New eBay Scam Could Bite Shooters Looking to Sell Old Camera Gear

Buyer falsely claims to receive the wrong camera, returns a lower-priced model, and gets eBay to refund the sale price.

Caveat Emptor. It's Latin for "Let the buyer beware." But if you're a "Brady Bunch" fan, you already know that, since you learned about it along with young Greg Brady after he was ripped off buying a car without his dad's permission. It was a harsh, but valuable business lesson for Greg to learn, but if he was selling stuff on eBay today, forty years later, he'd be learning about Caveat Venditor instead. "Let the SELLER beware," because there's a new scam which not only robs the seller of the money earned selling a product but of the product itself. And eBay isn't too keen on helping the victims, either.

“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,” Moughon says.

PetaPixel detailed a story about Liz Moughton, a photographer and intern for the Los Angeles Times. Moughton was seeking to sell a new Sony a6500 with an 18-135 kit lens on eBay, on which she earned a tidy sum of $1,400 minus a 10% cut for the auction site. The buyer paid through PayPal and everything seemed to be on the up and up.

Shortly after completing the sale and shipping her camera, Moughton received a refund request, the buyer claiming they received the wrong product, an older model Sony NEX-6 mirrorless camera with a 20mm lens. The buyer complaint included a picture of the shipping box, with the NEX-6 inside and a demand for a full $1400 refund. 

“The buyer returned the Sony NEX-6 camera. (It was of similar size and weight so I didn’t bother trying to get USPS involved because shipping had gone smoothly.) eBay refunded him $1,400. The case was closed.”

Fortunately, Moughton had taken her own pictures or the product for the listing, including serial numbers clearly visible on the box.  But even with her own photographic evidence, eBay ruled against her, refunding the scam artist $1400 and leaving Moughton with an NEX-6 camera, she didn't want and a loss of $140 for eBay's cut. 

 “I begged [eBay] to investigate the buyer, but [they] said it’s not in their policy to do so.”

eBay's Policies Tend Favor the Buyer, Leaving the Seller open to fraud

Distraught, as anyone would be, Moughton appealed the ruling requesting that eBay investigate the buyer further. eBay demurred, citing procedural issues. Then she talked to PayPal, her own bank, and even filled out a police report, but no one was able to help her. Even the police couldn't since they don't investigate online shopping scams. But they did offer to speak with an eBay rep on her behalf.

After several hours on the phone with eBay customer service, a miracle in and of itself, Moughton was able to get eBay to agree to refund her the sale price if it was proven that the buyer returned to her a camera she didn't send him. eBay also requested the police report that Moughton filed. The sad part is, that eBay then denied her again, and didn't even bother to tell her. 

"My frustration is that during every conversation they started with ‘Well the buyer said…’ They began by believing the buyer first.”

With nowhere left to turn legally, Moughton resorted to social media, telling her sad tale on Twitter and Facebook. Well, that seemed to do the trick, as ultimately, eBay not only refunded her the entire $1400, but also her 10% seller fee. A happy ending.

It's a hard lesson to learn, that eBay would rather protect buyers than sellers, but that's the simple truth of it. The money comes from the buyers, and eBay would rather side with them, thereby protecting their 10% of the pie, than do any kind of investigating for potential buyer fraud.

Now to be fair, I've heard horror stories both ways. A friend of mine was ripped off buying a video camera off eBay that never came, even though the seller claimed to have sent it. And then there's the old story of a buyer receiving a box full of paper instead of a camera. That puts eBay in a tough position, and ultimately, ending up the victim. “I just hope that they consider changing their policy to protect sellers and buyers equally," Moughton concludes. "As it is, sellers can’t even leave feedback comments about buyers.”

This is why I sell my gear on the Facebook Marketplace. Seeing the buyer face to face makes it easier to "let the seller beware."     

You Might Also Like

Your Comment


This is a very old trick actually, in like 2000, I sold a little SONY video camera with super tiny MicroMV cassettes.

