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.

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Jonathon Rusnak's picture

Anyone have a gfx100 for sale?

Alex Herbert's picture

You mean a Fujifilm Finepix XP140? ;)

Logan Cressler's picture

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.

Jerome Brill's picture

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.

Matt Williams's picture

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.

JetCity Ninja's picture

"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.

Matt Williams's picture

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.

Matt Williams's picture

(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)

Thomas H's picture

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.

Take photos of your gear, including serial numbers, before sending it.

cameramanDop Shanghai Hong Kong's picture

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...

Stas Aleksandersson's picture

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

It would be supporting evidence but, yeah, you're right.

Marcus Joyce's picture

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.

Agreed but our justice system, if not ebay, is based on the preponderance of evidence.

Marcus Joyce's picture

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?

That sounds like a good idea, depending on how much it costs.

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.

Thomas H's picture

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.

Motti Bembaron's picture

"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.

Jerome Brill's picture

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.

Motti Bembaron's picture

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.


Jerome Brill's picture

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.

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.

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