I was almost robbed in my own home – beware the new scam targeting photographers

Feb 24, 2023

Richard

Alex Baker is a portrait and lifestyle driven photographer based in Valencia, Spain. She works on a range of projects from commercial to fine art and has had work featured in publications such as The Daily Mail, Conde Nast Traveller and El Mundo, and has exhibited work across Europe

I was almost robbed in my own home – beware the new scam targeting photographers

Feb 24, 2023

Richard

Alex Baker is a portrait and lifestyle driven photographer based in Valencia, Spain. She works on a range of projects from commercial to fine art and has had work featured in publications such as The Daily Mail, Conde Nast Traveller and El Mundo, and has exhibited work across Europe

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I was almost robbed in my own home - beware the new scam targeting photographers

There are a lot of scammers targetting photographers, it seems like. I’ve been lucky enough not to have been affected by these, until recently. There is a new scam aimed at photographers selling their used equipment, and I almost fell for it. I want to get the word out so that you know what to watch out for and don’t fall victim to these people.

I’ve been selling a bit of photography equipment on Facebook Marketplace, and so far, I’ve never had an issue. However, a fellow photographer friend of mine had a terrible experience where he had a camera stolen via a fairly sophisticated con. I didn’t believe he could have fallen for it, until it almost happened to me.

I was almost robbed in my own home - beware the new scam targeting photographers
The ad placed for the lens I was selling

Last month my friend was selling his Canon EOS R6 on Facebook Marketplace. The guy came round to his house and decided very quickly that he wanted the camera. So he got his phone out, and he went through the payment process via his mobile banking app.

Everything looked 100% legitimate at this point, there were no red flags from my friend’s point of view. The buyer showed my friend that the money had left his account via the app and assured him that the payment had been made. It should appear in his account anytime.

Now many bank transfers certainly don’t always go through immediately. Some banks can take up to 24 hours to acknowledge the payment into your own account. So again, no immediate red flags here. The buyer took the camera and started to walk to his car, then drove off extremely rapidly. It was only at this point that my friend began to wonder if he’d been conned.

Of course, the money never arrived in his account, the man had effectively stolen his camera from under his nose. The banking app looked extremely convincing, but it was completely fake. Obviously, I felt very badly for him, and fortunately for me, had his story in the back of my mind for when someone tried to pull the same trick on me.

So now it was my turn to sell a couple of lightly used lenses that I don’t use much anymore. They were in good condition, and I was asking a fair price for them. I exchanged some brief messages with a man who told me he wanted to buy one of the lenses for his father.

I was almost robbed in my own home - beware the new scam targeting photographers
The conversation with ‘Peter’ before he tried to rob me

Usually I check the profile out of the person first, and it all seemed very normal. Nothing to cause any alarm bells to ring anyway. I didn’t notice that the profile photo would be different to the person who actually showed up to buy the lens. The man insisted on coming to my house to collect the lens after dark. Again, not so unusual in the UK in winter, it’s dark well before the end of the working day. Luckily my partner was also at home at the time.

He came to the door, and he was a very big guy. It was again, quite a quick process. We agreed to the price, and then he got his phone out to pay through a banking app. I told him the story of my mate, and I could just sense from his face that someone was off.

I told him, “I’m not I’m not going to give you the lens unless I’ve got notification on my side”. After about a minute, I still haven’t received a notification, and my bank is usually immediate with notifications.

The buyer started to get angry, saying that I should trust him. He even suggested that I let him go outside to take a photo of his car licence plate as collaterol.

I stood my ground, and the altercation got more heated, with voices raised. It was quite intimidating, given the man’s stature. Eventually he just grabbed the lens out of my hands and tried to make a run for it out of my apartment. Fortunately, I was able to wrestle it from him again while my partner shouted that she was calling the police. This was luckily enough to scare the man, and he ran off, making an extremely fast getaway. I can only suspect that he had someone in a car outside waiting for him.

I had a close call, but imagine these people are pulling stunts like this three or four times a day. Online security and phishing is a huge deal these days, but you don’t think that you could fall prey to that via a local second hand sales market in person.

My advice is to be extremely wary of anyone buying your used camera equipment, especially if it is a high value item. You can look up their profile and check if they belong to any camera clubs or online groups. A non-photographer buying professional level equipment is a bit of a red flag. Particularly if they say it’s for someone else and they seem to know nothing about photography.

Other than that, you can sell through trusted sites such as MPB or even Ebay, which will have some sort of recourse if everything goes wrong. Or you can insist on cash. I would also advise from meeting them at your home address after this experience. Unfortunately he now knows where I live, leaving me more vulnerable to future break-ins. I have since taken steps to upgrade my home security for this very reason.

Honestly I feel extremely fortunate that no one was hurt. As a wedding photographer, I am often out and about with thousands of dollars worth of equipment and have heard some scary stories of photographers being robbed at gun point while out on shoots in London and San Francisco.

