I recently won an auction for a lightly used AF-S 300 f2.8 on ebay for $1400. It is in immaculate condition and works perfectly. Here is my concern. The serial number has been carefully removed and black paint reapplied to that area. Somebody removed the serial number for some reason. Does Nikon put the serial number anywhere else other than on the outside of the lens? I don't know what to do, so I figured maybe someone else on here may know the legal implications of this. The member auctioning the item is a large auction house that lets you send the item to them, then they sell the item for you and then send you a check. What should I do?
Well...It sounds like someone didn't want the serial number traced. It could be a person who really likes his privacy, or it most likely is stolen. There is a wonderfull story on the D 100 forum about a member whose D 100 was stolen, sold on E-b@y, and fianlly traced and recovered by the police. Bon Chance
>So, as I asked before, does Nikon put the serial number >anywhere else on the lens? I would like to check it out >inside the period of time that I can still return the lens. > John - the only place Nikon put the number on this lens is on the underside of the aperture ring and on the box, which you obviously do not have. Your profile does not show where you live, but in the UK if you do not alert the authorities you are at risk of criminal prosecution for handling stolen goods.
No decent repair shop is likely to work on what seems to be stolen property as they could be charged with knowingly handling stolen property.
Alert ebay and alert the police, and cross your fingers you get your money back.
Photography is a bit like archery. A technically better camera, lens or arrow may not hit the target as often as it could if the photographer or archer does not practice enough.
>I would contact Nikon and ask if the serial number is >located somewhere else.
I did that today...and they said that it is not located anywhere else on the lens. I called a local authorized Nikon repair center and they said that if it ever required repair, they would be happy to repair the lens, if I was willing to pay for the repairs. Now if I could just find a cheap TC-20e...to give me a nice 600mm f/5.6
I would find out the guy who sold it to you and beat the crap out of him.
If you can't do that. Let it be known on eBay that this guy is not offering products on the up-and-up. Let the community know who not to deal with. If it's stolen, which I suspect that it is, inform the police, Nikon, and contact your lawyer. See if a notorized letter from the legal department will ease your mind. Once you have exhausted all avenues, use that puppy and enjoy it.
Personally, the first option would be the best one.
Well, I don't know if the seller will let me return the item just because it doesn't have a serial number on it. I will email him and see what he says. I may be stuck with it. If so, I hope it doesn't have any problems. I was hoping someone would say that the serial number is stamped into the lens body underneath the badge, or something like that. Apparently it is not imprinted anywhere else on the lens.
The following site lists Ebay's policy on stolen items. Unfortunately they do not suggest what to do if you believe you have purchased something stolen. Only what to do if you suspect an item currently up for auction is stolen.
It sounds like their policy is to get the police involved first. With a police case number, they can legally provide contact information for the seller. You should check with your local police, or an attorney, to find out what your rights are as the buyer. If an item turns up stolen, it could be confiscated without reimbursing you (which would suck). You can really prove an item without a serial number is stolen, but I imagine Ebay does not want that kind of "hot" property on their system.
If the seller is not willing to give you a refund, check with Ebay to see what they recommend. If they aren't willing to get involved, consider asking a lawyer to write a letter to the seller. If you have a lawyer buddy they might do it for free. Legal-speak on Law firm letterhead can sometimes be persuasive.
Legally, a seller can only grant as much of an ownership interest as he himself has. If there is a thief anywhere upstream in the chain of title, the ownership interest you received is zilch and the lens could be seized without reimbursement as mentioned above - if it were ever discovered to be stolen and if the victim could be located. The fact that you're an innocent purchaser would unfortunately be irrelevant. Even worse, once you discovered the problem it could be argued that any statutes of limitation began running against you - thereby limiting your recourse if the lens were to be taken away in the future. In addition, several states have laws that create a criminal responsibility for buyers of stolen property if the situation were one that would put a 'reasonable person' on notice that something was wrong - like the proverbial color TV set for $50 in the Wal-Mart parking lot. On the other hand, there could always be an innocent explanation for the missing serial number.....but it's hard to think of one, isn't it. I mean if the seller had removed the number to hide the fact that it was imported, he would only have done that to get a higher price. The fact that he didn't set a high reserve price but instead let it go for $1400 kind of blows a hole in that theory though, doesn't it?
