Ebay Scam: People Still Trying To Sell "Pictures" Of Things

Seller “awesome_electronics” (feedback zero) is selling “pictures” of items. Get it. It’s just a picture.. Ha, ha, ha. From ebay:

You are Bidding on a picture of a Apple iPod Video Black 30 gb that is BRAND New In BOX. As you can see in the picture it has never been opened. I Only Ship to the continental United States. I do not ship to PO Boxs. This is an as is sale There will be no returns. Payment is due within 3 days of sale ending. Thank you for looking at my sale and Happy Bidding!

We guess this is what happens when 12 year olds think of scams to pull on the internet. Sadly, according to BoingBoing at least one person fell for it before their post drove the bidding up over $100,000 (for a picture of a HAM radio.) Hardy har har. —MEGHANN MARCO

Seller awesome_electronics [eBay]
eBay bidder beware of people selling pictures of things [BoingBoing]

UPDATE: eBay took “awesome_electronics” listings down. Alas. We’ll always have the screen shot to remember him/her/it by.


Edit Your Comment

  1. insightpatch says:

    Sadly, it’s probably NOT legal to send him a picture of $40 for payment…

  2. gorckat says:

    There is a small part of me that says “More power to the guy selling his pictures.”

    Just small enough to not do it myself :p

  3. mopar_man says:

    And yet you could report this to Ebay and they wouldn’t give a shit because they’re getting their cut of the profit. I can’t even remember how many auctions I’ve reported for excessive shipping (which is cutting into their profit) and they don’t do jack shit about it.

  4. tracilyns says:

    that sounds like a 12-year-old thing to do. lame.

  5. Meat_Shield says:

    Couple thoughts:

    1) As always, caveat emptor!

    2) I haven’t bought a whole lot of stuff off ebay, but I would NEVER consider a seller without a lot of positive reviews. I even read the review to make sure they don’t sound too similar, which would tell me they are fraudulently entered (yes I know, not foolproof, but will sometimes catch the dumb ones).

  6. Indecision says:

    A lot of these are skeezy, and it’s tough to defend them. But there are some where caveat emptor definitely applies.

    I remember back when the XBox came out, I saw an auction that read something like “You are bidding on an X-BOX *BOX*. This is JUST THE BOX. There is no X-BOX inside it, you are only getting an empty box!”

    Very clear, and not buried in tiny print. Right in the description, near the top. People had bid it up to several hundred dollars more than an X-Box was worth at the time. At that point, whose fault is it, really?

    Sure, the person putting up the auction knew that people probably wouldn’t read, which still makes him a bit of a creep. But how dumb do you have to be?

  7. foghat81 says:

    Shady? For sure. However, I keep finding myself thinking “Buyer beware”. It’s ebay afterall. There’s lots of honest buyers & sellers for certain, but the scum of the earth is there as well.

  8. Munkeyhatecleen says:

    Judge Judy is a friend of Consumerist:


  9. kimbot says:

    there was a case on judge judy about this. a woman sold a mother and daughter pictures of two cell phones for nearly five hundred dollars. judge judy gave them five thousand. that’s what you get for being a scammer.

  10. kimbot says:

    @Munkeyhatecleen: whoops look like you got that one covered.

  11. GitEmSteveDave says:

    Not to be anal, but since they list most of the items under “Consumer Electronics” and not “photos”, wouldn’t this be a violation because it’s under the wrong category?

  12. MeOhMy says:

    Buy it and then demand a refund on the grounds that the item is “not as described.” The description says “As you can see in the picture it has never been opened” but you can only see one end of the box, therefore you have reason to believe that the box in the picture has indeed been opened.

  13. jitrobug says:

    So where’s the modern web 2.0 replacement for ebay?

  14. quantum-shaman says:

    It’s not a violation, it’s just a category snafu and you can sell pony poo under electronics if you really want to. I looked at this guy’s auctions. God I am SO tempted to send him some really rude and obnoxious questions, like can I send you a picture of the payment? (haha, very funny that one!) There’s nobody bidding on any of them except the ham radio and there isn’t a ham radio on the planet that is worth six figures. I suspect those are shill bids to lend some sort of taint of respectability to this guy who is otherwise clearly a major a-hole.

  15. Sephira says:

    definitely a twelve year old. note that the name is actually “awesome_electroincs”.

  16. LintMan says:

    I seriously can’t believe these people who pop up after ebay scam articles here that think it’s even a the tiniest acceptable to rip off people who aren’t “paying attention”.

    If a cashier overcharges you on some items you’re buying at the grocery and you don’t catch it, is that OK? More power to them! You should have watched them more closely!

