Archivi categoria: scam

The Mysterious Case of the Returning Leica

In November 2016, I was in a transitional part of my life (I still am) and was considering selling my Leica M2 and switching to a digital Ricoh GR. I listed the camera on several Facebook camera trading groups and the Australian/UK Craigslist alternative, Gumtree. Long story short, I was scammed while trying to sell it.

The signs were obvious now, looking back, but I was desperate and really needed to believe what I was being told was true. I first received a text message suggesting that I keep in contact with a buyer via email. I then received an email that night saying that the buyer was an oceanographer and that they were in contact with me via a satellite Internet connection from a research ship.

A story like this surely would have tipped off anyone… if not for the fact that an uncle of mine has in fact worked on a marine research ship.

I was sent fake PayPal statements via email, and so I stupidly sent the camera to China, of all places. Days went by and the money never came. I only realized it was a scam when I received an email supposedly from PayPal, saying that there was an error in their system and I was overpaid by a thousand dollars and that I should wire another thousand to the buyer before receiving any of the money.

After grieving over the fact that I had lost the camera, I found myself in a pretty dire financial position and unable to pursue an internship position in Jakarta and potentially move to Melbourne sooner. But I eventually made it out over to Melbourne, and since arriving I sold my Ricoh and then here I was, a photographer in Melbourne with no camera.

Then suddenly out of the blue in March 2017 (4 months since I thought I had lost the Leica) it reappeared at my old address in Perth. From there, I got it sent over here to Melbourne by my aunt.

I once said that the M2 and I didn’t really bond, perhaps trying to mask the hurt of the fact that I had lost it. But clearly I wasn’t thinking straight as it’s a much more beautiful camera than I remember. After receiving it again this week, I shot a roll of Agfa Vista 400 (essentially Fuji Superia 400) and have had some low-res scans made of the images. Even these are wonderful.

I have many thoughts about abandoning film in favor of digital. While I still feel that the Ricoh GR is an incredibly amazing little camera, the issues of sensor dust kept plaguing the one I had. The GR belonging to my friend Justin also died out of the blue (a camera he bought due to my suggestion). All of these issues suggest to me that it is just not a robust system, especially if you are shooting everyday.

My particular M2 is over 50 years old and I guess here’s hoping for another 50. I’ll take it a sign from the universe that I’m basically supposed to be shooting film. Below are some other color photos I took before losing it last year.

If there is a lesson to be learned, it’s that you should be patient when trading and selling your gear online. There could be a whole array of reasons why the camera came back (most likely that the thousand dollar transfer was the real scam and the address in China was fake), yet another thing I took back is that I guess sometimes miracles do happen and that film really does never die.


About the author: Emil Prakertia Raji is a photographer and musician based in Melbourne, Australia. You can find more of his work on his website and Instagram. This article was also published here.

Watch Out: There’s a ‘Bad Reviews’ Scam Targeting Photographers

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Scams targeting photographers are nothing new. There’s one that we’ve seen for a few years in which the “client” asks if they can send you a check for more than they owe you so you can pay some other vendor for them (they then bounce the check and you end up having paid the vendor scammer your money). Another one out there tries to sell you an interesting or desirable domain name. There are other more local ones (fake Craigslist ads or eBay sales for instance).

Other scams are more subtle — the only clue is the phrasing, or wording in the message. (This is one of the reasons many photographers use a contact form on their website — to help us determine which are real inquiries, and which are spam or scams.)

This one here is a good example. There’s only a few subtle clues that this is spam (I clicked the spam button to report this as spam and make that yellow warning come up).

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We have a newborn on the way and we are looking to book a session. What is the studio address? What is the length of a session? When can we meet? Thank you, Mark Schwartz.

Recently a number of local photographers have been on the receiving end of a new kind of scam — one that’s kind of mind-boggling in it’s complexity.

The basics in this particular example are as follows:

  1. There’s an initial email inquiring about your services
  2. A second seemingly unrelated email offering “reputation management services” either from “Gina” who claims to be in “Utah” or from “Jennifer” who is a lawyer. This email offers you a chance to hire them to handle any “bad reviews” that pop up online, and they encourage you to keep their contact info on hand “for future needs”.
  3. After this, a series of supposedly angry “clients” send emails about how horrible the service was and the experience is with your company.
  4. Bad reviews about your business begin popping up on various legitimate (and not so legit) review sites online.

Shortly after receiving that first email above from [email protected],” I received the following, each nested together as one ongoing conversation thanks to Gmail’s inbox organization system. I captured screen shots each time a new one arrived (click to enlarge).

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One local photographer who received the first two emails in the series went on to discover a trail of fake “bad reviews,” tracked down one person who reviewed her business, and discovered that “Jennifer B” had reviewed 147 other photographers across the country. All with identically worded, scathing reviews of a very personal nature.

Why Is This Worth Sharing?

This needs to be shared because, simply put, the “reviews” industry is not as transparent, legitimate and straightforward as one might think, and it can be ridiculously hard to remove fake reviews. (Been there, tried to do that).

While I cherish the reviews my clients take the time to write about their experience with us, I’m also incredibly frustrated with the “business” of reviews, largely because the average consumer out there has no idea just how false, misleading, wrong and abused the majority of review sites are. I certainly had no idea about the what happens “behind the scenes” with business reviews.

Review sites are a booming business for the review site owners, and now it appears they’re of interest for criminals too. They’re also something that is incredibly time consuming, frustrating and stressful for most small businesses because of the sheer amount of abuse we receive personally and professionally through these sites from both with legitimate clients and fake clients.

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It’s not unheard of for our competition to resort to posting fake reviews in order to try and gain an edge. Buying reviews is incredibly easy to do and it’s also not unheard of for customers to make false claims or post bad reviews for reasons completely unrelated to the service they receive, and as we’re now seeing.

Removing, modifying or altering unreasonable or fake reviews is almost impossible — it is the Internet, after all. Some review sites even advertise that they never remove a review, for any reason, even false ones. Others will only remove poor reviews if the business pays for the removal. Yelp is one review site that is involved in several court cases to determine what kind of role the it should have in managing this issue.

What You Can Do

  • Don’t respond to the emails!
  • Set up a Google Alert for your business name
  • Watch your business on a few different review sites and attempt to respond to the false reviews with a link to this post to educate potential readers, or by submitting “proof” to the review website.
  • Contact the Federal Trade Commission via its toll free hotline: 877-FTC-HELP (877-382-4357) or the FTC online complaint form.
  • Contact the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Internet Fraud Complaint Center
  • Non-emergency number for your local police department to make them aware of the fraud (larger cities will have a cyber crimes task force or department).

For more information, or to report a scam, check out The Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3). The IC3 is a partnership between the FBI, the National White Collar Crime Center, and the Bureau of Justice Assistance.

Another great resource to learn about and test your ability to understand if something is a scam or not is Looks Too Good to Be True. This site was developed and is maintained by a joint federal law enforcement and industry task force. Funding for the site has been provided by the United States Postal Inspection Service and the FBI.

And for more information about how this is being handled by search engines, this Forbes article is quite interesting.


About the author: Kat Forder is a photographer based in Baltimore, Maryland, who serves clients from Virginia, Pennsylvania, Delaware and Maryland. She is both a storyteller and a child at heart. You can connect with her through her website and Twitter. This article originally appeared here.


Image credits: Header graphic based on photo by hobvias sudoneighm