Of course, you could just go on your merry way and probably nothing bad would ever come of it (except from the victim's viewpoint), but I figure if you were that kind of guy you wouldn't have expressed your concern here like you have. It's hell being honest and losing out on a great deal, isn't it? Actually, it is very likely that there would be legal recourse that would end up getting you a replacement lens for no extra money if it later turns out to be indeed stolen. The middleman may not want to admit it, but he is responsible for your damages if the lens ends up being stolen. He is not just an auctioneer (ebay is that) but he is actually the seller or an agent of the seller - in either event he is stuck with the same liability as the seller. His innocence would not matter any more than your innocence. But that would require a middleman of impeccable scruples or a good lawyer and a bunch of up-front money to carry the fight to them. At the very least, bringing the situation to his attention and getting him to take the position that it is not stolen would effectively be a guarantee of replacement if the worse should come to pass. It is legally too late for him to say 'King's X' and just give you your money back. Considering the $3,000 savings you made on the lens, lawyer's fees might be worth it in this case, especially since most states' laws provide for the recovery of attorney's fees in addition to actual damages in this type of situation.
BTW, Ive been a criminal prosecutor for 25+ years....or at least when they make me put my cameras down ... but this advice should be considered to be worth what you paid for it since laws do vary from state to state and I've hardly ever been outside of Texas.
Well, I am not as worried any more. I called a Nikon service center and was told that the serial number is not imprinted anywhere else on the lens. They also told me that the only thing that makes the serial number necessary is warranty repair work. since the warranty has expired on the lens, that is not an issue. This experience has made me think very hard about doing any further purchases on ebay. Although I did get an excellent deal, I almost feel like buying items on ebay actually promotes theft. I am an avid motorcyclist, and often look to ebay for spare parts for my bike. I wonder how many motorcycle parts on ebay were removed from stolen bikes.
in my experiences with ebay, typically auctioneers of high-dollar goods that are "on the level" are happy to give you a phone number or other contact info and talk to you before the auction ends (of course, maybe fraudsters would be too, i've not been in a position to know). at least now we know to ask if the serial number has been scratched out or otherwise removed!
I gotta respectfully disagree with you here. I have bought and sold on Ebay since around 1999 and I have saved thousands and made a lot too (mostly Photo gear and guitars). As with any venture, you have to know who you are dealing with and you won't get burned. That being said, even if you're careful you can get hurt from time to time just as you could if you shopped in a store and they proved to be disreputable. I don't think it promotes theft any more than any other classified ad service. The benefits far outweight the drawbacks to me. The key to being successful on Ebay is taking the time to educate yourself. Know your products, your market, and don't enter into high dollar transactions without reading feedback and asking all pertinent questions. It takes some footwork but it can be quite rewarding for buyers and sellers. One example of late; picked up a Nikkor 300mm f2.8 AIS EDIF for $500 in exc. condition. This lens in similar condition at KEH...around $1,000. I checked out the seller and asked a lot of questions; it was well worth the effort! Now the bottom line is that if you aren't comfortable with the process, you shouldn't trade there. I'm going to continue My opinion of course.
>The key to being successful >on Ebay is taking the time to educate yourself. Know your >products, your market, and don't enter into high dollar >transactions without reading feedback and asking all >pertinent questions. It takes some footwork but it can be >quite rewarding for buyers and sellers. One example of >late; picked up a Nikkor 300mm f2.8 AIS EDIF for $500 in >exc. condition. This lens in similar condition at >KEH...around $1,000. I checked out the seller and asked a >lot of questions; it was well worth the effort! Now the >bottom line is that if you aren't comfortable with the >process, you shouldn't trade there. I'm going to continue > My opinion of course.
