I got screwed. Now what?
February 16, 2016 4:56 PM   Subscribe

Remember my last question about selling a camera on Craigslist? Well, only days later it was gone - not sold, but stolen by a scammer who convinced me to accept payment via Venmo. Now what?

Yes, I know how dumb I was to agree to that, but I knew next to nothing about Venmo beforehand and I'm sure they were counting on that. The company itself goes to great lengths to convince you how secure and safe it is, only burying the fact that there is no buyer protection deep within their user agreement, and proudly proclaiming to be a "service of PayPal, Inc." but neglecting to mention that it carries none of the reassurances that you assume that brings.

Anyway, what should I do now? I am fairly certain I'll never see the camera again. Do I even bother filing a police report?
posted by Venadium to Law & Government (28 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Can you tell us what actually happened?
posted by andoatnp at 5:01 PM on February 16, 2016 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: If it matters, sure. The person contacted me via text with an NYC-local phone number asking if I'd accept a payment for the camera via Venmo. I was hesitant at first because I didn't use Venmo and knew nothing about it, but after looking into it briefly it seemed safe. So I joined Venmo, sent him my username, and agreed to meet the next day. He sent the money shortly before he arrived, I deposited it into my bank account before giving him the camera (I was assured by the Venmo FAQ that this was all I had to do as according to them transfers cannot be canceled and are totally secure), and went home. The next morning the funds did not appear in my bank account, so I started contacting Venmo asking what was up (this in itself is no easy task - there's no phone support, and I had to resort to email and some kind of live "chat" within the Venmo app). It took them 3 days to get back to me to let me know that I had in fact been scammed and that I'm shit out of luck because I should have read all the fine print in the user agreement that states that Venmo is not to be used for "merchant" transactions and that there is no protection for this sort of thing whatsoever. And now I'm out $2700 and some asshole has my camera.
posted by Venadium at 5:09 PM on February 16, 2016 [1 favorite]

you may have already seen this, but it appears this is a common scam (hn discussion).

(i realise it's not a direct answer, but perhaps it will help others move on to answering the question. also, thanks for posting because i could easily have made this mistake too).
posted by andrewcooke at 5:25 PM on February 16, 2016 [3 favorites]

I'm sure the number was a burner, and the venmo account name not much better, but I guess a police report wouldn't hurt...what sort of information did venmo get from you? Maybe some of that info they collected from the thief would help the police track them down, in addition to what you've got. It would definitely increase the chances of the thief getting caught if you make it as easy as possible for the police (without putting yourself into danger, of course).

In the future you need to dictate how you're paid as you are the one selling the item. I typically do cash-only even for items in the thousands of dollars range. I know that's probably not the best idea, but it's worked out so far. Also, I see from the earlier post that you priced the camera similarly to a new one. People (at least, non-scammers) don't go to craigslist for new items at new (or new-ish) item prices.
posted by destructive cactus at 5:31 PM on February 16, 2016 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: I actually did say no to Venmo at first, but since it'd been a few days since I listed the camera and I was eager to sell it, and Venmo seemed secure, I agreed.

Also, i did end up lowering the price after my last post but it was never priced the same as a new camera - I had it listed the same as a Demo condition used camera was going for at Adorama and B&H, as well as eBay. It was listed for $2700 when it went - not a bad price for a brand new never used $3200 camera
posted by Venadium at 5:51 PM on February 16, 2016

You should possibly report it to the police because you may be able to deduct the loss.

I would also suggest reporting it to your attorney general to encourage the state cracking down on unregulated financial services that lend themselves to fraud like this. For all the hate that banks get, they actively try to prevent shut shit like this.
posted by Candleman at 5:52 PM on February 16, 2016 [21 favorites]

I'd file a police report. If you have a serial no for the camera add that too.
posted by zippy at 5:52 PM on February 16, 2016 [1 favorite]

You could try adding the camera's info to Stolen Camera Finder.
posted by girlmightlive at 5:55 PM on February 16, 2016 [8 favorites]

Do you have homeowner's insurance or renter's insurance? Did you buy it with a credit card that provides insurance on purchases?
posted by miyabo at 5:56 PM on February 16, 2016 [1 favorite]

Police. A public tweet to Venmo wouldn't hurt either. BTW, do you have the scammer's email address? Any way to track him? (Not that he'd likely leave any trace...)
posted by run"monty at 6:09 PM on February 16, 2016 [4 favorites]

Despite their reputation, the NYPD isn't completely terrible at recovering stolen property. It seems to depend on who's desk the case ends up on. Though the success rate is probably low, and it takes a while, I have known people to get property back after filing a police report and waiting a few months.

So I'd file a police report just in case, especially if you have insurance or can deduct the loss or something.
posted by hermanubis at 6:09 PM on February 16, 2016 [1 favorite]

I had the same thing happen to me years ago when paypal was young. I accepted a paypal payment for some electronic that was $400. The kid seemed ok, earnest enough, said he needed to use a credit card. It turned out he had access to somebody else's paypal account and was on a buying spree. Paypal reversed the charges and I was out both the money and the gadget - only if it had been shipped would I have been protected by Paypal.

