Might have bought a stolen camera?
May 27, 2010 1:07 PM   Subscribe

How would you play this? I think a camera I bought (and paid for with Paypal) may be stolen. The sellers name does not match the name of the copyright owner (saved in the camera). I have tracked down the person's name in the same city the camera came from...

but have not contacted him to see if his camera (which I now have) was in fact stolen. (It is a very new model with very few shutter activations) so now that I see the names don't match I am suspicious. It was purchased through a forum (not eBay). Is there a way to get my money back if it turns out to be stolen or would I be out if it turned out to be stolen and I returned it? It is possible that the camera is legit and was sold for a friend but my spidey-sense is tingling. This was a $500+ purchase (not that it matters ethically). Do I have Paypal protection for things not purchased on eBay? How would you play this?
posted by anonymous to Law & Government (13 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
just like a pawn shop, if you buy stolen property, and it is discovered, you really have no recourse.
posted by Gungho at 1:23 PM on May 27, 2010

First contact the copyright owner from a newly created annon email account and see if it's stolen. If it is then ask for proof like police reports, receipt etc..
If it's indeed stolen lodge a complain with Police.
PayPal protection policy sucks. If you don't care whether you paypal account gets disabled or not then dispute the charge with you credit card company and return the camera.

Just my 2 cents and I'm not aware of the complication of this method, so let's see what others think
posted by WizKid at 1:32 PM on May 27, 2010

Does googling the guy's name plus "camera" and/or "stolen" and/or "thieves" turn up any record of him complaining to the internet about the loss of his camera?
posted by aimedwander at 1:43 PM on May 27, 2010

How would you play this?

Unless you're leaving out some significant details, I wouldn't worry about it, and I'd enjoy my new camera. The camera could have changed hands quickly for any number of reasons other than theft. Perhaps X bought the camera, but then had a financial emergency and had to sell it to Y, who in turn sold it to you. Or X bought the camera and died unexpectedly, and Y was his or her heir. Or X bought the camera, didn't like it, and asked Y, who frequents a photography/camera forum to sell it for him/her. Or X won the camera in a drawing, took a few pictures with it and, not being much interested in photography, sold the camera for a tidy sum. Or perhaps Z bought the camera, and before she could get it home from the store, X mugged her and took the camera and, after having taken a few photos with it, was in turn robbed by Y, who then sold the camera to you. Et cetera.

If X had an unexpected bill or financial crisis or something and got rid of the camera for that reason, contacting him/her to ask about the camera could seem very weird and intrusive. Again, unless you're leaving out some additional information, I don't think the onus is on you to look into this any further.
posted by jingzuo at 1:43 PM on May 27, 2010

If the camera was stolen, you are not entitled to a refund from the original owner. You probably could, however, sue the seller for your money back.

Keep a log of all activity related to the sale, as it may become evidence. If it turns out it's stolen, let the Forum Moderators know as well - they may be able to assist with evidence by checking his account on the forums, and prevent the deletion of posts, etc.

I would do the right thing, contact the person you tracked down, and if it's stolen, assemble a paper trail and notify the police. With a bit of luck, you may be able to get your money back from the seller, either to avoid charges / a lawsuit, or through court.
posted by GJSchaller at 1:46 PM on May 27, 2010

Re: being contacted if it was my camera - I would MUCH rather be contacted and say "No, I sold it, it's cool" than have it stolen, and find out the recipient thought it might be hot, but didn't follow through.
posted by GJSchaller at 1:48 PM on May 27, 2010 [4 favorites]

How would you play this?

I'm thinkin' the Golden Rule covers this situation pretty well.
posted by spilon at 2:31 PM on May 27, 2010 [6 favorites]

spilon's got it. If it isn't yours legitimately, it isn't yours.
posted by leafwoman at 3:14 PM on May 27, 2010

If it turns out to be stolen, you may be able to deduct the amount as a loss on your taxes. Consult your accountant.
posted by jeffamaphone at 5:34 PM on May 27, 2010

Wait...how did you see the copyright info and number of shutter activations? Do cameras *do* that? Peers at ancient Canon. I don't think mine does. Then again, I have no idea what half the buttons on my camera do, so...

Ethics are personal. I would probably have never discovered the information you've uncovered, but if I did understand a camera well enough to have my spidey senses tingle, I would probably send an anon email to the possible original owner and ask if it were stolen. If (provably) yes, then you have to decide your next course of action.

Paypal will never return your money. Not now, not ever, never. Their dispute resolution is a joke. Paypal is great for micropayments and donations and Steam and whatnot, but I wouldn't use it for a big purchase because of situations like this, where if the camera is stolen, or even if it's just a scam, and you in all honesty, return the merchandise, you're out $500.
posted by dejah420 at 5:45 PM on May 27, 2010

Paypal will never return your money. Not now, not ever, never. Their dispute resolution is a joke.

I'll 2'nd this. Dispute the transaction with the Credit card company (if you paid with one)
posted by WizKid at 6:17 PM on May 27, 2010

Dispute the transaction with the Credit card company (if you paid with one)

Yes if you paid with a credit card less than 30 days ago you can dispute the charge and it will most likely get undone. PayPal might not like it but that's one of the protections of paying with a credit card rather than a bank transfer or check (especially for sketchy forum transactions).
posted by burnmp3s at 6:49 PM on May 27, 2010

Wait...how did you see the copyright info and number of shutter activations? Do cameras *do* that?

Not to derail, but short answer, yes. Modern digital cameras allow you to set all sorts of meta information, including owner details. The cameras also capture total shutter counts, which, if not accessible through a normal menu, you can usually dredge up through a service menu.

Finally, the photos themselves are now often encoded with what's called EXIF data, which includes meta information set to the camera, along with other details like aperture, shutter speed, focal length, lens model, and if you were wearing pants when you took the photo.

More to the point, contact the copyright owner. It'll be a sly game if they think they get a free camera back by lying, so ask for proof and meet your satisfaction that it was stolen, but go into it assuming it was NOT stolen.
posted by disillusioned at 3:37 AM on June 4, 2010

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