Don't get me wrong, I like ebay. I will just never buy from a large "blind" auctioneer like Auctiondrop ever again. Their rating is 18,731...99.8% positive. While I do not blame them, I don't feel that they should auction an item that may be stolen. Their reply to me was that they DO have the name and ID of the original seller on file, if the item should turn out to be stolen.
>Don't get me wrong, I like ebay. I will just never buy from >a large "blind" auctioneer like Auctiondrop ever again. >Their rating is 18,731...99.8% positive. While I do not >blame them, I don't feel that they should auction an item >that may be stolen. Their reply to me was that they DO have >the name and ID of the original seller on file, if the item >should turn out to be stolen.
I understand your reaction. The balance of probabilities are highly stacked towards it being stolen so an ethical middle man would never have offered it for sale.
There are several Far East sites which openly invite UK buyers to falsify a customs declaration to avoid paying up to 21% duty. If the UK customer gets caught they can get charged with committing a crime, and insurers do not have to settle a claim if it is stolen as under UK law you do not own it if tax has knowingly not been paid.
Your concern, like mine, is e-Bay appears not to take steps to control either sale of stolen goods or tax fraud. The chance of ending up with stolen goods or other frauds is on the increase.
Photography is a bit like archery. A technically better camera, lens or arrow may not hit the target as often as it could if the photographer or archer does not practice enough.
From now on, I am only buying from reputable ebay stores and individuals who have a track record of selling items similar to the item I am bidding on. No more "middlemen" and no more buying high dollar items from people that have built their reputation on selling $.50 stickers or bubblegum.
A lens with the serial number scratched off is presumptively stolen. Let's not kid ourselves here, the serial number is removed to hide the identity of the lens and therefore the crime. You are supporting the spherical bastard that profited from its theft. Buying the stolen lenses aids the criminal (no market--no theft). I would not close my eyes to a lens with serial number removed because it's a good deal. Sure, it's a good deal for you. It's not a good deal for the person who bought it from a legitimate dealer only to have it stolen or for the rest of us who pay for insurance. Our rates reflect the cost of replacing stolen lenses. That's called spreading the risk. That's our lens, damn it. Give it back. Turn the bastard in. Refuse to take stolen equipment. Call your congress person. Rink a bell. Start a parade. ... End of rand. ... Mouth foaming, fade to black.
Ditto what David frothed. If you accept the good deal you got on buying stolen property, you increase the risk of having *your* property stolen in the future. Indeed, you become an accomplice in the crime itself.
The problem he will run into is that most of these Ebay places will not take the item back or refund. Next problem I talked to my brother who is police officer and works robbery and fraud for a living. He stated most departments will not take a case like this because of juristiction. He said the only route is the postal inspectors since it is interstate commerce, next twist if was shipped UPS or Fedex they might not take it. Now you can contact the local police were the lens came from he said but like his department you have to file in person, some may not have the time or finances to travel across the country. I guess my point is in these cases its better to ask the sellr for SN and try to have them run to see if they are stolen prior if not there is alot of apathy in this country anyway because of the way the system is set up. I think he has been placed in a hard position, its not like he bought it on the street and had a chance to see the missing S/N. He paid from what he though was a reputable ebayer and it arrived like that. Jim
Something my brother said and I didn't include is take photo's of the lens and send them to the local police department in the area the lens was sold with a certified letter of explanation. They can check the robbery cases to see if there is a match. From there if it is they may just let you ship the lens to them to include in the case file. But he said it does vary from state to state and even department to department.
eBay is a user regulate community. Read "organized chaos." If a vendor sent me a lens with the serial number filed off, I would attempt to return it for my money. Failing that, I would place explicit feedback about the transaction. I would exercise caution, sticking strictly to the facts, and not accuse the seller of anything. The fact that he sold the lens with a removed serial number is enough. I would never deal with an eBayer that did that.
A lens with the serial number scratched off is presumptively stolen. Let's not kid ourselves here, the serial number is removed to hide the identity of the lens and therefore the crime.
