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

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


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329 thoughts on “Why Not to Buy Adobe Software on eBay, Craigslist or Amazon Mkt”

  1. @lou liz wells

    PayPal has a dispute mechanism which I have used twice, once for misrepresented used electronics and once for a pirated copy of Photoshop. In both cases, the disputes were settled in my favor.

    The pirated Photoshop was packaged in a shrink-wrapped box, but the quality of the printing was sub-par, and that convinced me to try and register the serial number straight on Adobe’s site. The online registration tool reported that the number was not legitimate and that’s when I started a dispute.

    The bottom line is this: if someone is selling a full edition Adobe product unopened for less than the cost of an upgrade, be suspicious.

    • Hello again Bobby, didn’t you say in your earlier comment that you declined turning the counterfeit in to eBay or PayPal or Adobe, but instead managed to get a refund directly back from the fake seller?

      In any event, it’s yet another instance of bogus product being sold on eBay, and if you were able to get your money back then you were quite lucky… But as mentioned in our earlier response, those hacked discs also often contain a malware payload, which can cause a data or privacy loss far worse than any amount that was paid.

      Lastly as you mention, a low price should definitely make one suspicious – “if it sounds too good to be true…” But lately, the scammers have caught on and purposely will keep the price more realistic and higher because that makes the setup more believable. So really, the price alone is no longer a tipoff.

      Thanks again for your thoughts!

  2. To clarify, I got a refund through the Paypal dispute mechanism. I opened up a dispute, and the panicky seller immediately settled in my favor.

    Selling pirated software is a violation of Paypal terms, and anyone deceived into buying such is entitled to a refund through the Paypal dispute mechanism.

    • Thanks for clarifying Bobby – and glad the seller was willing to cooperate in your case, even if he was then able to have the fake returned to try to sell to a new guy.

  3. While I do not disagree that many have probably been sold pirated software via eBay, I do believe the resolution process as well as the process to help determine the legitimacy of items sold are both pretty good with eBay and its side-kick, PayPal.

    Amazon might be a little harder to determine legitimacy than eBay/PayPal, but I have never had a problem with Amazon not making things right when something went wrong.

    I have sold software given to me as a result of being a beta tester, sold both on eBay and Amazon (no Microsoft products sold this way, as the products they give as gratuities are marked, “NFR”).

    Recently, I attempted to sell an expensive piece of software on eBay, software I received as a gratuity for beta testing (I already have a copy of it) and after three (3) tries I cannot attract a purchaser on eBay! I wonder if it is the economy or if it is from people being more attuned to pirated software issues.

    My experience with unknowingly purchasing pirated software goes back to 2003 when I purchased two (2) pieces of software. I was new to purchasing software, as I had usually used the software that came with the computer or the beta testing gratuities I received.

    When I found out that the serial number I was given for one (1) software title was a known bogus one (at the time of attempting to register said software, I called to register), I went back to the online vendor and let him know that I wanted 100% of my money back (plus interest, which was admittedly a small amount) and a statement from him that he would no longer sell pirated software.

    He countered with trying to sell me even more pirated software at an even deeper discount. My response: I want my money back. Also (separately stated), I was considering whether it was my ethical duty to notify the companies which had the rights to these software titles that this guy’s website was selling pirated software.

    Next counteroffer: I can get any title on his site for free! With real serial numbers! My response: Nope. My money back. Separately, I also stated I thought I had come to a resolution of my ethical duties. Counteroffer: None. No other communications took place, but my credit card received a refund for the amount of the purchase.

    Afterwards, I called every company mentioned on his website and one (1) software company said my serial number had never been registered, so I could keep the software (plus, they no longer supported this title), one (1) company was so grateful they felt it necessary to reward me (no expectations for such at any time) with a free lifetime license for their software, and other software vendors either thanked me or did not respond to my email communications with them. However, the bogus website was gone within three (3) weeks after my efforts.

    My Question: How can one weed through the bad and convince that the one is good, especially when sales are infrequent at best?

    Truism: “If it is too good to be true, it probably is…but not always.”

    • Thank you for sharing your thoughts Ed. Of course you’re right that it’s “not always.” Naturally, the corollary to finding that 90% of the Adobe software on eBay is fake, is that 10% of it isn’t… The question is, do you want to be the guinea pig to take that risk? As commented with Bobby above, the greater danger than losing your money is losing your computer or privacy or financial information/identity from unknowingly installing hacked malware that looks remarkably like a real copy, even in a shrinkwrapped box…

      And even if someone does have the luck to fall in that 10% of “legal and legitimate” software, nevertheless Adobe clearly says all transactions on eBay, Amazon Marketplace, etc. are invalid for proof of purchase – and there is no way around that.

