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Home > Tips April 5th, 2016

Why Not to Buy Adobe Software on eBay, Craigslist or Amazon Mkt

Some folks think it might be a good idea to try to save a few bucks and buy Adobe software off of eBay, Craigslist, Amazon Marketplace, or from any vendor who is unfamiliar.  It could be CS6, Photoshop, Lightroom, Acrobat, Elements, or any other item – in a retail, student, full or upgrade version… or sometimes it’s the “OEM” scam, or the “extra” volume/enterprise license swindle.

But it’s actually not a very good idea at all.  Why?

Why You Should Never Buy Adobe Software on eBay, Craigslist, or Amazon Marketplace

The first problem is that Adobe does not recognize these venues as valid or authorized resellers, they are fully disregarded.  So as a result, Adobe will not officially recognize any of those buyers as actually owning their software. Yes, you read that right.

Meaning, you think you own the genuine article but effectively you don’t. You can’t provide an accepted proof of purchase – so you can’t formally prove you own the products, can’t ever legally transfer the software to someone else, may not be able to get product support or upgrade to the next version, and so on…  You also aren’t able to return the software to get your money back from Adobe like you normally can.

Why doesn’t Adobe recognize the people that go through those places? Doesn’t that seem unfair? Can’t these software vendors who you’ve never heard of be trusted?

No, because in this area, reputation matters… a lot.  The simple reason is – and the real problem is – that 90% of the software sold on places like eBay is counterfeit! Yes, it’s true. And it’s not a new problem.

Adobe states, “Purchasing from known and trusted sources is the best way to avoid risks. Avoid all online auction sites — they’re rife with counterfeiters. The only safe way to purchase genuine software for download is through the Adobe Store.”

So you can be pretty sure that what someone’s getting on those auction and vendor sites is not legitimate, not able to be legally transferred, and possibly even quite unsafe.

Fake or Hacked Software –> Unsafe Computer, Loss of Money, Stolen Information, or Worse

That last part is the real kicker. A great deal of the hacked and pirated Adobe software out there now is embedded with malware. These infections include viruses, worms, and trojans that can do significant harm to your computer, personal data, and privacy (like quietly stealing your sensitive information such as logins, passwords, and credit card numbers). Or increasingly, hold your entire hard disk for ransom with no fix available.

Or put another way, you dramatically “increase your risk of exposure to viruses, spyware, or adware that can destroy (or, worse, publish to criminals) valuable data.”  But unfortunately, many people don’t learn about this until it’s too late.  Often they do this unknowingly – and are essentially paying someone to do it to them by buying the unauthorized software.

How prevalent is malware in illegal software? Well, just one example: China reportedly has a piracy rate of 79% – and a corresponding computer infection rate of nearly 70% – both are the highest in the world.

Yes, there can occasionally be exceptions – but there are many more headlines over the years: “Adobe Creative Suite Crack Harvests Zombie Computers”“Malware Writers Target Would-Be Pirated Software Users”“Rogue Adobe Product Downloads Infect Machines with Undetected Keylogger”“Bootlegged Mac Photoshop Delivers New Trojan Horses”

The second Trojan was discovered Sunday, hidden inside torrented copies of Adobe Systems’ Photoshop program. Once installed, the software silently lets someone else take remote control of the computer and the sensitive data upon it.

The risk seems obvious for older or used/secondhand copies, right?  But even advertised “new in box” (NIB) items in seemingly original packaging can easily be fake (see what the FBI says about this here) – and it’s often very difficult to tell the difference from the outside of the packaging, or even from the inside.  As Adobe says, “… it can come with sophisticated-looking cases, manuals, and even registration cards. You’ll only discover software is pirated when you try to register it and can’t, often rendering the software unusable.” Or worse.

But even if the software within is authentic, it’s still breaking the law. Per the SIIA, “As this prosecution demonstrates, it is both a crime to create counterfeit software and a crime to sell authentic software without authorization.”  So in any event, these buyers still face all the other issues above.

And if anyone ever offers a download or serial number that’s coming from anywhere else other than Adobe – it’s definitely not genuine, or legal.

The old advice applies here: anything that sounds too good to be true probably is, in pricing or otherwise… (note that Adobe’s true Student & Teacher Editions at up to 70% off including the $19 complete Creative Cloud are exceptions to this)

So what’s your best bet?

Ensure your Adobe software is genuine

The only safe and legal place to instantly download any of these products (either trial or full versions) is directly from Adobe’s servers.