(No seasonal colors for this post...)
In general, I'm in agreement with both David and Mr. Westbrook. Stolen goods are a real problem and when you purchase goods knowing or believing them to be stolen, you become part of the problem.
Of course, should a lens get stolen and recovered, the serial numbers are still gone. I was a witness in just such a case involving a stolen and recovered computer well before home computers were commonplace. I had to go up on the stand and explain why in the absense of serial numbers I could be sure it was stolen property, and yes, the trial did result in a conviction.
That all being said, both you and any hypothetical owner are probably in a better position than many other eBay transactions where the serial number remains intact. Since both you and the seller dealt with AuctionDrop and not each other, there's another party from which either you or the hypothetical owner may recover.
In short, if the absense of a serial number was something "that would put a reasonably prudent man on inquiry," AuctionDrop should have been put on inquiry and you may recover from them. If not, you may well be a bona fide purchaser for value (aka a BFP) and have gained voidable title. In that case, the "true" owner may look to either AuctionDrop or their undisclosed principal for recovery.
That "reasonably prudent man" standard is determined by fact and the case law of a given jurisdiction. As far as I know, it is an untested standard for eBay auctions, and a case based on these facts has various complications of both Agency and Property law. Let's be careful out there.
"There is no real magic in photography, just the sloppy intersection of physics and art." — Kirk Tuck
Thank you for this reply. It makes me fell better...I think. Can I really make the assumption that it is stolen? Yes, that does seem to be the most likely reason the serial number was removed. Is it the only possible reason? I think not. If I was comfortable with the situation, I never would have brought it up. It seems that there are a few self-righteous fools on here that feel it necessary to chastise me for keeping the lens. I guess I would be doing the right thing by simply throwing the lens in the trash? I have already talked to Auctiondrop, and they will not refund my money. Ebay has shown time and time again that they would rather turn a blind eye to illegal behavior on their site. Quite frankly, Ebay doesn't give a damn...unless the party getting upset about an auction is Microsoft. Then they will cancel the auction as quick as you can blink an eye. Ask me how I know...anyway, I AM keeping the lens. It does work perfectly. I did get a great deal at $1400. I won't lose any more sleep over it. I will not read or reply to this thread again.
Lesson Learnt for all e bay lens purchases: ask for the serial number
Regarding your lens:
as one of the threads stated, the lens is not as advertised: the lens has been modified from the manufacturers standard. I would ask for my money back on this basis ( not on the basis that it might be stolen) If you have paid by credit card, many credit cards offer 30 day purchase insurance for internet purchases. Considering you have bought from a "reputable" auction house, this should enable you to get your money back.
As for just doing nothing.... You know its stolen, and what ever you say IT IS BUGGING YOU, as I hope it would bug any Nikonian. You will never really enjoy the lens as you will always know it's stolen. Do the right thing. Go the local Police station, disclose that you believe you may have inadvertantly received stolen property, tell them you have informed the seller and Ebay of your suspicions and demanded your money back. At the very least you will have a clean conscience and will be able to enjoy the lens.
You're in a unfortunate position but thankyou for sharing with Nikonians the pitfalls of E bay.
"seller with no success. They are going to send me an email to start the paperwork for the return. I really am torn, because I would rather know the history of the lens and why the serial number was removed. I would also like to know what the serial number was. I feel like the lack of a serial number makes the lens worth less, since it would be very difficult to sell again. Whether it makes it worth less than what I paid is debatable. I feel like I paid what the item was worth...if it had a serial number. Even if they do get a history on the lens and a valid reason that the serial number has been removed, I still feel as if they should be willing to refund me the amount that said removal actually detracts from the value of the lens.
John: I honestly think you've gone 'way past a reality check on the situation..
1. Most likely, you've purchased a stolen lens via e-bay.
2. You've just received an offer to return it, and escape uneffected from the situation.
3. You've announced to more than 20,000 Nikkor fans of the situation.
4. If - per-chance, however small, someone identifies that lost lens as theirs, by observation - or By Provenence - and that is established legally; you have NO Ownership rights (AT ALL) in the USA.
