Beware of This Ebay Scam That'll Cost You Both Your Camera Gear and Your Money

Beware of This Ebay Scam That'll Cost You Both Your Camera Gear and Your Money

A photographer has found herself a victim of an online scam that cost her both her money and her camera gear, after one user managed to get around eBay’s “protections” by making false claims they’d been sent an older camera model than that listed on the advert.

Last month, Liz Moughon listed an unopened Sony a6500 with 18-135mm lens kit on eBay for $1,400. Before long, someone purchased it, paying through PayPal. However, shortly after receiving the camera, the buyer requested a refund and claimed Moughon had sent him an older Sony NEX-6 with a 20mm lens. Speaking to PetaPixel, she explained:

In reality, he simply took my camera out of the packaging box, put his inside, took photos, and sent them to eBay as ‘proof’ that I’d sent him the wrong product.

Naturally, she reached out to eBay to reveal the truth of the matter, warning them of the fraudulent behavior. Requesting they investigate the buyer, the company declined as they had to follow their procedure. Despite Moughon’s attempts to have the company block the refund, the buyer was allowed to return the Sony NEX-6 camera. eBay then refunded the buyer $1,400, and the case was closed.

This left Moughon in the position of being without her a6500 and 18-135mm lens and without the money she had initially sold it for. She spent hours on the phone with eBay, PayPal, her bank, and the police in an attempt to claim her money back and to push for an investigation into the buyer.

eBay had promised that if the buyer returned a camera different from what she listed, then they would refund Moughon, but when she sent them pictures of the different camera the buyer had sent back, she says they repeatedly denied her claim:

I requested to re-open the case with my new photos proving that I received a camera different from what I listed. I heard nothing for several days, so I called again. eBay asked for a police report. I got a police incident report, and the officer said they don’t deal with online shopping at all but that he would be happy to speak to eBay for me. I sent it in. I heard nothing for several days, so I called again. This time they asked for an affidavit. I filled that out and sent it back. No word again. I waited a few days and called in. This time the person on the phone told me my case had been denied for the second time. They didn’t even bother to contact me to tell me that.

It turns out that neither eBay nor PayPal are willing to investigate a case unless the buyer is the one who initiates the case.

Taking to social media to expose the scam, Moughon found the attention it received prompted eBay to finally take some action. eBay contacted her on Twitter and Facebook saying that they’d re-open the case for the third time. Shortly afterwards, they backtracked and ended up refunding her the 10% seller fee of $140, as well as the entire $1,400.

I honestly feel bad that eBay was caught in the middle of this and is probably suffering the financial loss from the refund. I appreciate them finally coming through for me, and I understand how complicated it can be to review cases like these. My frustration is that during every conversation they started with ‘Well, the buyer said…’ They began by believing the buyer first.

Even though I called multiple times and voluntarily filled out every form, they refused to ever investigate the buyer until the very end. I just hope that they consider changing their policy to protect sellers and buyers equally. As it is, sellers can’t even leave feedback comments about buyers.

Photographers, beware!

Photos courtesy Liz Moughon, and used with permission.

Jack Alexander's picture

A 28-year-old self-taught photographer, Jack Alexander specialises in intimate portraits with musicians, actors, and models.

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You mean a Fujifilm Finepix XP140? ;)

I have found much better options to buying and selling used gear to be in facebook groups dedicated to your specific type, there are ones for Nikon, Canon, Sony, etc...

Take tons of pictures, in the box, closing the box, or better yet record the entire operation. Get insurance at the post office and signiture delivery. I have never had a problem buying or selling through individual people, as by simply talking to them in messages it is usually fairly easy to see if it feels right or not and to walk away. Doing it through a place like ebay means ebay is in control of your money, instead of you. Still paid through paypal, but if you have sufficient evidence as posted above there shouldnt be any problems.

You have the same protections on eBay as a buyer since everything eventually goes through PayPal which is a credit card provider. However, this particular scam is basically a he said she said thing and has been getting worse for sellers. I'm part of a big eBay account and we just got a box of pears instead of a PS4. eBay is going to side with us but we do have to sign an affidavit saying we are not lying about what we received. So there is a process for the seller. Unsure why this person wasn't able to do the same. It could very well be they are not a big seller or haven't been on eBay long. This shouldn't matter in my opinion though.

I'm honestly shocked she got eBay to refund her. That's pretty incredible.

