Beware selling cameras online

Written by Digicamhelp Editor

Selling camera equipment online can be risky. Scammers are clever but their approach usually has enough in common to raise red flags.

I’ve never been a victim of an internet scam but have been the target of a few. So when someone recently tried to scam me when selling digital camera equipment on Craigslist, I sensed what was going on and didn’t pursue the sale.

Below is a copy of an email I received after an initial email inquiry about the equipment. Take time to read it and look for the tell-tale signs of a scammer. These folks are very clever but their tactics usually have enough in common to raise red flags.

Tell-tale signs of an internet scam

  • Emails sent to you may have both poor grammar and sentence structure.
  • The buyer is often overly enthusiastic about the purchase.
  • They come up with some excuse as to why they can’t meet you in person and offer an elaborate plan for payment and delivery. They are usually not from your local area.
  • Other people are involved in the transaction, not just the individual who expresses interest in the sales items.
  • If you get that far, the purchaser may send more than the asking price, usually via bank check, money order or mailgram. They then ask you to wire them the difference between asking price and the overpayment. You are responsible for checks you deposit. Don’t cash the check; don’t wire money!

How to handle a transaction

  • Make sure your ad clearly states that you accept cash only, though even cash transactions can be risky if dealing with a stranger.
  • Don’t give out information about yourself in an email other than time and place to meet.
  • Only do face-to-face transactions at a very public venue. However, be careful. The customer may have an associate who follows you and takes your money. If possible, bring along a friend or family member.
  • Cash, like money orders and bank checks, can be forged. If possible meet at your local bank and have a teller test the currency, but sometimes even they can be fooled.
  • Accept a check or money order only from someone you know.
  • Go with your gut. When in doubt, find another customer!

Here’s a copy of the unedited email. Look for many of the tell-tale signs of a scam! Fascinating reading; frightening reading too!


I have concluded with my Intructors on buying the Camera Equipment / Accessories, i sent your ad details to him and he so much love it, he also believes it will be a good instrument for beginners in my new photo editting studio class opening on february. What is your final price? My only hope is just for the item to be as good as speculated, Sending more pictures will be awesome though.

I would have been happy to travel down for the pickup and take a glance on the item or pay via PayPal since my class will be starting anytime soon, but due to circumstances beyond my control, that wont be possible because I’m kinda busy with a project that was awarded to me which have taken me out of home for the past few weeks/ Due to this present project which am running from an off-site where access to cash is denied i wont be able to pay you with cash , but i will pay you with a certified money order, which you can get cashed at your bank. You can hold on to the equipment until the you have successfully cashed the money orders at your bank so as to clear any doubts.

In response to that, how will you want your name filled on the money orders? Kindly write back to me With your Full Name.

Kindly get back to me with your valid cellphone number as well so i can reach you later.

Your quick response will be appreciated so i can instruct my secretary to send your payment immediately and also alert my shipping agency to be ready for pick-up since my classes will be starting soon.

Note that my shipper will be coming for the pick-up after you must have successfully received and cashed the money order at your bank.

Waiting impatiently to hear back from you with your Full Name and Cell phone Number.

Regards, Dave

For more information on internet crime and scams, visit the Internet Crime Complaint Center.

Do you have other suggestions for avoiding scams when selling camera equipment online? If so, share them in the commenting section below.