    The people getting scammed by this stuff are most likely internet newbies and people with poor english language skills. Cheering on the people thay prey on them is like cheering on bullies that steal smaller kids lunch money.

  17. MeOhMy says:


    There’s nobody bidding on any of them except the ham radio and there isn’t a ham radio on the planet that is worth six figures. I suspect those are shill bids to lend some sort of taint of respectability to this guy who is otherwise clearly a major a-hole.

    Or perhaps a fun-loving vigilante with some expendable bogus accounts running up the price thus guaranteeing that A) no one will actually get suckered in and B) the seller will be stuck with a choice of attempting to make a claim for a non-paying bidder (kinda like filing a police report when someone steals your crack) or getting stuck with $300+ in fees which he will no doubt never pay.

    Either way the seller is screwed.

  18. quantum-shaman says:

    @LintMan: That’s right the guy needs a serious ass-kicking and I’m just the one to do it. But I can’t, so I reported him. I hope all you ppl who can so glibly spout “caveat lector” kept your yaps shut real tight about predatory mortgage practices.

  19. quantum-shaman says:

    @Troy F.: Well that’s pretty friggin excellent. I didn’t think of that. Let’s all go over and bid, huh!

  20. Funklord says:

    Uh, the whole Judge Judy thing? Not really a punishment for the scammer. What happens when one agrees to go on those shows is that they pay you a decent sum of money for appearing. Any decision made by the judge comes out of your appearance money. So while the morons who bought the pictures got some extra cash, the scammer didn’t have to pay anything out of his own pocket, he just got his appearance fee reduced. And remember, by agreeing to go on the show, the scammed folks agreed not to pursue the case in a real court. Meaning the scammer got away scot-free, got to keep the original payment, and probably made a few bucks for the appearance.

    Justice my kiester.

  21. Mojosan says:



    If their mom accidentally misplaced a decimal point on a check she wrote and lost $10,000.00 I’m sure they show the same snide adolescent attitude of “LOLz, you shoud have paid teh attenshunz!!!”

  22. yg17 says:

    I’m so tempted to buy that and send in some pictures of cash for payment…but knowing my luck and how crappy our legal system is, I’d be the one in hot water over it.

  23. The people getting scammed by this stuff are most likely internet newbies and people with poor english language skills.

    @LintMan: Oh but see not only were we all supposed to be born with all current and future knowledge of Internet scams but the official language of the Internet is English and anyone who doesn’t read/write it perfectly gives up any protection the law gives them whenever just by opening a web browser.

    Basically, if you make it even the slightest bit easier for a crime to be committed against you, the crime itself becomes legal. Like if you forget to lock your car door and someone takes it: it’s not stealing, you gave it away!

    Any decision made by the judge comes out of your appearance money.

    @Funklord: Are they really paying people $5,000 or more to appear on their show?

  24. Eilonwynn says:

    Well, this certainly explains some of the weirder questions i’ve been asked. The business i work for sells postcards and vintage photos, with subjects from cars to certain historical figures’ bibles – we regularly get questions asking us if we are selling the item itself or the photo (even though we state, over and over, clearly as can be imagined, that it is only a photo or a postcard.)

  25. gorckat says:

    @LintMan: I seriously can’t believe these people who pop up after ebay scam articles here that think it’s even a the tiniest acceptable to rip off people who aren’t “paying attention”.

    If a cashier overcharges you on some items you’re buying at the grocery and you don’t catch it, is that OK? More power to them! You should have watched them more closely!

    The difference between the cashier and a crummy ebay sale is that the cashier doesn’t set the prices. They would flat out be stealing by purposefully overcharging.

    By telling a person they are “bidding on a picture of an item”, they’ve told the person what they’re getting.

    Its not that different from people being surprised about an ARM reseting on them- didn’t they read the loan paperwork? (Assuming it was legit and not an AmeriQuest type loan, of course)

    At some point, personal responsibility is the order of the day whether its a car loan from a dealer, a home loan, a sub-prime credcit card or a picture of an iPod.

  26. Buran says:

    It says it’s a picture right there in the item description. There’s no fraud here. If you buy it and expect more than what the description says it is, it’s your fault and not the sellers. The seller is still a git, but that’s all they are obligated to give you if that’s what the auction was for.

    If I were to do something like this (and I wouldn’t; I’m an honest seller when I do occasionally sell things on eBay) and someone then filed a complaint against me, they’d find themselves reported as nonpaying buyers and I’d be going after them to pay up or lose their ebay privileges etc.

    This is completely a case of “buyer didn’t read the auction description, buyer is now whining that they got something other than what they hoped they would get and did not in fact pay for”.


  27. Indecision says:

    @Rectilinear Propagation: I don’t know how much the court shows pay the guests, but think about this:

    The production cost of a show like Judge Judy is ridiculously low. There’s, what, *three* actors? Judge, bailiff, and announcer? A single, simple, and unchanging set. The audience is probably folks who lined up for free tickets. It’s an easy show to shoot, and people love ’em, so advertising space probably sells for a decent rate.

    Then consider that, at one point, Sheindlin was the highest-paid woman in TV history, with her ratings surpassing even Oprah.

    So, they could definitely afford to pay a few grand to each plaintiff and defendant. Besides, without that kind of incentive, who would go on the show? Why subject yourself to all that humiliation, plus a “judge” that isn’t actually bound by the law or judicial standards, if there’s no benefit over regular small claims court?

  28. quantum-shaman says:

    @Buran: Technically correct, but ask yourself this: What is the intent of the seller? Is his intent to merely sell pictures of electronics, or is his intent to misrepresent what he is selling by preying upon people who could not/would not take two seconds to understand what they were actually bidding on? The statutory definition of a crime includes the WILLFUL INTENT to cause HARM. Clearly, what has more value, a picture of a very expensive ham radio, or a ham radio? He’s not selling pictures of dryer lint, is he you retard. It is a psychological bait-and-switch of the lowest order. This is effectively NO different than Ameriquest putting variable rate papers under your fixed rate contract and asking you to sign everything.

  29. mathew says:

    Personally, I refuse to buy from anyone who puts LatatK in the summary description.

  30. mantari says:

    @Munkeyhatecleen: Judge Judy for the WIN! A Judge Judy episode where a woman was selling a picture of cell phones. I laughed so very hard!

  31. Buran says:

    @quantum-shaman: Is it really an intent to cause harm if the seller clearly describes the item front and center as a picture or an empty box? I don’t think so. When I see auctions like this the seller repeatedly states that it’s just a picture/box (I saw an auction very much like the xbox box auction described elsewhere above, for instance), they try to hammer it into your head that that’s what you are getting.

    How exactly are you harmed when you buy something like this that’s repeatedly described as what you do end up getting? It’s your own failure to think “Hmm. Well, it says it’s a picture/box, but maybe I’ll get more because I’m paying more” that harms you.

    Not the seller. Not fraud. Just wishful thinking and hoping that someone else screwed up and that you’ll get a windfall.

    That only works in the movies.

  32. Hoss says:

    eBay just took down his listings.

  33. quantum-shaman says:

    @Buran: Again technically correct. And technically, yes it is the fault of all those poor dumb suckers who got Ameriquest loans, too. But just because you made a mistake, that does not lend any legitimacy to what these people are doing or otherwise make it lawful. Let’s lower the bar and say “ethical”. I say it’s misrepresentation. It’s misrepresentation because it’s obviously debatable just how “clear” this seller’s descriptions are. It’s clear to you and me, but it sure is a safe bet that it isn’t clear to the schmuck who is bidding $110 on a picture of an iPod box. It is not in any way reasonable to assume that a reasonable person would willingly pay $110 for a picture of an iPod box.

  34. kimsama says:

    @Rectilinear Propagation: The deal appears to be you get a few hundred dollars as an appearance fee, and the producers pay the settlement fee. It’s not a small claims court (though the award limits make it look like it is), it’s the settlement of arbitration. So, for example, the cell phone case on Youtube:

    Scammer lady: paid $500 appearance fee (money comes from producers)
    Sucker and daughter: each paid $500 appearance fee + $5000 award (money comes from producers)

    So, unfortunately, the only “payment” that the loser doles out is the public embarrassment handed down by Judge Judy.

    @Indecision: You’re one hundred percent correct: this show has got to be mega-profitable.

    The only advantage over small claims is that you may get lucky and have Judy rule in your favor, even though the law wouldn’t be on your side in small claims. This can happen, as Judy doesn’t have to follow the law when arbitrating. She can simply follow principles she agrees with, which appear to be along the lines of “If you interrupt me, you lose!” and, “People without jobs are bad!”. Also, another advantage is that the winner knows they will receive the award (something that is not a guarantee in small claims).

  35. chs says:

    i’m reading and i say to myself what people are going to be scammed,
    i just go to ebay, log in and i report it and guess what 15 minutes later — ebay took this of already and suspended this seller –
    BTW quick from their side

  36. MrEleganza says:


    I think you’re missing the point. As Quantum pointed out, there’s a reason he’s not selling pictures of dryer lint. He’s HOPING people don’t read it carefully and send him big bucks because they think, through not being careful, they are getting much more that what they are. He is setting a trap. If he was really just gawrsh-I-want-to-sell-photographs, he would photograph kittens and put them in the right category. His intent is clear.

    Now, as long as you follow the letter of the law and give the buyer an opportunity to read the print, fine or otherwise, then not only is the law (IANAL) on your side, but some people don’t even find it ethically problematic. In this dog-eat-dog world, they applaud such creative and technically legal ways to make big bucks! Perhaps you are one of these people.

    Personally though, I find such people absolutely reprehenisble. Their supporters too.

  37. @chs: From what I hear it’s usually difficult to get eBay to do something about the fraudulent auctions. There was either a lot of people reporting this guy or they know of the articles popping up about it.

  38. raindog says:

    Yeah, I think if this went to a jury trial, the kid would be screwed. He’s advertising it (through the category) as a piece of electronics, not a picture, and a good lawyer would argue that the auction constitutes fraud, as in false advertising and “bait and switch”.

    But the fact remains that the auctions are in the wrong category. I reported dozens of auctions like this one while shopping for a Wii at launch time, not just “picture of a Wii” but also “information on where to get a Wii” auctions, and in all cases they were gone within hours. I did it not to protect people from getting screwed, but because it sucked having to wade through all the bogus auctions to find the real ones.

  39. not_seth_brundle says:

    Forget bait and switch–this is a case of unilateral mistake and the contract can be rescinded for it. The bigger problem is that the buyer won’t realize his mistake until he’s paid the seller and the photograph arrives in the mail.

  40. BruinEric says:

    Glad to see Consumerist is now leaning toward the right side of this issue. There are sometimes honest mistakes in Ebay listings, but semantic tricks should be exposed.

    Late in 2006, Consumerist called a buyer of an Ebay listing a “Dumbass” because they purchased “3 PS” system clearly mistaking it for a PS3 system. The listing was not clearly worded, and included these gems to mislead: “Not PRE-ORDERED..HAVE IN HAND…” and “THERE IS NOWHERE TO FIND EVEN THE 20GB SYSTEMS THIS CHEAP”


    Glad to see y’all come around!

  41. timmus says:

    Ebay’s lax policy about this is really bad for them. They don’t seem to realize they’re destroying the integrity and trustworthiness of their own business. The exposure on Judge Judy will be bad for them.

  42. barneyfred says:

    This seller is no longer a registered user on Ebay. I wonder how long it’ll take before they re-register under a different name?

  43. Buran says:

    @quantum-shaman: Ameriquest was actively scamming people by actively fraudulently changing the terms after you signed up. You signed one thing, you got another. That’s fraud.

    Actually getting what you paid for when you were told what you were paying for is not.

    Yes, it’s a costly lesson in not paying attention and it’s ethically deplorable of the sellers to hope that people will fall for it, but it’s not fraud and it’s not the seller’s fault if you do.

    I’m not missing the point. But I am also pointing out the wrongness in saying it’s the seller’s fault and the buyer deserves their money back. They got what they were sold, after all.

    If you want to point fingers, point them where they belong — at people who don’t carefully read before bidding.

  44. Buran says:

    @MrEleganza: Oh, I didn’t say they aren’t jerks for doing this. I’ve said several times in fact that they are and that I don’t do this — because I feel it’s wrong.

    But a “scam”? That’s stretching things just a bit. If it’s a “scam” now to sell something, then give it to the buyer when they pay for it at the price the buyer agreed to pay, that makes everyone guilty of scamming when they sell on eBay!

    The only thing wrong here is the “gotta have it” mentality overriding common sense.

    “People wouldn’t be willing to pay that much for a picture?” They must be, because you do have to confirm your bid after you enter it and if you click “confirm” you sign a legal contract to buy the item — as described.

  45. Nick says:

    @Buran: A contract? Look up unconscionability in a contract law book. All of these ebay scammers are clearly intending to deceive the buyers, and in doing so are basically making a bad-faith contract that is patently unfair to one of the parties. Such contracts are unenforceable.

  46. raindog says:

    Yeah, there’s no meeting of the minds when the seller is deliberately deceptive. Business law 101, never mind contract law.

  47. quantum-shaman says:

    @Buran: Your logic would render all reasonable and just laws, and the enforcement thereof, irrelevant. It would make a mockery of justice, due process, and equity, and one can only hope that you will one day enjoy the receiving end of a similar unconscionable act so that you might begin to understand the significance of your dysfunctional thought processes.

  48. The Bigger Unit says:

    I actually wrote the person who had bid on everything being sold by the seller (I told him/her that the items were just photos, not actual items), and he/she simply replied “I know! ;-)”. So I’m guessing that person was bidding to add legitimacy to the proceedings…? Either way, it’s extremely shady…but people MUST read the descriptions. I scour them repeatedly before buying anything now.

  49. LintMan says:

    @Buran: Let’s get to the heart of the matter here: Do you honestly believe these “picture sellers” with their listings in the electronics section and pricing equivalent to the actual electronics are *honestly* just trying to sell a picture that no one in their right mind would buy?

    No, of course you don’t believe that. Can you provide *any* plausible alternate intent for these sellers than “scam some unsuspecting sucker for their money”? I seriously doubt it. And having the intent to mislead and rip people off make them first order pond scum.

    So why the hell are there people here defending this in any way? Even if it’s dubiously legal (which I doubt), why is anyone at all defending these royal scumbags?

  50. Buran says:

    @quantum-shaman: So my thought process is dysfuctional for putting blame back where it’s deserved?

    Only on the Internet …

  51. Buran says:

    @schwnj: I don’t think an auction, where it clearly states that the auction is for a picture/box, is deceptive. The fakes that I’ve seen are clear that they’re for a picture/box. If you’re talking about an auction that really does hide the fact that it’s a picture/box, that’s entirely different, but the screenshot above clearly says “picture” and the ones I’ve seen repeatedly state that they’re not for the actual piece of electronics.

    Given this fact, yes, you did knowingly buy the item. I’d like to see a bank let you get out of a car loan or a mortgage on the grounds of “I didn’t know what I was getting” unless they were fraudsters like Ameriprise — and even then, if you signed it without reading carefully, that’s your problem.

    Why is it that this site can give advice in one story to carefully read everything you sign, and make it your fault if you don’t, and in another story, say you SHOULD be let out of a contract you had multiple chances to not enter into, and you entered into willingly?

  52. PlanetExpressdelivery says:

    Anyone think that EBay should require sellers selling pictures, boxes, and other misappropiately labeled items to tag their auctions with a large (eye-catching) disclaimer that notifies the buyer that they are not purchasing the actual item? That would probably cut down on these types of shady auctions, and would do the Ebay name some good. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that these are scams, listing an item’s dimensions and specifications give people the wrong impression about the actual item they are bidding on. Why aren’t these sellers posting the dimensions of the picture instead?

  53. mattbrown says:

    there’s only one way to solve this scourge. Chemical castration.

  54. Buran says:

    @LintMan: No, I am sure they are hoping you won’t notice. But whose fault is it but your own if you don’t? If you don’t read carefully it’s your own fault if you get suckered. It’s not like the auctions don’t say “picture” or “box”.

    I’m getting sick of people not owning up to their mistakes and refusing to say “I goofed, I should have been more careful”. Anything to pin mistakes on someone else other than ourselves.

  55. raindog says:

    It’s the seller’s fault for illegally advertising their phony goods under the “Electronics” category and not the category for pictures. Period. “Picture” in the eBay description historically means “I have a photograph of this item if you click through”. eBay agrees with us — they terminated the guy’s auctions — and I’m guessing a judge would too.

    You can mitigate your losses by assuming everyone is falsely advertising, but a buyer’s stupidity doesn’t absolve the false advertisers from their crimes nor allow a contract to be created without a meeting of the minds.

    It isn’t just a bunch of Internet kooks who aren’t on your side of the argument, Buran. Neither is legal precedent. But feel free to prove us all wrong by pulling off a sale like this one on eBay and then successfully defending against the PayPal claim. Simply put, you won’t.

  56. Jesse in Japan says:

    Why is shipping 10 dollars?

  57. @Jesse in Japan: Because he’s trying to make it look like he’s shipping something heavy. The seller wants people to think they’re buying the iPod, not a photo of it (which is why it’s also in the electronics section instead of photos).

  58. not_seth_brundle says:

    @Buran: From comments you’ve posted elsewhere here I understand that you have a disability and you are usually a fairly outspoken defender of people with disabilities.

    So would it change your opinion at all if you knew that someone with a disability such as dyslexia or visual impairment was taken by one of these sellers? Such a person goes on eBay, searches for an iPod in the electronics category, looks through the auction, sees a picture of the iPod, the word “unopened,” $10 shipping, a seller with the word “electronics” in the name, etc. With all that, it is really easy to miss the phrase “a picture of” in the description. The word “picture” in the title is easy to miss, and anyway it wouldn’t matter, because sometimes sellers will include that word in their title to let you know that if you click through you’ll get to see a picture of the item for sale. So with all the signals indicating that it’s an auction of an actual iPod, there really is only teeny tiny print stating that it’s not. And the seller’s intent to deceive is clear.