Photographer victim of scam in Canada

Technically, we don’t operate in Canada, but that doesn’t mean I can’t feel for the person, and this scam could happen anywhere, so let’s talk about it. Sarah Hall was the victim of an internet scam. She’s a photographer who shoots costly, so just up my geeky alley. First of all, if you’d like to help her recover, and help her continue her passion, she has a gofundme. Her camera is falling apart, so she’s been looking for a new one and saving up, for quite a while. She’s looking for a $3,200 camera. In her words:

My name is Sarah Hall. I’m a 21 year old photographer from Newfoundland, Canada. I run my own photography business, Sarah Hall Photography, where I specialize in cosplay and fashion photography. Today I have been the victim of an internet scam, having $1000 stolen from me.

Last week I posted an ad on Kijiji looking to see if anyone was selling a Canon 5D Mark III, because as most people know by now, my current camera is falling apart and just doesn’t work well anymore. As a 21 year old who works part time and has to pay for life’s necessities, I couldn’t purchase a new camera for $3500.

A man from Ontario contacted me on Kijiji and said he had a camera and we can negotiate a price. We agreed on $1800, and I would pay him the $1000 upfront (I had saved that $1000 up for 2 years straight), and then I’d send the $800 when I received the camera in the mail and made sure it was in good condition. All seemed good and he seemed like a very respectable, kind, honest man. We had been communicating via text. I e-transferred him the money and he accepted. He didn’t send it out that day as his daughter was “in the hospital after a diabetic attack” and he “couldn’t leave her alone” as his wife had died and his daughter was all he had. I, being the nice person I am, sympathized and told him no worries.

So let’s pause right now. She put out an ad, and someone came looking. You are kind of setting yourself up here, but she’s young, and doesn’t know much better. You can certainly get an honest person, but you have to remember you don’t know them. If you agree to a local meeting, this is also very possibly a robbery, I’ve seen it before. Meet in a busy public place, and bring friends. Not a friend, friends. Then, as soon as the excuses start coming, you really know that you are in trouble. I’m not sure how the E-transfer went down, but Paypal and eBay and many other services offer insurance. Use them. A wire transfer is a one-time non-guaranteed deal. Once it’s gone, it’s gone. A good credit card will also have some protection.

So the next day he texted me saying he shipped it out. With a courier service called Safeway Courier. The name of it rang a bell (turns out I was thinking of Sameday Courier), so I didn’t question why he shipped with that instead of Canada Post or FedEx. He gave me the tracking number and I go onto the site, put it in, and all seemed legit. He then asked me to send the $800 to help pay for medical bills for his daughter and stuff. I said I didn’t feel comfortable doing that and he understood, although he kept bringing it up for days after.

You’re the buyer, you get to set the terms, and you can send a UPS call tag, which is something you can send via email for them to print out, and they just hand it to the UPS guy with the package. Again, this puts you in control, but you won’t be able to verify what is being shipped until it arrives. You can have confidence in the courier, though.

Then last night I logged into my photography email and checked my spam inbox as I do from time to time, and I saw in my spam box is an email from “Safeway Courier” saying that my package was held at the Durham International Airport in Durham, Ontario and I had to pay tax revenue on it. $400. They didn’t give me a place to send the money to, just said I had to send it to them for the camera to be sent on to me. I then googled this “airport” to get the number as I felt suspicious of this email, only to find out that the airport DOESN’T EXIST.

There’s a bit of story here, but we then get to this:

I then told Frank to reply to me or I would go to the police. No response. So I went to the police and filed a report. They say the likeliness of anything coming of it is slim to none, as that’s what happens with 99% of these cases.

So now you see how this goes. There’s no way to do much of anything. At 21 years old, we can hardly blame her, much wiser people have fallen for the same thing. I write fiction, and the thing that makes you believe is details in the story, and she got all the details to make her believe. It’s a sleight of hand, because the operation extracting money from you is very direct, all the other business is smoke and mirrors.

But here’s the reason to give to the fund that is linked above:

So now I’m out $1000 that took me 2 YEARS to save up, I’m probably not getting the money back, and I’m going on an extremely important photography trip in 2 weeks that I was trying very hard to get my new camera for.

We started this because we feel it’s important people keep up their livelihoods and passions, and a thief shouldn’t be able to rob someone of both. Be forewarned, keep your head out there, and please help an artist in need.

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