      Finally, about eBay et al. being helpful on this – in fact, people say eBay’s policies in this area actively encourage software scams like all those described above… And there’s really very little recourse for the buyer to get that properly and safely addressed. So there’s actually a long way to go on eBay’s end before this kind of problem is ever solved.

      Bottom line in our book, is all that risk worth it in an attempt to try to save a few bucks?

  4. Hello,

    I will like to know if online resellers of OEM Adobe software products are legal or legit?

    Also will I be able to upgrade the OEM product in the future?

  5. Hi,

    Thank you for your quick comment…. Well $299 for CS 6 Master Collection was kind of crazy deal….

    I will also like to let you know one the FAQ of the website:

    “How are you able to sell your software at such low prices?

    We are not under contract with or ‘authorized’ to sell on behalf of any particular software manufacturer. As a result, we are able to sell our products significantly below the MSRP. We purchase at lower prices from reputable sources in the wholesale market and pass those savings on to you!”

    Someone should check for this kind of ilegal site.

    Have a nice day

    • As stated in the article above, “if it sounds to good to be true”…

      $299 for the real CS6 Master Collection is not true.

      Don’t know what no-name site that came from, but it’s a complete and utter scam. Run, don’t walk, the other direction.

      If you want deep discounts on Adobe software, then be (or become) a student or teacher… It’s safe, secure, legal, legitimate – and you’ll get up to 80% off direct from Adobe.

  6. I recently purchased the full (not upgrade) Adobe Production Premiere Suite, which includes Photoshop. But I already had the full Photoshop CS4. I don’t need 2 licenses of Photoshop. So now I want to sell Photoshop CS4 and transfer the license. I should be allowed to do so, since it is legal legit software. Can you recommend a method of selling the software so that the person who purchases it won’t be stuck with Adobe telling them they refuse to transfer the license?

    • It’s a good question Michael, but sorry, there really aren’t any good places to do that of which we’re aware… The major venues for secondhand goods are sites like eBay and Craigslist, but as mentioned above it’s totally dodgy and unsafe for easily fakeable things like software.

      Our article is researched and written for the sake of buyers; if you’re consid­ering being a seller then you could try giving it a shot. You’d be one of a very small minority of legitimate products trying to sell there, but it doesn’t matter because you could easily receive a takedown notice anyway, and just waste your time. If you want to effect a transfer of an older program then your best bet may just be to find a new home through your own personal network of friends, colleagues, and relatives.

  7. Thank you very much for the answer.

    So, if I sell the software to an associate, and I am able to provide to the purchaser my original receipt, there should be no problem on Adobe’s end, transferring the license to the new owner, right?


  8. Used upgrades seem pretty useless to try and sell and I have only transferred such licenses to family members for free. Of course, the method for doing such a transfer must be followed to the tiniest detail(s) and Adobe’s transfer policies are stricter than other large software companies (Microsoft’s transfer of license policy was easier the last time I looked at it in Summer 2011).

    My frustration comes from receiving (as a gift) a full version of a piece of software which I already have and trying to sell it. Even though I have never installed such gifted software, I still cannot find a buyer for this unregistered, never installed software. No transfer of license would occur because no acceptance of the EULA (via installation or any other method) has taken place with the gifted software.

    As Michael wrote, “…all I have to do is find someone who wants it for a low price, ha ha[.]”

    No luck thus far…ugh.

    • Welcome back Ed, good to see you again. Yes, there really is a problem with trying to sell used software (or even if it’s not used) because there are just so many fakes out there now. If what someone’s buying isn’t coming direct from the manufacturer then there is just too much doubt about its authen­ticity or safety… The counterfeits have become incredibly “real”-looking, even being shrink-wrapped with printed materials inside and hologram labels on the packaging, etc.

      There’s a lot more money in bogus software now than say, knock-off watches, because the production costs are low while the prices are high. That’s why it’s everywhere now and even buyers for retail or online outlets have been fooled – there was a report recently where fake software was being sold by a legit­imate store because their wholesale buyer got “stung.”

      So it’s buyer beware, and all important where you buy from.