And only safe and legal place to buy any boxed retail software is directly from Adobe itself, or through their officially authorized resellers or retailers.

They put all this in place to protect customers – not only from harmful or counterfeit software, but also protecting your rights as a legitimate buyer and recognized licensee of the products – fully able to receive customer service, technical support, important updates, and future upgrades.

See all the recommended tips on how to avoid Adobe piracy. And if the regular product prices are out of reach for you, see if you qualify for Adobe’s deeply-discounted education versions, or check out their affordable Creative Cloud offering including the successor to Creative Suite — the new CC 2015 release — which is guaranteed to be the genuine article.

See Also

Download New Adobe CC 2015 Free Trials (Direct Links)

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  1. Winston Smith

    @Winston Smith NOTE – just call E-Bay to remind them that their new “business model” is fracken EVIL

  2. Scott


    I’m sorry, but you have failed to reasonable respond to my comment with a compelling well reasoned argument. Let me make this simple.

    1) I have software purchased legitimately from Adobe. I decide to sell it on ebay. How or why is my software suddenly a hack or counterfeit?

    2) Adobe themselves have a process of ownership transfer for their software. If used software is not legitimate why does Adobe have this process in place?

    3) How many legitimate copies of software exist in the world today? When one of those owners no longer uses the software, does it suddenly become counterfeit? How? Why?

    4) There just aren’t that many pieces of used software for sale online to believe this is a huge problem affecting ALL used software. Yes, there may be counterfeits out there for sale. Does that mean ALL used software for sale is counterfeit? NO it doesn’t.

    5) Why would someone trying to infect millions of computers charge hundreds and thousands of dollars for software with viruses and trojan horses? How does the fee to get through that gate help them? That is a crazy rational. If you want access to many systems you don’t charge people hundreds of dollars for access to their system.

    What IS naive’ is your gross generalizations. If you have a SOUND argument, address each one of these numbered points specifically.

    Thank you!

    • No one ever said that absolutely every single copy on eBay was a fake, Scott, nor that there weren’t at least some legitimate products out there. That is again an overly simplistic (and ultimately pointless) argument.

      It comes down to odds. Not every chamber in the revolver has to have a bullet in it to make playing Russian Roulette a pretty hazardous idea… It’s because overwhelmingly (for all the reasons cited above) the player doesn’t know which one he will get – and the consequences of getting it wrong are bad. And statistically speaking, getting a bad draw on eBay is far, far more likely than in Russian Roulette.

      The bottom line is that swindlers have generated countless times more counterfeits than ever existed genuine versions from Adobe. As we’ve pointed out again and again, it’s cheap and the materials (if any!) are relatively simple to produce, and it has become too easy to part a sucker from his money online. Don’t be an easy mark.

      Finally, you’re way, way off base with your point on pricing. In addition to distributing malicious hacked software for free through torrents etc., scammers will also try to peddle bogus software for a price on eBay, Craigslist, Amazon Marketplace, etc. Why? Different market. Make it seem as realistic as possible. No one will believe a free (or $100) Photoshop on eBay, right? (hope you can see that) However, $499 is far more believable, and will get more traction from their victims dreaming of a “good deal” on a the real thing. So yes, the price is absolutely marked up to something credible on purpose, even if the product is fraudulent.

      Thanks for checking back and hope that makes more sense to you.

  3. Paul

    Adobe puts together fantastic pieces of software. No question about that, and that’s why people want to buy it.

    But Adobe also steals from buyers, by taking money from them and then taking back the products they sold.

    I purchased a copy of Adobe Photoshop CS2 way back when. It’s perfectly OK for what I want to do. I purchased a new PC. I went to install CS2 with the legitimate serial number I purchased. Then a message appeared explaining that Adobe no longer supports CS2 and therefore I needed to sign up for their monthly subscription to get a new license.

    This is outrageous, and nothing less that thievery. The software I paid for has been rendered useless. It’s like you buy a car, or an appliance, or a computer, or anything with a time bomb that makes it not work anymore after a time. This goes beyond “planned obsolescence” and steps right into fraud, in my opinion. It’s OK if Adobe doesn’t want to “support it” by no longer addressing bugs or problems, but I don’t see why I should not be able to reinstall it in a new computer.

    • Hello Paul, CS2 may be ancient software (over 10 years old now) by modern standards, but you may have misunderstood what happened.

