Following multiple instances of camera store burglaries earlier this year, a new report from The Verge sheds light on an ongoing scam that uses Facebook Marketplace and payment system Venmo to steal camera gear from unsuspecting sellers. According to victims interviewed for the report, scammers operating under the name 'Andy Mai' and variations of it have made off with at least $25,000 worth of camera gear.

The scam is simple but devious in nature, and it depends on sellers being unfamiliar with Venmo and its policies. After contacting a seller, one of the scammers will request to pay for the camera gear using Venmo; if the seller agrees, the payment is made via a large batch of small, rapid transactions. Though sellers report having found this odd at the time, the money appeared to be safely in the sellers' possession, and so they proceeded with handing over the equipment to the 'buyer.'

Upon trying to transfer the money to a bank account, however, the seller discovers that the transfer has been halted and the account frozen. The reason, according to the victims, was cited as a violation of Venmo policy which forbids using the platform to receive money for selling items. About 20 sellers, all in the Los Angeles area, reported being hit with the same scam over the course of two weeks.

The Verge states that out of the 20 or so alleged victims who have come forward, they were able to verify four of the thefts and that those thefts alone totaled $25,000; actual victim losses are expected to be much higher. In a statement on the matter, a Venmo spokesperson told The Verge that it 'strongly' cautions its users to only receive payments from known, trusted individuals. Though Venmo has fraud protections in place, those protections failed to prevent fraudulent transactions from being made to the victims.

The individuals behind the camera thefts are unknown, though the use of the same name—Andy Mai—indicates they're working together under some singular scamming collective. The total number of victims is unknown, but it is safe to assume that these scams are ongoing, and anyone selling camera gear should stay on alert for them.