I absolutely made a report. My renter's insurance covered it. Your home owner's or renter's insurance might do the same thing.
posted by sweltering at 6:09 PM on February 16, 2016

If Venmo "assured you" that a funding cannot be canceled, and indeed it was canceled, sue them. Good little small claims action. The small claims referee won't let them cite their TOS if they outright lied to you, and if somehow he buys it, you can appeal. Every step of the way costing them tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees and potentially terrible publicity.
posted by MattD at 6:11 PM on February 16, 2016 [14 favorites]

I would file the report. As noted above, if you have renter's insurance or homeowners this might be covered. Same with credit card. Also, if the buyer turns out to be doing this regularly and the cops do recover a bunch of stolen items if you have filed, you have a chance of recovering the item.

When time is of the essence, I would sooner go to a pawn shop and pawn it or sell it to them than do a Craig's List transaction for anything other than cash. And, if I did a CL transaction for cash, I would only accept 20s (maybe 50s) because of the risk of counterfeit 100s
posted by AugustWest at 6:26 PM on February 16, 2016

I deposited it into my bank account before giving him the camera

It was never deposited, thats why its not in your account. You should have waited, but thats over now.

Go to the cops and give them ALL the info of this thief, including cell number. Do you know ANYTHING about this dude except cell number? ANYTHING else? email, where he lives, anything?

If Venmo "assured you" that a funding cannot be canceled, and indeed it was canceled, sue them. Good little small claims action.

posted by hal_c_on at 6:46 PM on February 16, 2016 [3 favorites]

This may constitute a theft under your homeowner's/tenant's policy, though they typically have a separate limit for things like cameras. You probably won't be able to get anywhere near the full amount if that's the case, but maybe $500 is better than nothing...
posted by lizbunny at 6:54 PM on February 16, 2016

Try keeping your eye out on Craigslist or other online markets for the camera, the thief may put it up for sale themselves.
posted by lizbunny at 6:55 PM on February 16, 2016 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I don't have much info other than the name and number he gave me, both fake I'm sure.

I understand that the money wasn't instantaneously depositedto my bank account when I clicked 'Transfer' in the app, but Venmo claims that once you do so that the money is yours and the payment isnt able to be canceled or reverersed.

I do have renters insurance actually. I hadn't even considered that as I assumed it wouldn't cover this since it didn't actually happen here but I'll have to look into that
posted by Venadium at 6:56 PM on February 16, 2016

Renter's insurance will likely cover it, depending on your policy.
posted by masters2010 at 7:07 PM on February 16, 2016

Definitely file a police report; go to your home precinct tonight or tomorrow. The report will be your official record for insurance or anything that requires a paper trail. They may or may not investigate any time soon, and even if they do, you may never hear about it, but once you have your report number you can check on the status. Also, having the item on record means you have a claim to it on the off chance it's seized (as a part of another bust, for example.)

NYC is a busy place but my neighborhood precinct actually did seem to investigate some debit card fraud on my account. I only filed the report as a formality as my bank required a report number in order to refund the money. So I was surprised that they actually assigned a detective who followed up with me.
posted by kapers at 7:08 PM on February 16, 2016 [2 favorites]

And sorry this happened. That sucks.
posted by kapers at 7:10 PM on February 16, 2016 [1 favorite]

Did you find out from Venmo exactly what he did? I am guessing that the payment *wasn't* cancelled or reversed, it just was from an account that did not have sufficient funds or some other fraud. The transaction fell through, just like bouncing a check.
posted by RustyBrooks at 7:13 PM on February 16, 2016 [2 favorites]

Also, given the value, in NY this would qualify as grand larceny, a felony.
posted by kapers at 8:14 PM on February 16, 2016 [3 favorites]

Personally, I am a big fan of Square. Never used Venmo and now it sounds like I never will. I agree you should definitely file a police report and hand over all the info you have. I would also going after Venmo, because that's horseshit. I'm sorry this happened to you.

I think you know this now, but an authorized transaction is not a final one. I've always only dealt with straight up cash with craigslist but for a large amount of money, I'd probably accept a check or something but only after it cleared and after I googled the person to make sure they matched the check.
posted by AppleTurnover at 12:24 AM on February 17, 2016

folks, the only thing in OP's favour is the FAQ entry that says they "can't reverse a payment". there's a whole pile of details in the terms + conditions saying that (1) it's not to be used in this way (as a merchant) and (2) that the user agrees to return money when venmo say so. those are not a contradiction with the FAQ entry because, as explained in the article i linked to earlier, OP never received payment from the payer - he simply received an advance from venmo.

people have known about this scam for some time (again, see linked article). OP is not going to suddenly win some court case against a company run by members of the paypal mafia. drop it.
posted by andrewcooke at 3:42 AM on February 17, 2016 [5 favorites]

AndrewCooke -- I read "assured" to mean that OP actually contacted a Venmo CSR by chat or phone, described the transaction, and was told that there was no reversal risk. All the TOS and FAQ in the world isn't likely to protect Venmo from small claims liability if that happened. If "assured" means OP misread the FAQs and TOS and "assured" himself as a result, then, yes, not a lot to do.
posted by MattD at 6:04 AM on February 17, 2016 [1 favorite]

In future, accept cash only and have patience when waiting for a buyer -- most of the stuff I sell on Craigslist has been sitting for a month or more before someone comes along who is willing to pay my original asking price. Most people who genuinely want my stuff don't check the site very frequently; it's just when they suddenly want something that they go looking for it. Those are the people you want to sell to.
posted by phatkitten at 7:01 AM on February 17, 2016

I think RustyBrooks probably had the right of it - just because they say the payment can't be canceled or reversed, doesn't prevent them from using an account with no funds. Police report asap and definitely renters insurance.
posted by corb at 2:54 PM on February 17, 2016

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