      Adobe did not deny your ability to use the CS2 you purchased, nor does their website say you need to sign up for CC instead. That would be your option only.

      Please read this article about CS2, and you may understand better what actually transpired.

      Hope that helps.

  4. Paulfbg

    I was given Lightroom 6 from my father-in-law, after he could no longer use it due to ill health. It is a worthless disk I have found that I can’t use…and not a cheap one. After the farce of Elements 11 and El Capitan. I moved to Affinity and it’s growing stock of better than Adobe software. Beginning of the end for Adobe with these strategies, can’t they see that? They no longer rule the graphics industry as others win software of the year from Apple. It’s a little late for this style of doing business and cloud is a bad move. Anyone remember Adobe ColdFusion and how they lost that market?

  5. Software fakes are ubiquitous – and hazardous… Reader reports yet another horror story today:

    Gory details here.

  6. Yepper

    I totally agree with all the points you made. In fact, I’m selling Adobe Photoshop 6.0 & ImageReady 3.0 on eBay right now. I am the sole owner of the software and its doesn’t contain any viruses. I paid for them, so why can’t I sell them?

    • No, the reason for that is even simpler… It’s just one question:

      Are you an authorized vendor of Adobe products?

      If not, then you technically don’t have the rights to offer them for sale to the public.

      Per the SIIA (Software & Information Industry Association), and also stated in the article above:

      “As this settlement demonstrates, it is both a crime to create counterfeit software and a crime to sell authentic software without authorization. Our campaign will continue to educate, investigate, and bring legal action to protect software companies and consumers around the globe.”

      It’s really that simple (though Scott didn’t get it either).

  7. François GAYMARD

    Good Day,

    In case I want to sell my genuine Adobe Software, what should I do in order to do that ? Is it possible to get Adobe’s authorisation, mentioning for instance the name and the e-mail address of the buyer? If yes, what is the full procedure to follow?

    With many thanks in advance.

  8. Ed Fowler

    Imagine a world where you want to sell your car, but Ford says “No! You’re not an authorized reseller!”

    Imagine a world where you want to sell a book, but Houghton-Mifflin says, “No! You’re not an authorized reseller!”

    Imagine a world where a purchase is a purchase and not a revocable license. What a wonderful world that would be!

    • All software licenses are, in theory, revocable. You never own the Adobe software, nor did you ever even own any even with a traditional ‘perpetual’ license like CS6.

      It’s not a physical item – it’s intellectual property.

      So all you have is a grant from the company to use it for some period of time, whether a year or indefinitely. It is not a car, it is not a book, and you don’t own it like you would those things.

      If you think of software more like a leased car, or like a checked-out book from the library (you don’t have the right to sell either property), then you are more along the right track.

    • PS – If everybody were authorized to resell or redistribute Adobe software, can you imagine the even greater level of fake and scam problems then?

      Again, this is not like a car or a book… Counterfeiting for those items is non-existent. But with easily-copied digital products, you’ve got to establish some standard of broadly-recognized trust to protect all involved, or it becomes a free-for-all.

  9. dbur



    All software licenses are, in theory, revocable. You never own the Adobe software, nor did you ever even own any even with a traditional ‘perpetual’ license like CS6.
    It’s not a physical item – it’s intellectual property.
    So all you have is a grant from the company to use it for some period of time, whether a year or indefinitely. It is not a car, it is not a book, and you don’t own it like you would those things.
    If you think of software more like a leased car, or like a checked-out book from the library (you don’t have the right to sell either), then you are more along the right track.

    Quite a bit of this is quite wrong. While end users never do own the IP , the code or whatever, they do (or at least in the not-too-distant past) own the perpetual license to use it, or to pass it on to another person. When a company suddenly says, we won’t activate that software for you anymore they have essentially stolen your right to use it, which is a tangible asset, same as if you owned stock in a company. They can’t just take the ownership of that right back from you, or stop you from transferring it to another person.

    I give some kudos to Adobe because they do have a process for legitimately transferring ownership of the license between parties.

    Going forward the SW model is becoming a license to use the SW for some specific time interval. If the cost is reasonable, it seems to many that always getting the new updates makes this model attractive. For SW you purchase outright I would say it’s time to start paying attention to those terms, since I think we’ll find many companies starting to give themselves the right to essentially disable your SW sometime in the future. With Win10 being the last Microsoft OS, they’ll begin to lose the excuse that it just doesn’t work in the new OS.

