I received the following from a TOP reader who goes by the handle El Inglés. He had posted it on his Facebook page:
Ebay—A CAUTIONARY TALE
My friends, I have bought and sold photographic equipment on Ebay for several years, all very smoothly and without problems. Until now.
Yesterday, an Ebay member with no purchase history—always a warning sign—bought my Canon 5D II at the 'Buy it Now' price. London-based, she wanted me to post the camera as quickly as possible as it was a present for her boyfriend. I said I would be in London at the end of next week for a meeting, and could take the camera, but she said that would not be soon enough. Anxious to pay, she said she did not receive the eBay-generated link to PayPal, although I sent it three times in the course of a couple of hours. I said not to worry, and sent a payment request directly from PayPal. Lo and behold, I then received an email from 'PayPal,' advising that payment had been received but, following a 'new regulation' would not be released to me until up to 21 days afterwards. Nevertheless, the email implored, I should still send the goods! The alarm bells started to become loud. And, although, the email looked very authentic, I noticed a couple of very small spelling mistakes. Then the pièce de résistance—the buyer asked me to post the camera to her boyfriend...in Nigeria!
I told her politely that the con was far better than the usual 'help me launder $15 million' solicitations. But it was still a con.
Of course, I have reported all to Ebay.
Did you know that the "Cameras and Photo" area of Ebay is the number one category for fraud? More than any other category on the world's garage sale website. The only time I've ever been defrauded on eBay was for a camera. I came away $500 lighter, having ill-advisedly sent cash via Western Union. I've forgotten the details now; I try to put things like that out of my mind. Life's too short to cry over spilled milk. As the old saying goes.
My mistake in that case was that a succession of identical listings didn't set off alarm bells. Just so you know—in case you don't—if you see five identical listings posted in succession for the same item from the same seller, it's probably a scam.
Beware motion blur!
Another, more subtle Ebay scam: blurry pictures. Seriously. A little motion blur will cover up all manner of cosmetic irregularities, and our brains tend to supply a bit of "content-aware fill" such that we believe we know what the blurred object really looks like. Don't be fooled. A seller with 1,000 sales whose other listings show clear pictures didn't suddenly become incompetent with the digicam like some inpecunious grandma bravely making a go of selling a tchotchke or two.
I have on one or two occasions requested clearer pictures from sellers. The good ones will provide them.
Of course you should always check out a seller's feedback. My personal rule is never buy anything from anyone with less than 98% feedback. My reasoning is that a) everybody makes a mistake occasionally, and b) some people out there are crazy. So if two buyers out of 100 aren't happy, maybe there's no help for that. But I won't buy anything from anyone with less than a 98% rating.
One of the posts I keep meaning to write is called "The Photographer's Bedtime Prayer." I haven't finished writing it yet, but one of the lines in it is, "Lord, please keep me from rummaging around on Ebay late at night...."
(Thanks to Stephen Russell)
Original contents copyright 2013 by Michael C. Johnston and/or the bylined author. All Rights Reserved. Links in this post may be to our affiliates; sales through affiliate links may benefit this site.
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Featured Comments from:
Arthur: "The motion blur trick (and overexposure) is popular on dating sites too. Don't ask how I know."