Hey, i know there are a lot of scammers out there that ruin people’s excitement for reptiles so i just want to warn people about the one I encountered and tips to help you catch a scammer.
I found this guy on Instagram and his photos went back a few months. Nothing super shady, like a week or day old. And I saw an Enchi Banana clown that i really liked, so i inquired.
He said he was only charging $350 for it. Red Flag🚩- on MorphMarket , those balls go for upwards of $1,000. So either this is a CRAZY good deal or a scam.
The Instagram said one name, but later when asked for proof that he was legit, he sent a video of his unapproved seller’s profile on morphmarket.com. Only problems was the account was under “another name” so when i confronted him about the name, suddenly the Instagram changed its name to another name the nect morning.
I also asked for a live video call showing the snake or a picture with a banana or fork next to the snake because those are very hard to fake. He refused to do the video or exchange phone numbers (red flag ) but told me he would send me a picture.
This morning at 5am i got a clearly Photoshopped version of the original ad with a toothbrush cropped in that was too short, had no shadow and a filter over it to try and make it look different.
Super obviously a scam.
So my tips for not getting scammed:
if it is too good to be true, it probably is
screenshot all encounters with a potential seller
always ask for proof. Real sellers understand the skepticism of people sending large amounts of money through the internet and have no issue accommodating buyers with additional pictures, videos, live chats and often have websites thst you can verify them on. The only people who EVER get mad or straight up avoid live video calls are scammers because they dont have the product. I always ask for a live video call or the “banana selfie” because they cant be faked using google and it takes a lot of skill to fake things in Photoshop.
Great post, @betaballista ! There are, sadly, always bad apples who don’t mind scamming people and tainting how people view honest sellers. It’s a mark of your ethics that you are sharing ways to protect one’s self. And yes, honest sellers are willing to accommodate buyers. I’ve done videos, particular photos by request, and video calls. Buyers should understand that honest sellers may need a reasonable amount of time to schedule such things, say a day or two. That said, there are honest sellers who won’t do these things because they simply don’t have the time. This is sometimes the case with large-scale breeders and doesn’t indicate anything other than their workload. Of course, large-scale breeders can be verified in other ways.
I hadn’t heard of the fork/banana tip. I’ll remember it. Thanks again for a great post.
Their photos generally suggest either they’re taken from someone else, or multiple people are involved in the account. I noticed photo of a king snake showed what appeared to be a left wrist with a prominent tattoo. Many other photos show a person whose wrist does not have that tattoo.
Edit: I also find their response to someone asking what type of snake was in a photo somewhat suspicious. They called it a, “Rainbow boa constrictor” but I don’t think I’ve met anyone in the hobby that refers to Rainbow boas in that way, usually it’s always, “Brazilian Rainbow boa” or whatever specific subspecies.
Thanks for sharing this! This information is especially helpful for people like myself who are pretty new to buying animals online.
In hindsight, I probably could have vetted the seller in my only online transaction thus far a little better…though to be clear, I got lucky, the seller was totally legit, great to work with, and I ended up with an awesome snake for a fair price. But I didn’t do any of the things you suggested, haha. I basically just read reviews here on MM and googled them, didn’t see any obvious red flags, and sent them money. And I guess that’s probably sufficient for most sellers directly on MorphMarket who have built up a good selling history and reputation here, but if I ever find sellers elsewhere on the internet (or am enticed by an animal from a new seller with no reviews here on MM), I should probably take a few more precautions. Sadly, there will always be people out there looking to take advantage of others to make some quick money.
I was messaging back and forth with a customer a month or two ago and it didn’t seem to be going anywhere. She requested a video of me handling the animal - which in my experience, is an uncommon request. So I sent a couple short videos via text, clearly showing that the snake (ball python) was not defensive or overly timid.
I get a response from her indicating that she was not happy that I did not provide videos. I thought maybe there was a technical issue with the videos not making it to her iPhone so I sent them again. Nope, no technical issues. Turns out she wasn’t asking for videos. She wanted a FaceTime call that showed the snake’s “response” to me as I opened the tub so that I could prove “tameness.”
I do try to be accommodating but we all have to draw the line somewhere. I think sellers are more willing to go the extra mile for the more informed and serious buyers.
Wow, that buyer whom you describe is definitely one who’s well over that line for most of us. Reasonable requests are fine, and I think your spot-on that a well-informed buyer is more likely to have those requests met.
Yeah I agree, you already did what she asked for by sending the videos. Some people are just unreasonable- also, if she is that scared of a snake, then maybe it would be a good idea for her to get more experience being around snakes first before buying one. Especially if I’m guessing the animal was a ball python (guessing from the name “project python”). You honestly can get much tamer than a ball python.
Yeah, I don’t even try to buy from sellers that aren’t on MorphMarket anymore unless it’s like a local craigslist ad where I can go and physically meet the person and animal. Not every seller is perfect, but sellers have to pay membership to post their ads on MorphMarket so they are way more legit automatically- a scammer isn’t going to pay a membership fee to fake a snake.