First guy demanded part money back, because of a few scratches, I declined, told him to return it and I got a box of bad batteries in return, paypal refunded them, didnt care about my claim and thats why I dont use paypal or ebay anymore.

LOL, luckily, I only had about $150 in my account, so paypal got to pay the rest and I just threw away every collection letter they sent me. :)

July 26, 2019 at 2:10PM, Edited July 26, 2:13PM


I just sold a movi m15 kit on ebay for 1400.00 and the buyer claims they never received the item despite shipping confirmation. A a week or so later the buyer sent me photos of the m15 listed on ebay. Ive been going back n forth with ebay for approx 3 weeks regarding this. Every single time they say they have ruled in my favor and then the next day im told via paypal my account will be debited 1400.00. Ive pretty much given up and called it a loss. I dont think ebay is worth it for big ticket items as i really have no protection if a buyer claims they never received the item.

July 26, 2019 at 2:35PM

Zach Wolfe
Photographer / DP

Don't serial numbers matter?

July 26, 2019 at 5:24PM


I’ve experienced this as well. Selling a Nikon DSLR on eBay two years ago. Buyer submitted a video “unboxing” pulling an incorrect item out of the box I sent and asked for a refund. I’m assuming they opened the box first from the bottom and swapped items. eBay took control and refunded buyer, buyer sent wrong item back to me, which was not the item I sent. I fought and fought and finally was able to keep the funds from the sale as well. It was a painfully annoying process, but eBay stated this was a one time courtesy in allowing me to keep the funds. Their Buyer Protection policy is where this all gets messy for fraudulent claims. So if you buy on eBay it should be a great protected experience.

July 26, 2019 at 7:52PM

Myles Smythe

Not a new scam. This has been around since the early 2000s. Feebay is now too risky to sell high ticket items on. It is more important to them to have buyer protection than seller protection, even though the sellers are the ones that pay all of the fees. Just sell your stuff on Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace and meet the other party in person in public and only accept cash if you're a seller.

July 26, 2019 at 11:42PM

Film Voltage

That’s why I only sell to people who have a high number of reviews. If someone only has 5 review or less I simply just cancel the order if I suspect fraud. Better to repost and have your item then sell it to someone who is trying to jip you. Always take a video and photo of you sending the package on high dollar items and only send to someone in your country. Cell phones are even worse to sell on eBay than cameras

July 27, 2019 at 8:53AM

Mark K.

if someone did that to me, i'd be turning up at their doorstep...

July 27, 2019 at 9:11AM


Just sell your stuff on Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace and meet the other party in person in public and only accept cash if you're a seller.

July 28, 2019 at 8:28AM

Garry Williamson

I don't want to sound too off-the-wall, but give me a break... these types of schemes "put(s) eBay in a tough position, and ultimately, ending up the victim". That cannot be serious. Ebay understands these things perfectly, from top to bottom and front to back. Yes, too the user getting ripped they act like they cannot conceive of what could be happening, don't have the time/skills/etc. to investigate, blah, blah, blah. In reality Ebay is consciously and willfully aiding and abetting these schemes, because at the end of the day, they make money on them... and would cost too much to deal with these issues in an honest and conscientious way. Don't believe me, then do an online search for the lawsuits around issues like this one, that Ebay has been involved in over the years, including the ones they lost and/or settled out of court by covering the losses (but not having to admit guilt). I know, I have been there and done that.

July 29, 2019 at 12:31PM


eBay does not even try to protect sellers. If I'm selling a high value item I make it clear that not only is it 'Collection only'... you MUST come and inspect and ONLY THEN pay. Takes longer to sell but only 'serious' people will contact you.
Recently sold my BMPCC V1 and Micro and Metabones... each buyer came and picked up and that, since there were no fees to pay, practically covered my 2 Pocket4K cams.
Was stung a few years years ago on my Canon 60D... got the camera back with a broken screen and lost the fees to eBay - NEVER again. I'm not much of a seller but once it has a 'highish' value then eBay is just an advertising platform for me.

July 30, 2019 at 6:53AM, Edited July 30, 6:54AM