Yes, this stuff can happen. There isn't a whole lot you can do about it because eBay sides with the buyer 99.99% of the time. I stopped selling on eBay about two years ago (I sold multiple items a day as a part of my business) because of how awful some buyers were and also how high the eBay + Paypal fees have gotten.

I'll still sell personal items on there occasionally, especially ones that are difficult to sell on Craigslist. But if I ever sell a camera or a lens, it's usually craigslist. No potential issues with buyers complaining and no fees.

"I'm honestly shocked she got eBay to refund her. That's pretty incredible."

agreed. this happened to me a year ago when i sold my ipad pro. guy claimed it arrived broken and ebay pulled the money from me, no questions asked.

i informed ebay that the item was shipped insured for the full replacement amount and also had applecare damage protection and provided proof... they gave me the money back, minus the $75 applecare deductible.

unfortunately there was no way for me to write up a negative review on the buyer to warn others since ebay switched to a "100% fuck the sellers" program and i haven't sold an electronics item on there since. now i'll only deal locally and face to face in cash.

Yeah. I mean, look, I get it - it was hard to deal with the feedback thing because a lot of sellers would retaliate against negative feedback with completely undeserved negative feedback in return. So that's difficult to figure out how to balance. I don't love what they chose to do, but I at least understand it.

Occasionally, when I had a SUPER bad interaction with a buyer, I would leave "positive" feedback but comment with everything awful they did. At least if someone read it, they would know. And I always blocked bad buyers from ever buying from me again.

(and let's not even get into shipping insurance - which is almost useless unless they lose something. Whenever USPS lost an item it was pretty simple for me to get a refund, though I had to wait a certain period of time before filing - during which I was out my money. But damaged items? Good f**king luck)

Indeed, ebay removed feedback to buyers, and so scammers come out with simple schemes to cheat with impunity. Of course the argument by Matt is valid: A buyer's obligation is merely to pay on time. What is there to report back?
Lets see: I had a case that a buyer simply did not paid and did not respond. All I could do is to file an unsold item claim and get the ebay commission back, and to repeat the auction. But I cannot warn anyone about him: This is a case where feedback about buyer should be possible.
Generally, ebay or amazon works fine if both parties play along, and they probably do in majority of cases. Where money and goods exchange hands, a niche of scammers and abusers emerges and that's a fact of life. Its like in brick and mortar stores a percentage of shoplifting, by both customers and employees alike. Its a percentage of "drag" on income. In a long run, we all pay for it through prices and/or fees (ebay+amazon.)
Still: Ebay should be better about protecting sellers. And they finally did went through in this case, as promised in their policy. Nothing "shocking" or "incredible" about it.

Right? It's "pretty incredible" that eBay finally ... after much, much effort on the part of the wronged seller ... reversed their stubborn crime-aiding decision. It's really sad that we don't expect eBay to do the right thing, but rather expect them to side with the criminal and obstruct the wronged seller in every way. That's the terrible expectation eBay has established.

And? That will not avoid this to happens, they can always said you have pack it twice....
Yes, a video maybe a better option, with a packing at the post office directly from A to Z...

Both photos and videos can be manipulated so I don’t think this will hold.

Supporting evidence that the camera was once in the box. That's all it supports. After the camera is turned off nobody knows what happens the box.

It's not what you know but what you can prove.

What maintains a "chain of evidence"?

How do you prove that after you put it in the box it wasn't tampered with at these locations:

The person who put it in the box puts the junk in before sending.

The person at the post office who takes it off you with "photography equipment"

The numerous people between that and the last mile delivery driver.

The person who received it.

What makes this scam so brilliant is the intended recipient could put rocks in it and would of got away with it.

I agree that a seller selling constantly doesn't put rocks or outdated equipment.

They might use customized branded tape.

They could even make a video recording packing the box.

The weight of the box

And none of this really identifies who tampered the box.

They are also not sworn law keepers either!

What do you all think about using the service at FedEx where they pack the box for you and recording the process?

Something similar happened to me.
eBay was on the buyer's side as always.
I ended up saying that it must be someone from the postal service who stole the camera. As the package was fully insured, the post refunded me - quite quickly and much more easily than eBay.

Long ago I sold to someone my CF cards on Amazon. The buyer alerted me that the envelope came cut on the edge and empty. Amazon told me I can decline to believe it, but than the buyer could place a negative feedback, so I chose to "write off" the cards as a loss.