5. Get away clean. Now!
6. If you don't, and you lose it. Good!
7. I pay significant dollars in insurance, as do many others here, and in general. You may be costing me money!
8. This is Not a gee whiz, maybe this or maybe that situation.
9. This is Not a case of legal technicalities...although that's certainly there. Its a question of honesty, and ethics.
I hope I made my points as clear as can be done.
p.s. If you think I'm wrong, fine; say so and why. If you know I'm right, but you don't agree, do not bother..
In the Hills by the Finger Lakes...:)
" A velvet hand, a hawk's eye - these we should all have." - Henri Cartier-Bresson
I had a similar experience a while back. Bought a 70-200 VR for a Buy-It-Now price of $1000 even. When it arrived, it was perfect - except for that the serial number on the gold plate had been dremel'd out. Contacted the seller, who had over 1000 positive feedbacks, and he was not interested in taking back the lens.
I unscrewed the 4 tiny screws that held the gold metal ID badge on, and put the badge in my drawer (after replacing the screws). Looks better this way anyhow, the gold plate was a little 'bling' for me.
Still, I feel kinda guilty guessing what this lens's history might have been.
I gotta take John's side here. Let's talk realities for a minute. At this point, the seller won't give him a refund, ebay won't do anything, and turning it over to the police will not solve anything. Believe me, the police have way too much on their plate to spend a bunch of time fooling with a multi-jurisdictional headache like this. At $1,400 it wouldn't even be a felony in most states. And the Feds are not going to get involved on such 'small potatoes' (in their view), especially since 9/11 when their priorities were re-arranged. In a perfect world yes, but not in the real world. Unless the police were to miraculously find the person who could Prove it was stolen from him, they would eventually sell it at auction like they do everything else that piles up in their property room with no clear owner. Either that or some crooked property room clerk would add it to his personal collection.
John is the innocent purchaser who got stuck with the lens. He doesn't like it but that's what happened. The middleman and their seller are the bad guys here, not John. Since ebay and the middleman refuse to do anything, throwing the lens away will not help anyone. The loss has occurred and any insurance has been paid. The odds of rectifying that are infinitesimal. It seems the lesson here is to avoid that seller like the plaque. Besides, I'm trying to picture in my mind any of the bashers lifting the lid off the trash can and dropping in $1,400.
I agree, John has taken a beating on something that will not get resolved. As said buy others and my brother who is a robbery/fraud detective for a large metro police department and since it is multiple jurisdictions and interstate; if someone brought it to his department they would not take the case and would refer them to the postal inspectors. So I just for the sake asked the local postal inspector and he stated they do not investigate things like this because most of the time they are shipped via Fedex/UPS plus if Ebay provided a receit like it does with Paypal he would send the person home and wish them luck with thier purchase. So I think John feels bad and some are treating him like the thief. He tried to return and none of the legal remidies are viable so he's stuck. Now thier is the issue were yes he can't insure or probobly get Nikon USA to repair so hes at risk to. Plus no one brought this up, Ebay sellars are famous for removing SN# to hide illegal gray market that enter the country without a tax tariff. So this could be a case were the victim is the TAX man of the US goverment. John I hope you do read this not everyone is condeming you. Jim
Sorry about the poor grammer, I injured my right hand and typing with just my left is very hard
"Well, I am not as worried any more. I called a Nikon service center and was told that the serial number is not imprinted anywhere else on the lens. They also told me that the only thing that makes the serial number necessary is warranty repair work. since the warranty has expired on the lens, that is not an issue."
A statement like above speak volumes. It appears that John was primarily concern of being caught with stolen goods as oppose to actually buying a stolen lens. A statement like this does not convey any interest in getting his money back or getting the lens back to the rightful owner. The purpose of his initial post was to find out if there are any other locations the serial number may be found. A statement "I am not as worried any more" after finding out there wasn't doesn't convey that he wanted to try to get the lens back to it's rightful owner. It is not a case on him being worried of getting service on it. It smacked of seeing how he can be caught with stolen goods.
