal. It is a scam, but not a loophole.

It does not matter if they review messages and see that YOU broke the rules! Yes, the scammer also broke the rules, but their is no recourse because Paypal cannot prove that it was the buyer who sent the message, and not their system got hacked.

“Hey, Paypal, I see someone sent a message from my account asking for the package to be sent somewhere else. I did not authorise this. Help! I am being scammed by the seller!”

One can prove that the message was sent. One cannot prove that the buyer sent it. That is why the rule is there.

Matt Williams's picture

That's fair enough - though I was repeatedly told on that thread about B&H Photo that avoiding taxes is not a "loophole" since it's "legal." So, apparently no one agrees what a loophole is - but I will concede that yours is the most apt definition (though I wouldn't limit it to the "law" but rather just a set of "rules," which of course encompasses the law as well).

Jeff Walsh's picture

They are legally allowed to ask to ship to a different address. They then are receiving the money they paid back, which they shouldn't. By your own definition, they are using a loophole. They are using a loophole to scam people.

It is not legal to break a contract to defraud.

To clarify, the agreement to ship to the address on file is made by both parties. When they break that part of the contract, with intent to defraud, that is illegal.

NOT a loophole.

Then why does PayPal allow you to ship to a different address?

How can PayPal control that?

When you go to ship from within PayPal, don't allow me to change the address that is embedded in as the primary address. Of course you could go and physically write a different address but the point is they shouldn't allow you to use their own tools to do something that they won't cover.

charlie sanders's picture

I didn’t ever stop to think about that and , I have sold many a camera and lens on eBay. I did win a bid on a new canon camera(5D iv) the seller posted PayPal transaction (as you should only deal this way) the seller requested I pay in cashiers check. I told him “only PayPal “ he got a little rude and I reported him to eBay and PayPal . I had won the bid at $750.00( too good to be true).

Matt Williams's picture

You actually used to be able to pay with money orders/cashier's check on eBay back in the day. They don't allow it anymore, for obvious reasons.

Daniel Medley's picture

It's not a loophole. It's pretty well known on eBay and PayPal that you ONLY send the item to the address on the order details page. It's the only thing that is locked within the system that both organizations can 100 percent rely on. That way there is no they said, they said; it just is what it is. Did you send the item to the address on the order details page? Yes? No? Does tracking show it was delivered to that address? Yes? No?

Robert Nurse's picture

But, I've heard of scams where they deliver to the right address. Then the buyer says the box was empty or some such: "We've refunded the buyer". The seller had no recourse.

Matt Williams's picture

Yup, exactly. There are many, many ways for buyers to scam or screw over sellers on eBay and most of them will default in favor of the buyer and that's that. I had someone switch out a camera with one that didn't work (camera of the same model obviously) and file a complaint - when I pointed out to eBay that the serial # of the camera I received back didn't match what was in the photos of the camera I sold... it didn't matter. Nothing would persuade them to give a damn.

Mike Sandman's picture

Don't sell to eBay buyers who don't have a decent record of prior purchases. It's not wise to deal with someone with no or just a few transactions.

Just me's picture

Be aware that even 100% review can also be a stolen account

Just me's picture

This is not what this article is about

Daniel Medley's picture

That can happen, but it's rare. There's always a risk with any distance commerce. Again, it's very rare in my experience. The one thing that I will say is that selling on eBay has transformed from a place for the one-off selling of something by the average Joe to a place that's more geared towards those who want to plunge into the world of e commerce as a business.

In any business there's always a cost of doing business. In a brick and mortar shop there's going to be a certain percentage of people who walk through the door and then walk out without paying for something. That's a risk that is unique to brick and mortar. As a business model, the B&M factors said percentage into their cost of doing business along with the power bill, rent, etc., plus they've taken steps to mitigate that risk as much as possible.

In e commerce there's always the risk of scam returns. There's a percentage of transactions in which it will happen. A person doing business in e commerce will factor that cost of doing business into their business model, and take steps to mitigate risk.

Every online retailer swims with the same risks. Large retailers like B&H, Adorama, Amazon, or whomever, deal with faulty returns, credit card chargebacks, etc. It's just that they are in a better position to absorb those risks and are more knowledgeable in how to mitigate the risks that are always there.

The biggest problem many new sellers have when selling on an online platform like eBay is that they just wing it with large dollar items instead of doing a little homework on how to minimize risk. That's what draws the scammers.

There are ways to hugely mitigate risk when selling on eBay if one knows how. But like life in general, there are no guarantees.

Micah Burke's picture

The opposite happens also, where you buy something online, send the money and the sender ships the item to a different address... this prevents that from happening. Best thing, before buying or selling on ebay, educate yourself to the potential pitfalls. Buyer, and seller, beware.

Matt Williams's picture

Even that isn't foolproof. I've read stories of people shipping a basically empty box to an address within the same zip code because Paypal doesn't verify delivery to that specific address. Just the general area.

I have had a friend sell on Ebay and then received a call from the buyer to pick it up as his brother was in the area. After giving the camera to the "brother" my friend went back in his house to see an email from Ebay saying the transaction had been cancelled because the card was fraudulent.

At that point I resolved never to sell or buy from online sites. Besides, my local camera store can use the business.

Matt Williams's picture

People were selling goods and shipping them to different addresses and getting scammed out of their money centuries ago?

Ryan Davis's picture

Pirates man, Pirates.

Jerome Brill's picture

eBay has had the rule to never ship to another address for a long time now. It used to have to be a confirmed address but now it's just the address they have tied to Paypal. You can win claims on unconfirmed addresses as long it's still the address eBay gave you.

The seller made a mistake and that mistake cost them $1600. Is it a scam? yes but common enough that they should know better. Using eBay and Paypal is actually pretty safe as long as you stay with-in the rules.

Also, using the term loophole is assuming it is something that if closed would fix the problem. There is nothing you can do to keep someone from putting a different address on a shipping label.

So after reading the article and comments, the article is wrong and so are the comments.

As a seller on Ebay for over 10 years, this was tried to me a few times and never worked.

The way it works is like this

Someone gets access to your credit card information or paypal account, goes on ebay, buys the item then makes up a bogus story that the item needs to be shipped asap to a friend, family etc.. for X reason, then they give you an address, you collect the funds, ship the item, once it arrives or is in transit the owner of that account finally notices the fraud on his card and contacts his card issuer and files a chargeback in which the credit card company will always take the buyers side ( this is also from doing business for a long time) because ebay/paypal does not want to deal with any legal issues, then youre out of the money and out of your merchandise, so therefore its not a loophole, this is mainly done from Russia, or African countries.

A friend of mine listed a car on craigslist, he gets a text from someone number, and it says i am going to come and pick up the car and transport it to my country i will pay you with you with paypal but upon arrival you would need to pay my courier cash $$$ for transporting the car to the terminal and shipping fees, i looked at that thing and i said to him if you fall for this you deserve it and tattoo IDIOT on your forehead.

I dont ship to any country but the US, Canada and Australia.

Mike Sandman's picture

I'm in the US and had a UK buyer with no record of prior purchases bid and supposedly pay for a high end used DSLR. They added money and asked that the camera be sent to Nigeria instead of the UK. I figured it was for that Nigerian prince who keeps asking for help getting his $45 million out of a bank account somewhere.... So no thanks - cancelled sale. But another time a buyer in the US asked me to change the shipping address, and I did and had no problem with the transaction. The first one smelled bad; the second one didn't.

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