Recently I had on Amazon a case of a buyer, who claimed that a Canon lens was not working. But he also claimed later that the lens was compatible with his Rebel, contradicting himself. Still Amazon wrote me he has 30 days no questions asked return right. So I complied and asked him to send it back. But he did not. He asked me every week or so for "RMI" or "return label", claiming that his printer was defect and he could not print. He finally filed a complaint and wanted money back, and probably to keep the "incompatible lens" as well. It was a 3-4 months long email exchange with amazon, with reversed decisions, but finally they said to him: you did not sent it back in due time, its final now.

So it ended good, but it shows how fragile the system can be. All emails where answered by someone with Indian name. We source off customer support to other countries, and so must live with their way of thinking.

Here's what I put in my listings: "Final packing of the (name of item), sealing and shipping label attachment will take place at the shipper or Post Office counter. Entire process, including the hand off to the shipper will be recorded on video."

For returns: "Returns will be to a US Post Office Box where your return will be opened in front of US Post Office personnel."

Interesting. Those sound like good tips.

"I honestly feel bad that eBay was caught in the middle of this and is probably suffering the financial loss from the refund..."

Why? It's their protection system that did not work well. They started to investigate only when they saw your social posts gaining viewers and worried about their own reputation. What about the hours you put on the phone and the anxiety you went through?

I do not feel for E-bay, they should have done a better job investigating because it is the right thing to do and not just because it can damage their reputation.

Exactly. I don't feel bad for them at all. They are making money hand over fist, while providing as little actual service as they can get away with. This article is an example of how flawed and stupid their "protection system" is. It's so easy for a crook to dupe them. And then they put up a wall to totally screw the seller, thus aiding the crook. eBay are nothing more than negligent accomplices in the crime. They count on wronged customers just giving up, or social media efforts failing, because they often do.

In the end it becomes a he said she said thing. Both sellers and buyers have defrauded each other on eBay. For sometime it was skewed to the seller. eBay changed things that really cracked down on that and now it's skewed to the buyer. I've been selling on eBay for 19 years. Currently part of a top rated seller account that has 157k+ Feedback and we deal with this from time to time. We just got a box of pears in return instead of a PS4. As a big seller though eBay does help. The main issue is account holders no longer have a single eBay reps to help them out. eBay now has rep per eBay category. So now when you let them know about an issue it could be some random person who isn't trained that much. It's unfortunate that this happened to this person. It's easier if you're a bigger seller like us. Although it shouldn't be like that. Everyone should be protected. But who should be trusted when you can barley provide evidence? The buyer and seller can only really take pictures and that's about it. eBay should be stepping in more though. They want the buyer and seller to figure things out before they need to intervene. When it comes to fraud they need to. They should start siding with the sellers on first purchase guest checkout accounts though.

This is another issue that eBay needs to change back, is not letting people guest check out with no eBay account or Paypal account. They started this a few years ago to compete with Amazon. This allows people with no feedback, and no confirmed PayPal address to purchase items. This leaves the door open to fraud. Anyone can get a prepaid card and give a fake name to purchase something and do a return fraud. As a seller you can certainly cancel orders when you see an un-verified PayPal payment, but for big sellers, you can only cancel so much before you lose your top rated seller benefits, the main one is 10% off your eBay fees.

In the end things need to change. I don't think eBay is as bad as people say because I deal with it on a daily basis but it does need to change.

I agree that it can't be easy for eBay but at the end, they must provide better protection. Those incidents are a very small percentage but for many individuals, it can be devastating.

Why not demand sellers ship a certain way as someone suggested here? Does FedEx have a better system?

I never sold on eBay so I am not sure but there must be a way to make things better for the smaller sellers.


Having a third party ship items would honestly cost too much for sellers. Plus to be competitive most sellers are going to free shipping. We have very good deals with box companies and carriers and no one could match that if they were just in the business of packing. It's still cheaper to hire someone and pay for boxes and packing than do that. eBay also has a 1 business day handling time to get top rated seller status so it's logistically not feasible either. In the end it doesn't protect the seller if their isn't a deal between eBay and the carrier to do so. eBay would have to open their own shipping locations and you'd send the product in like you can do with Amazon. Although this doesn't work very well for used items with no original packing which we deal with and is a big part of eBay's business. While it's not a bad idea, it just wouldn't work.

eBay just needs to do a better vetting process for buyers and stop guest checkouts. They need to confirm their identity and address better.