It’s a sad state of affairs not to be able to trust people, but my hope is that by sharing this story it will prevent others from falling victim to the same scam.

About the Author

Richard is a successful wedding photographer in the South of England. He wishes to keep his identity secret for security reasons.

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15 responses to “I was almost robbed in my own home – beware the new scam targeting photographers”

  1. James Robinson Avatar
    James Robinson

    You had someone off the internet meet you at your house to buy something? What is this? 1997?

    1. Millennial Wants to Know Avatar
      Millennial Wants to Know

      What would you have done in 2023? Involve Paypal or other services as a trustee? Pack the parcel under the eyes of an expert witness to avoid the claim you just sent some bricks? Use parcel post insurance for values north of 1’000€ and registered post, just in case something was dropped or lost? Only sell to well known dealers who are paying you 75% of what’s possible because they want to make profit as well? Or rather meet at a public place with a body guard at your side and a sniper on the roof? Just kidding with the last point.

  2. Bill Renneker Avatar
    Bill Renneker

    Scary experience. I would strongly advise insisting ahead of time on payment in cash only, and meeting the buyer at a public location near a place of business, never in your home.

  3. Burt Johnson Avatar
    Burt Johnson

    I can see how easy it would be to fall for that scam. I have always insisted on cash, but then I have not sold any equipment for a decade. Today, with so many people using phone banking apps, it would seen natural to see that and allow it… :(

  4. Greg Silver Avatar
    Greg Silver

    Cash only!

  5. Kyle_shoots_things Avatar
    Kyle_shoots_things

    The only thing that surprises me is that sellers are still letting buyers come to their home! For God sake, meet at your local police station or at a busy public place.

    1. Millennial Wants to Know Avatar
      Millennial Wants to Know

      As if the police (or any bystanders) would care a flying f* if they see two strangers fighting for some glass. Being the buyer – what would you think if someone asks you to show up on a parking lot to pay cash for something that is worth more than 1k? Would you ask for a passport? Run a background check on the guy and see if the serial number reports as being stolen?

      I had a guy defrauding me with a vintage Nikon macro lens that he pretended to sell. Passport, bank account, home address – even the provided DHL tracking ID all seemed to be legit so I wired the money.

      Package never arrived, bank account was opened with a fake passport, cash withdrawn using a cash machine, surveillance video was unusable. Home address existed but residents’ registration office refused to give any details “for data privacy reasons”. I involved the police and public prosecution, the case was closed soon after, “not able to identify the perpetrator”.

      Ah, and: The lens was advertised on a DSLR forum. Operator of the forum refused to give any information on the originator of the account. You guess the reason: “data privacy”. When asked by officials it turned out that – very conveniently – his software/database crashed and the backup did not contain any data on the case.

  6. james whittlesey Avatar
    james whittlesey

    Vemo is instantaneous. Or cash only.

  7. Jared Polin Avatar
    Jared Polin

    why would you invite someone to your dam house!!!!

  8. Novastorm Avatar
    Novastorm

    Sorry to hear you had such an experience. Here in the Netherlands we have 2 ways of handling this. You can either send someone a “tikkie” (it’s derived from Tag, like in ‘tag you’re it). This is an app where you create a payment and you send the info to someone by whatsapp or whatever. And once they pay, the money is save. You can go ahead.
    A lot of banks in the Netherlands also have the “create payment” option, where you ask someone for money and they can scan the QR code that’s appearing on screen. Once they scan it, and pay, you’ll get a notification and it’s on your account straight away.

    But this “fake banking app” is also a big hit here. Same as the “can you please transfer a few cents so I can check you are legit” and they are using a fake bank website on their tablet/phone/laptop. and you login to that website.

    Always, always be careful. as soon as someone starts rushing, it might be a red flag.

  9. Hoss Avatar
    Hoss

    But it’s 2023. This is certainly not new. scams like this have been around since before the internet. Seems like folks should know better at this point. “Here’s a check, I’m good for it” is more a commentary on the person accepting that, than the scammer trying such a lame route

    1. Kaouthia Avatar
      Kaouthia

      Nobody’s done cheques in the UK in like 20 years.

  10. Michele Peterson Avatar
    Michele Peterson

    Always do a transaction at a trusted place. Police departments have cameras in the parking lots. Do the transaction within site of one. The cameras are recorded. Bring a friend or two.

  11. Ahd Child Avatar
    Ahd Child

    I used a nearby police station parking lot when I sold gear recently. I did not specify cash only in my listings, but it seemed like all the legitimate buyers defaulted to cash. The scammers that contacted me wanted to pay through apps

  12. Arthur_P_Dent Avatar
    Arthur_P_Dent

    When we sell something online and it’s an in-person sale, we always
    meet the buyer at either a local fast-food joint or parking lot at the
    big-box store, which keeps it in public and prevents some rando from
    finding out where we live.

    BTW, thank you for correctly using the
    term “robbery.” I’ve seen too many people use it to describe a theft,
    which is where the item is taken without either violence or threat of
    violence. #respect.