DigitalPro Shooter Volume 4, Issue 6, February 8, 2006

Top 10 Ways to Avoid Getting Ripped-Off on the Web!

As the web has grown so have the opportunities for shady merchants or just plain crooks to rip you off. Many of these rip-offs are easy to spot if you follow a few simple guidelines. In this issue we'll give you 10 top tips on how to avoid rip-offs!

Africa, ASIA & Alaska Photo Safaris 2006/2007 Update:

Alaska Grizzly bear trips,

July 2006:

Week 1 is SOLD OUT,
but we have 1 slot for Week 2 (July 16-23)

Grizzly Bear & Puffin
week in July 2006, so sign up soon.

Africa: May and November 2006: I'm leading two Digital Photo specialty trips to southern Africa in 2006, both focused on wildlife in May and November. Both will feature plenty of mammals & birds. We'll see Lions, Elephants, Giraffe, Leopards, Cheetah and quite a few varieties of Antelope along with several dozen other species of exotic animals. For more details and pricing, see: Images from the trip I lead this November are in DPS 4-01.

South-east Asia:

Thailand, Burma and Cambodia, January 2007:
We're just in the planning stages for a January, 2007 safari to Thailand, Burma (Myanmar) and Cambodia. We'll spend some time in Bangkok, but most of the trip will be divided between the temple areas in Cambodia (especially the Angkor temple complex including Angkor Wat) and Burma (including historic Mandalay and the plain of temples at Bagan). We'll have dates and pricing by March, but if you're interested please let us know at You can see some of the images from my last trip in DPS3-01.

Top 10 Ways Not to Get Ripped-off

10) Read the fine print. A surprising number of scams are "upfront" about what they are doing if you actually read all the fine print they make you plow through or agree to. A classic is USA PhotoNation (no link given since I'd just as soon not send anyone there!) If you struggle through their contents pages and terms you can more or less figure out that they're promising you only a raw camera body without any of the normal retail accessories, and that they expect you to pay them for the priviledge of cancelling after you find out that you're being ripped off.

9) Cheaters are easier to cheat: If a buyer or seller suggests going around the normal sales or auction process such as eBay's to avoid the fees, beware. If you go along you've put yourself at risk for two reasons. First, you've completed the transaction without any of the safeguards you'd normally have. And second, since you've circumvented your user agreement with the online site it is much harder for you to cry foul. This is a key piece of many "cons", where the "mark"'s greed is their own undoing. Don't let it be yours.

8) Beware of eBay "born again" sellers: Sometimes you'll find a great price on electronics or camera gear from a seller on eBay but if you look at their history or other auctions you'll see that they have historically sold something completely different. This is a valuable tell-tale that their eBay account has been stolen and is being used by some one to float a number of auctions for most likely non-existent goods. If the auctions also feature a "please contact me outside eBay" that is a serious red flag. As an example, when shopping for a satellite phone, the "same" 8-10 phones kept re-appearing under different eBay IDs. But no matter where the IDs appeared to be located, the auctions always had a message that if I'd only wire a paltry amount to Italy I'd have my phone, pronto. Trying to complete the auction legitimately through eBay resulted in a polite message from the eBay fraud department that the seller's account had been hacked and they were shutting down the auctions.

7) Benchmark the price you're getting: If the price you see is more than about 5% less than reputable discount dealers like B&H have listed for a product, then something fishy is likely up. Sure, there is the occassional exception, but more often than not, the big discounters are already within 3%-5% of the lowest profitable price for a product.

6) Check what's included: Make sure that the unit you are ordering has the accessories you expect, and is legitimately imported (if you know you are ordering gray market and know the risks, that's up to you). Many scam sites sell camera bodies without a battery or charger and then make you pay big $$ for them--when they are supposed to be part of the kit supplied from the manufacturer.

5) Beware of shipping charges: We all have some idea of what shipping a product should cost. Scam sites sometimes try to tack on hundreds of dollars in shipping charges. Make sure you know what you are paying for shipping and that you are getting value for your money.

4) Do some research or do business with people you know: There are sites with lots of un-biased user reports on sellers. Check out or, for example. Otherwise, stick to people and sites you're familiar with. For buying and selling used gear, for example, we rely on Laurie Excell of For new gear, Amazon, Roberts and B&H all do a great job. The For Sale Forum (moderated by Laurie Excell, the Equipment Lady) on our site,, is definitely "buyer beware" in that it is un-regulated, but items from long-time contributors have historically been very safe.

3) Even good sites have bad ads: This is one of the most depressing. At, for example, we work hard to control the Google ads which are placed on our site, but new scam sites pop up every week and we have to blacklist them one at a time. And sometimes the ad is only for a "price scanning" service which in turn picks up all sorts of prices including from scam sites. Other photo sites may not even work that hard to screen ads. So be careful even if you see an ad on a great site it doesn't mean it is an ad from a great company!

2) Know your rights: In most cases, no matter what the scam artist says, the credit card company and the law will be on your side. Make sure and demand your rights. If you are ripped off, tell your credit card company and try to have them reverse the charge. Tell the world and try to make life as difficult as possible for the scam site. If nothing else you'll help others. We maintain a Hall of Shame in our forums where readers can report scam sites and also a Hall of Fame where readers can report companies which provide excellent service.

1) If it is too good to be true, it isn't: If you can't imagine any way that someone can make money selling you a product for a particular price, they probably can't.

New Products

NAPP (the National Association of Photoshop Professionals) has begun producing a great Photoshop tip each day on Photoshop Killer Tips. NAPP is a great group, and their tips so far are worth checking out!

Look for new Dual Core (a fancy way of saying two CPUs on one chip) laptops, based on announcements from Dell, Gateway and Sony at DEMO 96. If nothing else these will help drive down the price of existing Centrino units and they will also accelerate multi-media and complex actions in Photoshop.

Adobe Camera Raw 3.3 is now available. Support has been added for the Canon 5D, Canon 1D Mark II N, and the Nikon D200.

Speaking of the Nikon D200, early banding problems seem to be getting fixed after a quick trip back to Nikon Service, but new units are in very short supply, with many dealers forecasting April or May before they'll have enough to fill new orders.

Show Invite

I'm doing a one artist show at the Seipp Gallery in Palo Alto, California from March 27 to April 28--Around the World in 80 Photos. If you're interested in what's possible in nature and travel photography with digital and archival inkjet printing, please feel free to stop by. If you're in town there will also be an opening reception from 6-9pm on March 30th. Details are on the home page of my photo site,

Moose Peterson has teamed up with the Perfect Picture School of Photography to offer online wildlife photography courses with Laurie Excell. For those who don't have the time or money to work with Moose in person, this is a great way to learn You can enroll in his first course here.

DigitalPro Tip

DigitalPro 4.0.5 update for Windows image browsing & cataloging software has just been released, adding support for Lexar's cool new Active Memory technology.You can learn more or download it here.

We've in the progress of over-hauling our site. We've already re-done the menus and are in the progress of re-organizing the content and adding many new articles. If you're interested in submitting an article for our newsletter or website, let us know.

--David Cardinal, Editor, DigitalPro Shooter

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