One thing people don't go through with though is literally calling the police in the town of the buyer. If they did fraud you and not send you the correct thing back and eBay is not helping you, call the police. I'm pretty sure they are not expecting the police to show up.

For a sellers sake, take good photos, scratches and wear that identify the item and the serial number and model number and put it right in the listing. This usually deters some because most of the return fraud is sending back the same item but a broken one. Also add signatures to apt numbers, forwarding companies and if the item is pricey. Also never communicate with a customer outside of eBay. If they call, tell them to send you a message on eBay. Keep all communication in the eBay messaging system and return center for record. This makes it easier for eBay to make a decision if an issue is ever escalated.

Good points.

Why on earth would anyone use a company that piles on fee and fee and then only acts to protect you when there is negative social media attention? I was considering using it once and then read about the 72 types of scams plus the crappy protection if something goes wrong. This is another reason I will never use ebay.

Exposure? You can sell on other platforms but only Amazon is really bigger. And Amazon actually has higher fees when it comes to selling popular electronics and gadgets. Most "scams" are protected by eBay. They are just being stupid about this one. The, "return the wrong item scam" is the one that's been a bigger problem lately because it's working. eBay will need to do something about it. Although nothing keeps you from canceling someones order. If you see an un-verfied PayPal payment, just cancel it. The main issue is they allow guest checkouts. This means you no longer need to really prove who you are. They use to require a confirmed PayPal address to ship to. This cut down on a lot of it. Now that they can guest check out, using a prepaid card registered to some address with a different name and do a return fraud. If eBay changes this they might prevent most of it. For now they should side with sellers when it comes to first time buyer guest accounts.

Ebay protection is about as usefull as car insurance that won't pay out when you have an accident claim. I'd rather pay a little more with Amazon and get real protection. I have bought a lot of items from third parties and sold a couple of items on Amazon. While no business transactions can be 100% satisfactory for both parties, Amazon has stepped in and taken care of any issues without my taking part in the social media support lottery.

And if they have so many loopholes as you say why the hell are they not taking care of it?

As you said, "If eBay changes this they might prevent most of it." BIG "IF"

That isn't true and you're not paying a little more with Amazon, you're paying a lot more. They have a different business model too. eBay is certainly trying to be Amazon but the heart of their business is still used goods. This is different than Amazon. You can buy used on Amazon too but it's very different. Most of the time sellers just use a stock photo and and a bad description. The other part is everything used is usually overpriced. These small sellers seem to only put out of stock or hard to find items on. Then they charge more because people don't know any better. They do this because it's not worth selling something with a smaller profit margin.

Going back to fees, our business, which is an eBay Top Rated seller, 157k feedback 99.6% and we've been doing it for 18 years, we pay about 8% between eBay and PayPal combined. We have an Amazon account too, that's at 13% average when selling the same product. We have shipped out over 5000 items just this month. And it's also mostly used electronics so that's not padding the numbers with accessories or media. When you're saving 5% over Amazon on 25-45k in eBay fees alone, it more than covers a fraud or two. Which is maybe 1 or 2 a month at this volume. We actually just got a box of pears back instead of a PS4. We just sign an affidavit from eBay and get our money back. They'll most likely block the buyer.

Now I still agree eBay could do better, Amazon is not a godsend over them and eBay does have protections in place. If you don't know how to use them then you probably shouldn't be in the business of selling.

So you are comparing your business and claimed 5000 items shipped to an individual seller who sold her "unopened Sony a6500 with 18-135mm lens kit on eBay for $1,400." and then got scammed twice: once by receiver and again by ebay(until bad publicity). this was a new, not used item. ebay failed to do the right thing until social media publicity. maybe they work differently with volume sellers. you sound like ebay pr.

I'm not comparing us to her, I'm responding directly to your first comment dismissing eBay as a platform to sell on because you were ready to roll on the hate train. You can certainly have an opinion and dislike eBay but it doesn't seem to be based off much experience. I always hope people are willing to learn something new but I feel you'll keep responding defending what you don't know.

This person had a bad time with this and I feel for her, but I know for a fact it's not the norm and their doesn't need to be rallies because of it.