      PS – We’re in the same boat and have old unused copies of CS4 here in the office for the exact same reason… At one point years ago, it was what we used every day of course – but now we’re all on the Creative Cloud, which has no authenticity issues and never gets out of date.

      Thanks again for your comments and good luck to you!

  9. Yeah, the pirates pretty much ruined it for the honest sellers. But Adobe doesn’t make it any better. If I can prove I am the licensed owner of the full retail version of software, I should be allowed to sell it on Ebay – or anywhere.

    • Well, it seems to us that Adobe’s eBay rules aren’t so much about the seller’s rights – they’re about the buyer’s (and company’s) safety, given the overwhelming prevalence of counterfeits on places like that… So while the strict rules may seem off-putting, they are one of their primary defenses against fraud.

      Thanks again for sharing your thoughts.

  10. ProDesignTools :So while the strict rules may seem off-putting, they are one of their primary defenses against fraud.

    The rules are as strict as they are to boost profits, not guard against fraud. Adobe’s goal is in making it near-impossible to transfer unneeded licenses is to force users into purchasing new licenses from Adobe. That boosts their bottom line.

    The same rationale is at work in their recent moves to force license holders to buy upgrades directly from Adobe (previously upgrades were available through resellers) and the eligibility change for upgrades from three versions back to one version back.

    • Bobby, if you want to legally transfer your software to a friend or relative with your valid proof of purchase, then it’s really no big deal – you just fill out the form and you’re done.

      But when 9 out of 10 copies offered on a bazaar like eBay are fake, illegal, and/or unsafe, common sense says the company shouldn’t be expected to approve or enable any such transactions.

  11. They know very well which serial numbers are legitimate. There is no way to fake one and the activation ensures that the software will not operate without one.

    As for transferring a license, that requires a store receipt, and a bill of sale from an eBay transaction doesn’t qualify. Most people transferring software licenses don’t bother to register the transfers and even if they did, the number of transfers is limited.

    And I’m not the only user frustrated that Adobe is trying to squeeze more money out of users despite the down economy. In the end, honest non-professional users who can’t justify $600 on a software package may be forced into alternatives. Microsoft has a great set-up with Office: allow home and hobby users special non-commercial licenses for fully-functional copies at a greatly reduced price. Unfortunately, Adobe won’t consider that option, and they have now blocked off every-three-years upgrades, as well.

  12. @ ProDesignTools

    I don’t expect them to approve or enable fake, illegal or unsafe transactions. But it is perfectly reasonable to expect them to honor legal transactions when the seller has called ahead and received “permission” before the sale.

    There are several ways they could verify the acceptability of items on Ebay. Here’s just one: Require the seller to call in beforehand to obtain a unique item code. The code would then be included in the auction ad. Then, when the SIIA and BSA check the auction ad, they could verify the authenticity of the item code, making sure that it is linked to the proper item and Ebay member. Easy peasy.

    • It’s noble but not so easy actually. That sounds elaborate and time-consuming and special purpose, and it wouldn’t even work for geniune new (NIB) items because the unique serial number is shrinkwrapped inside the box and thus unknowable to the seller.

      But it doesn’t matter because eBay is obviously an independent entity and not owned or controlled by Adobe (or any software company) – and what’s been patently clear from the history of this saga is that eBay does not seem interested in trying to address the problem… The reason is likely because it would hit eBay in the pocketbook when 90% of their “inventory” and sales fees go down. So, nothing changes.

  13. @ ProDesignTools

    At $220 for the full Office suite, upgrades are a non-issue. I paid Microsoft $110 for the “Home and Student” version for *three* PCs or Macs!

    If Photoshop sold for $220, no one would complain about upgrades.

    • Hey Bobby, maybe you weren’t aware of Adobe’s 70%-off deals for students and teachers? It’s actually their largest vertical catering to a market segment that is most likely to not be able afford the regular price…

      And for non-commercial home and hobbyist users, they offer their Photoshop & Premiere Elements line of software, which sell for under $100 for the full versions, and even less for upgraders going back to Photoshop Elements 1 twelve years ago.

      As for Microsoft, their products don’t compete in Adobe’s space so it’s apples to oranges… That said, Adobe has said that lowering cost to entry for Creative Suite for all customers is one of the major goals with their new Creative Cloud and subscription offerings.

  14. I totally agree w/ not purchasing software from EBAY, been there, done that, and I have never been on Craigslist… But I don’t see any problem and haven’t had problems purchasing from Amazon…directly from Amazon, not going through one of their resale vendors. Amazon has always stood behind their purchases.

