Watch for these scam signs when selling a camera online



The decision to sell my old camera gear was a bit like the decision to rehome a puppy. I still had feelings for my Nikon D850, my lenses and my flashes, but I knew they would be happiest in the hands of a new photographer. I switched from DSLR to mirrorless several months ago and knew it was time to part ways with my old system while it still had some value.

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I almost accepted an exchange offer twice. But, wanting to save some money before my truck hits 200,000 miles, I decided to try selling it outright. Of course, when you sell a camera online, there are a few risks. Chief among them is the risk of being scammed by a buyer. Using a platform with some seller protections helps, but I quickly discovered that even legit selling platforms can be plagued by scams.

After listing my camera kit on Facebook Marketplace and later on eBay, I received more fraudulent offers than legit ones. By the time I finally sold my gear (one lens to another local wedding photographer and the rest to a newbie switching from a bridge camera), I learned a few things about selling a camera on line. Before selling a camera online, look for these red flags.

Misunderstanding of platform policies

Before creating an online listing, make sure you understand the protections offered by the platform and the requirements to meet them. eBay, for example, has seller protection, but there are certain rules, including keeping the entire transaction and all communications entirely within eBay.

Understanding these protections is key to deciding when and where to sell your gear. For example, Facebook Marketplace’s purchase protection doesn’t cover anything over $2,000. When I registered there, I selected the Local pickup only option and declined lucrative shipping offers, many of which were scams.

The higher the value, the more fraudulent offers you will see

I’ve sold items online before, but a lot of them were childhood items too big not to be worth a lot of money. As soon as I listed my camera, the scam offers came quickly and frequently. My theory is that lower value items aren’t worth the time of scammers. The higher the amount you request, the more likely you are to receive fraudulent offers.

Scammers often have a bloody history

The first offer that came to me begged me to ship, even though my Facebook Marketplace listing clearly stated local pickup only. The reason? They were buying it for a nephew’s birthday present and it had to arrive quickly. Most of the scam offers I received had a similar story – they were buying it for someone in their family who was celebrating their birthday or had gone through a rough time.

The average salesperson won’t tell you their life story.

Scammers often offer to pay more

The saying “if it’s too good to be true, it probably is” applies here. Both on Marketplace and eBay I received several offers that were more than what I had the gear listed for. These offers may seem legitimate at first glance. eBay’s Best Offer option is for buyers who want to buy before an auction ends. Others would bid higher because they wanted to ship right away and cover next day shipping. But, when I added it all up, the offer was more than what the buyer would have paid if they had purchased each lens and accessory separately.

Scammers may ask you to send an email

I nearly got scammed by a particular offer from eBay for what at first glance seemed like a legitimate request. The buyer asked me if I could text or email more pictures so he could see it was in good condition. It looked like something I would ask for, so I emailed a few more photos without even thinking about it. Big mistake. Never remove conversations from the sales platform.

By sending him photos by email, the scammer then got my email. This person then sent me an email that appeared to be from eBay saying that the buyer had paid. Of course, this email came with several red flags, starting with the email address and bad grammar. The email was covered with notes such as “eBay sent this message”. It had a laughable explanation why my eBay account wasn’t showing payment yet. And the seller had emailed me to check my spam folder, which of course was where the email had gone. Emailing photos didn’t trigger any alerts, but this email raised the alarm. I reported the seller, relisted the item, and received the exact same offer from another account, which I rejected.

So what happened to my poor D850?

I finally sold my camera online for more than trade-in value. However, it took a few weeks and a lot of wasted time on scammers. I sold my 24-70mm f2.8 lens on Facebook Marketplace, where I met a local in a busy public place for cash payment. The rest also sold out on Marketplace weeks after it was first listed in a similar local meet with safety precautions. I still felt a bit like I had found a new home for a puppy, but I feel better knowing my D850 has gone to a photographer who will treasure it as much as I do. I have received legit offers on eBay, but after eBay fees they would have been less than trade-in value. What an item is listed for is not necessarily what it sells for.

Would I resell a camera online? It depends. I ended up with about $1,000 more than trade-in value for selling a camera and four lenses. But, if the math only amounts to a few hundred dollars difference, I’d probably save myself the hassle and risk, by opting to trade with a reputable retailer instead.

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