And it's not claimed. Do you really think I make a living with my photos? Psh

"This person had a bad time with this and I feel for her, but I know for a fact it's not the norm and their doesn't need to be rallies because of it."

You really should consider making a living with Ebay PR if not already. I do know that this is not the first time ebay has not done the right thing and they could have easily fixed the issue without negative publicity. Defend that.

How many here are claiming to sell 5000 items a month on ebay? My comment was not addressing claimed big shot sellers but on regular sellers who get shafted by ebay if anything goes south.

"And it's not claimed. Do you really think I make a living with my photos? Psh"

definitely not.

This is an example of how eBay and Paypal are willfully stupid in the service of profit. They provide terrible service, and charge a VERY high fee for it. In exchange for that high fee they skimp every possible penny on their service, providing as little actual service as they can get away with. They deserve to be shamed for their willful stupidity. Unfortunately they won't change their ways. So this will happen over and over again. Forcing customers to beg and plead via social media is a totally messed up and immoral way to do business.

according to jerome bill you are holding it wrong:

"eBay does have protections in place. If you don't know how to use them then you probably shouldn't be in the business of selling."

The question then becomes, do I go and buy a bunch of cheap cameras and then order a bunch of Leica gear on eBay? This article isn't so much a warning as it is an instruction manual for fraudsters. I don't think anybody wins from this.

Crooks win for sure. eBay lets them.

according to jerome bill you are holding it wrong:

"eBay does have protections in place. If you don't know how to use them then you probably shouldn't be in the business of selling."

Don’t use ebay for anything anymore.

according to jerome bill you are holding it wrong:

"eBay does have protections in place. If you don't know how to use them then you probably shouldn't be in the business of selling."

eBay is okay as a buyer, mainly thanks to Paypal. Although I have to say eBay has a special scam for buyers. The promised buyer protection does not kick in unless you buy and pay on, or Twice (run by has sent me notices that I have no buyer protection as I bought at

With much difficulty it's possible to claim protection then via Paypal. Never pay for anything on eBay, except via Paypal.

The worst part of eBay is the Global Shipping Program. It's a good idea – set transportation fees, pre-paid customs – but instead Pitney Bowes trashes the very careful packing of the original sellers and sends items out in half-ripped cardboard boxes with almost no packing, risking damage (about 50% of items are damaged after Global Shipping). Not only that but Global Shipping changes a three or four day delivery from the UK into a three to four week delivery.

"eBay does have protections in place. If you don't know how to use them then you probably shouldn't be in the business of selling."

Exactly same thing happened to me, I sent someone a DJI gimbal and on delivery instantly got a message saying they had requested a refund as it wasn't working.

eBay made me refund them but when I got back the "not working" gimbal it was clearly a different item from the one I had sent (the one I received back had marks all over it and 3rd party batteries), thankfully eBay accepted it wasn't the same and reversed the decision but I always video things working now before I send and let the buyer know I have done so.

according to jerome bill you are holding it wrong:

"eBay does have protections in place. If you don't know how to use them then you probably shouldn't be in the business of selling."

Only a moron would spam every comment. In this case, Jak did follow eBay procedures and did get his money back. It was a hassle. Fraud usually is, eBay or no eBay. That's the advantage of Craigslist and cash sales. The disadvantage of course is being rolled/robbed by an armed Craigslist buyer.

Hi Alec, I am quoting Jerome Bill who is apparently an ebay expert. I have often used CL successfully. Just meet at a local precinct or even courthouse right under the surveillance cameras. No funny business. Face to face is way easier than dealing with some sketchy individuals or even hacked accounts or fake Paypal payment emails.

I stopped using Ebay for that reason and others as well. I'd rather sell face to face instead of selling to someone I've never seen and can make some false claims about the product and service and make me look bad. I posted a camera for sale on Ebay and all I kept getting was a bunch of spam accounts trying to offer me outrageously low prices.

Getting low offers on eBay is a nuance but you can always set an offer on an item and then have it auto decline at a certain price. People may still message you but you don't have to respond.

True, I didn't think about doing that. I think for now though I'm holding off on using them and try and sell locally.

according to ebay pr aka jerome bill you are holding it wrong:

"eBay does have protections in place. If you don't know how to use them then you probably shouldn't be in the business of selling."

That's why I don't sell anything on ebay.

Buy, yes. But it's not a seller's platform unless you are a store.

Box of rocks canon 1d X from Amazon? Steal at $3999

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