Nfld. & Labrador

Photographer scammed on Kijiji was 'just looking for a new camera'

A St. John's-based photographer says she's out $1,000 after being scammed on popular online classifieds site Kijiji. Since sharing her story with CBC, she's been berated on social media for starting a GoFundMe account to recover her losses.
Photographer Sarah Hall says she's out $1,000 after being scammed on Kijiji while trying to buy a second-hand camera. (Sarah Hall)

A St. John's-based photographer says she's out $1,000 after being scammed on popular online classifieds site Kijiji. Since sharing her story with CBC, she's been berated on social media for starting a GoFundMe account to recover her losses.  

Sarah Hall, 21, posted on the local section of the website in search of a new-to-her camera — a Canon 5D Mark III.

"A guy contacted me and said he had one and we agreed on a price and he seemed really nice," Hall told CBC's St. John's Morning Show.

"And we also agreed that I send half the money and send the other half when I received it and made sure it was in good condition."

I try to see the good in people — which turned out bad for me.- Sarah Hall

The camera price was $1,800, so Hall sent an email money transfer to the man in Ontario for $1,000.

He sent her a tracking number of a courier company she had never heard of before, but Hall didn't think much of that — until she received a notification from that company that her parcel, which was supposedly coming from Ontario, was tied up in customs.

"I go online and it says it was shipped, all was good. I then go to my photography email and check my spam inbox — just check that sometimes — and there's one from this tracking service, this courier service, saying it was stuck in Durham airport in Ontario, which doesn't exist," she said.

"They said it was stuck in customs there and I had to pay $400 to get it continued on to me."

Hall texted the man who sold her the camera, who suggested she get in touch with the company, because he needed the remaining balance for the camera.

"It was around that time that I was like, oh no."

'I try to see the good in people'

On its website, Kijiji lists tips and advice for sellers and buyers, stating the service is meant for local transactions. Kijiji recommends meeting in person with a seller before exchanging any money.

Hall said there was some hesitation on her part when she agreed to send half the amount before receiving the parcel, but the man she arranged it with seemed genuine.

"Definitely there always is like the inkling or suspicion in your mind like, I have this $1,000 that I've been saving up for two years, this person could be a con man," she said.

"But I try to see the good in people — which turned out bad for me."

Since realizing the purchase was a scam, Hall said she's been unable to get in touch with the seller who "refuses to answer his phone."

Social media backlash

Hall said she needs the camera for a trip later in February and initially set up a GoFundMe account through her Facebook page to try to purchase the camera before then.

In a Facebook post Monday evening, Hall thanked those who donated to the page, adding, "I've almost made back the money that was stolen from me."

But Hall said she decided to close the GoFundMe page after receiving "too much abuse and harassment" from "judgemental people who do not know me, my business, or my situation."

Hall said she's "starting to feel unsafe" after her inbox filled with messages from people accusing her of "outlandish things." 

The photographer said she plans to get in touch with each person who donated and will send them something in return. 

The scam, Hall said, has been reported to the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary.