SCADS - Stamp Collectors Against Dodgy Sellers

Stamp Collectors Against Dodgy Sellers

eBay suspends image stealing scammers

October 15, 2004:

Dodgy sellers continue to try their luck on eBay, as evidenced by three image stealing scams reported to SCADS in the last month. eBay has in each instance suspended the seller concerned. Nevertheless, "Caveat Emptor" still applies, so be alert for the warning signs described below, and report suspect auctions through the Report link at the bottom of the Selling Stamps page.

pfaff_collectables - big-ticket items, cash only

In mid-September, the Dutch seller pfaff_collectables (registered on July 29) listed over 400 5-day auctions of good-quality items, all due to end in the space of an hour. According to the description, he was selling off duplicates from his father's collection to raise money to buy a house, and requested payment in cash only, claiming that other options such as credit cards and PayPal were too difficult to organise in the Netherlands.

Whilst there was already heavy bidding three days before the auctions were due to end, collectors' hackles were raised by several warning signs of an image stealing scam:

Scans of early Canada covers offered were identified as having been stolen from the Robert A. Siegel Auction Galleries, Inc. website:

1856 Canada Grand Trunk Railway cover auction 808, lot 745
1859 Canada cover to England auction 808, lot 752
1858 Canada cover to Chicago auction 808, lot 754
1866 Canada cover to China auction 808, lot 761

The seller was reported to the Siegel auction house and eBay, and was suspended shortly afterwards.

steals_on_deals - stolen images

This appropriately-named zero feedback seller registered in Canada on 2 October and began listing the following day. eBay Stamps chat board members identified the scans of some of the US stamp auctions as reduced-size versions of those of recently completed auctions of US stamp seller anthonysstamps.

One member e-mailed steals_on_deals for a scan of the back of a set of three Graf Zeppelins (#C13-15) offered, and received a reply from a Hotmail address. The enclosed scan (titled "grafzeppelinback") showed the back of a single stamp with markedly different perforation characteristics.

The auctions were reported to anthonysstamps and to eBay, and the seller was suspended within 24 hours.

troposcatter02 - stolen images in one-day auctions

The novice German seller troposcatter02 ran two one-day auctions of high-value US stamps. The descriptions and scans of both were taken from the auctions of seller almohet, also registered in Germany.

One of the listings (US 1869 90c, Sc# 122) included both a mint stamp (image taken from a recent almohet listing) and a used stamp (cropped reduced-size image taken from a listing of US stamps seller savedow). The used stamp was unsold and was relisted by savedow. The other listing (US 1918 2 carmine type VII, Sc#534B) erroneously contained a scan of a different stamp, and was taken from one of almohet's current auctions.

This definite evidence of image stealing was complicated by troposcatter02 offering a cheap lot of Australian stamps, using a larger scan of the exact stamps supposedly sold by almohet to low-feedback German bidder die_marke01 a few weeks earlier. die_marke01 had also bought the only other lot offered by troposcatter02 as a seller.

The seller almohet's own recent auctions looked suspicious. This seller, who until now had dealt with lesser material, was suddenly offering high-value US stamps, and had inexplicably sold the Sc#122 for $500 in a buy-it-now auction, before relisting the same stamp the following day, and it eventually sold for $1905. Both troposcatter02 and die_marke01 were among the unsuccessful bidders! Also, the PF certificate mentioned in the description was not scanned and shown.

Both of troposcatter02's US stamp lots were reported to eBay. Connections between the IDs were made and eBay eventually suspended the three IDs troposcatter02, almohet and die_marke01. As the suspensions did not take place until some days after the auctions had finished, it is possible that the high bidders had already paid for the items.