    I predict a lot of anger from consumers who start to find SW they legitimately own a license to can no longer be used when they need to update their computer and can’t get it registered again. I don’t know of any instances where Adobe hasn’t worked things out with users (they have with me), but there are others that are considerably more difficult to deal with in this regard. (Mathsoft can you hear me?)

    • Your comments are misinformed and off base. Adobe software – like most others – is licensed, not sold. So it is not like stock either, which is an actual owned piece (share) of a company.

      This has not changed from before. The primary difference is the length of the term of the license. Before, with something like Creative Suite, it was a for a perpetual duration. Now, with Creative Cloud, it is for a defined length of time.

      But even with CS6, the standalone licensing agreement stated:

      Subject to Customer’s continuous compliance with this Agreement and payment of the applicable license fees, Adobe grants Customer a non-exclusive and limited license to install and use the Software … during the term of such license (“License Term”) … Upon the expiration or termination of the License Term, some or all of the Software may cease to operate without prior notice. Upon expiration or termination of the License Term, Customer may not use the Software unless Customer has renewed the license.  — CS6 Software License Agreement

      If you don’t believe it, just go verify for yourself.

      Further, Adobe does not suddenly or illegally revoke valid, legitimate perpetual licenses as you seem to hint. As demonstrated in previous comments here, there are cases where installed software is invalidated due to bogus cracks or inauthentic/expired serial numbers from piracy and scams, but that is all.

      There are also cases where old static programs may not work properly on newer operating systems that came out long afterwards, but there is nothing the company intentionally did to make that happen. You seem to think that software developers should somehow be able to see into the future and write code for future platforms which didn’t even exist at that time, or somehow be aware in advance which interfaces and support Apple & Microsoft may decide to drop at a future date.

  10. Diana

    Hi, very informative article, I see that the seller on Amazon is Adobe, so maybe I can trust buying software like Illustrator?

    • Hi Diana,

      The reseller for that listing is not Adobe, it is It should be OK if you can absolutely confirm “Ships from and sold by” – however, Amazon itself does not sell the old versions like CS6… only their third-party Marketplace vendors do, who you should definitely avoid.

      And since Amazon itself only sells the latest version CC, they offer zero pricing advantage, there is no discount – so you can just get it from Adobe instead for the same subscription direct, and cut out the middleman.

  11. don

    I bought a Honda Pilot in 2007. I can sell it today to anyone, even though I am not a Honda dealer! How does this compute?

  12. Scott


    Actually a PURCHASE of software (including licensing) DOES allow for transfer to another party!
    Time after time, ProDesignTools spin the facts into a distortion, or completely ignore questions and comments.

    Besides the seedy predatory behavior of Adobe, trying to actually communicate with a knowledgeable effect customer service agent is often close to impossible. At the least, be sure to budget several days of phone time, and frustration. Even calling sales for years has resulted in waiting on hold for HOURS!!!

    • We’ve been in touch with Adobe Customer Service literally hundreds of times over the past ten years, on behalf of readers… Getting connected to an agent has never taken more than a minute or two using the 24/7 Live Online Chat.

      And yes, obviously Adobe does allow legitimate license transfers between private parties – and no one here has ever said otherwise.

      What is not allowed is the public sale/resale/retail of software licenses by unauthorized vendors. Obviously there’s an important distinction.

      As for the rest of your rant, we posted your comment now as we have before (not sure why). So you have no cause on that front.

  13. dennis king

    I have Photoshop CS6 and its working fine.
    However I am looking into getting CS7. I don’t want to use the cloud, i would rather purchase it. Can i get an upgrade from Photoshop CS6 to Photoshop CS7, or do i have to purchase it outright? I so, can you provide a link to the download site?

    • Welcome Dennis, there is no CS7 version – the CS6 release from 4+ years ago was the last in the Creative Suite line…

      The next major release of Photoshop after CS6 was CC 2013, then CC 2014, and now the current version is CC 2015.

      These are still desktop tools and do not run online. They are the successors to the old CS tools with many new features and improvements.

      When you purchase CC, it is only available via subscription. There are several different membership plans available, at various price ranges as low as $9.99/month for Photoshop + Lightroom (whereas Photoshop CS6 Extended by itself used to cost $999 upfront).

      All ongoing updates are always included in your membership – so when CC 2016 and CC 2017 come out, then all current subscribers will receive these upgrades at no extra charge.

      If you’d like to check out the latest software before your purchase, then you can easily download a free CC trial.

      Hope that helps!

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