While many tried to give guidance on what steps he should take, this guidance was not asked for by John. Yes, I do agree that it gets to a point that nothing can be done in a situation like this but that was not the original intent of the post.
The original post, after reading further in the thread could very well have said...."I bought a stolen lens at a good proce. The serial number has been filed off. Is there a serial number elsewhere? Can I get caught?". Since he got the response he did from Nikon, he wasn't worried any longer. This is the bottom line.
If you read all his replies he stated he was hoping it was imprinted somewere else on two occasions, plus he did not know any of this prior to the lens showing up on his doorstep. This was not an back alley purchase were you can see the SN missing. Second I took his I am not worried about the SN in responce to getting repaire service if needed. But only John knows what he was thinking you and I are only guessing. But I hope this is an import scheem and not some poor person without a great lens and the lesson is always ask the seller the S/N if he will not give it out the stay out of the bidding. Jim
I agree. I think Mel is out of line. Maybe John was a little fatalistic (read realistic) about the process. He bought the lens on good faith. Once done, it was done and realistically no amount of sincere quilt or detective work was going to solve that problem for the defrauded party. At that point it is natural to wonder just what you've been stuck with and what the consequences might be.
And to put things in perspective, I consider myself closer to a moral absolutist than a moral relativist, and to assign some level of guilt or even complicity to John is waaaaay out of line and uncalled for. And unasked for as well.
John was given the opportunity to return the lens, but it seems that he was reluctant to do so. He would rather have the seller giving him a partial refund. Would you wonder what John's real concern is?
That was only when the thread first started. In message #30, John indicated that the seller was finally offering a refund, but John had since deleted the message. However, you can still read part of it as a quote in Message #31.
It is still grossly inappropriate for you or anyone else to examine his motives. He didn't ask you for a lesson im morality. He is the one who has to deal in the realities of resolving this issue, not you. I would be hesitant to re-deal with a third party seller who didn't have any reservations about selling the potentially hot lens to begin with. But then again, its pretty easy to gamble with _someone else's_ $1400. Right?
And if anyone is so morally outraged by his actions then why are _you_ sitting around in moral indignation and not doing something about it yourself, other than throwing the first stone? Surely there is someone you can call to report this? There's just nothing quite like the inactivity of the morally outraged.
}. I was thinking about calling her, but it doesn't matter any more, since I have shipped it back to Auctiondrop. If anyone lives in the vicinity of this person and has had a 300mm f/2.8 lens stolen from them, they may want to contact her for more information.
reading the previous posts, you have taken a bashing and yet I believe you are really trying to do the right thing. I just wonder whether it was wise posting the lady's name, address and so on. Sometimes, things aren't what they seem, and if - if - in this case that applies you have pretty publicly identified someone with an implication that they are not honest (or worse - I really don't want to type it). With all of the evidence, I reckon the local cops would be interested in investigating. Wouldn't it be better to quietly pass the matter to them?
I don't figure that many people would see this post anyway. If I have violated any of the rules of this site, please forgive me. An admin can remove the information, I am sure. The name and phone number were obtained from the shipping label on the box. The address was obtained from the internet using www.anywho.com and putting in the name only. She has a publicly listed phone number, so there is nothing confidential about it. If anyone else is more knowledgable about legal issues, they might want to persue that end of things. I am still pretty bummed out about having to send back such a beautiful lens. The thought of selling it myself crossed my mind, knowing I could certainly get more than $1400 for the lens. I just couldn't do it with a clear conscience. Auctiondrop has stated that they would take the lens back and keep it until such a time that they could establish a history for the lens. I assume this means that the original seller has been paid for the item. If Auctiondrop wants to persue contacting the police, I am ssure that they will. They are the ones that have paid $1400 for something that they cannot really sell.
PS - I just realized that the info was removed. Thanks...I won't let it happen again.