  15. I agree that you have to be very careful, however, I do not agree that all software purchases on eBay are pirated or bad. There are some legitimate good deals. Just have to be very very careful. I have purchased software on eBay and never had a problem. Most of the software I buy is sealed with serial number etc. I also only deal with high-rated sellers with a good reputation that have made many sales. Stay away from sellers that have done no sales or just a few.

    The cloud can be more expensive in the long run when compared to a good legit deal. Unless you want to make monthly payments and this works for your particular needs. I personally like to stay away from monthly payments.

    • Thanks for your thoughts Willie, but getting a “sealed box” on eBay is no protection… Please be honest, if these photos weren’t labeled would you easily be able to tell them apart and which one was bogus?

      « Compare top Adobe box vs. bottom Adobe box »

      (Note – That page is somewhat dated, many scammers are now able to produce even the holograms near perfectly.)

      What’s more, there are plenty of “high-transaction sellers” that deal in counterfeit goods, at least until they get busted by the SIIA or BSA (many cases of this if you just google them).

      So if you didn’t get burned then that’s lucky for you, but that doesn’t make it a good idea when the odds are overwhelmingly against legitimate product.

      Besides, no matter what you do, as mentioned in the article Adobe considers it an Invalid Proof of Purchase, meaning you basically don’t own the software in their eyes.

  16. The protection is to register the software as soon as it’s received using the online registration tool.

    The odds aren’t overwhelmingly against legitimate product, provided you’re paying a fair price (a seller of legitimate product will expect that) and the seller has a strong rating (and is not brand-new).

  17. ProDesignTools :
    Thanks for your thoughts Willie, but getting a “sealed box” on eBay is no protection… Please be honest, if these photos weren’t labeled would you easily be able to tell them apart and which one was bogus?

    « Compare top Adobe box vs. bottom Adobe box »

    Why are you asking me to be honest? Are you saying I am making my experiences up?
    This is crazy. I would never lie to people, if anything I want to help people. And NO NO NO I never make things up. I am talking from experience. You have some valid points, but don’t try to knock my credibility or ask me to be honest. I always AM honest with people.

    • Sorry Willie, that wasn’t worded very well… What was meant was along the general lines of, “honestly, can you tell the difference between these boxes?” No impugnment of personal credibility intended.

  18. I am one of the dummies who bought a Master Collection on eBay (looked pretty good).
    I installed it and it worked for a while. (I later found out from a “techie” friend that it changed something called a hosts file).
    Anyway, I got a virus that also changed (deleted all but its own number) the host file and it killed the bad eBay version.
    So I went and bought one from Adobe instead, but it kept thinking I had the old bad serial number(s) for the Master. I tried uninstalling and then using the CS Cleaner program I was directed to, then reinstall the new (good) one, but it didn’t help.
    The computer kept having issues and they said I shouldn’t trust it, so eventually I had to do a complete low-level reformat of the boot drive and re-install the operating system and everything from scratch.
    In the end, the whole thing was a bad mess but I hope putting my experience here might help someone else to avoid it.

    • Hello PM, yikes – sorry to hear that happened, but thanks for sharing your story here. It sounds like it was an awful experience but we hope you didn’t lose important or private data.

  19. As long as the buyer and seller go through the Adobe Transfer of License process, for which Adobe provides instructions and a form, the license will officially be transferred to the new individual and the product will work. It doesn’t matter whether the transaction occurs on eBay or elsewhere or whether the seller is “authorized.” Further, you do get support from Adobe: “After Adobe receives the completed Transfer of License form, Adobe registers the software to the new owner. Registration ensures that Adobe recognizes the new owner as the legal licensee who can receive customer service and support. [Adobe license transfer page]” Selling and buying used Adobe software is legal and possible.

    • Thanks for your thoughts, but that’s rather naïve as it won’t work for “new” copies of any software being sold on eBay, which is what the vast majority of fakes purport to be – and bogus copies are 90% of what’s being offered there.

      For the remainder, there’s the risk of trying to buy used or opened software of unknown origin from unfamiliar sources, and the extreme unlikelihood that any seller is participating in that.

      The final nail comes from the SIIA, which states: “It is both a crime to create counterfeit software and a crime to sell authentic software without authorization.”

  20. Hi,
    Honestly, I would take the SIIA as the source of that stat with a grain of salt. The SIIA and BSA scour the Ebay auctions looking for anything they think should disqualify an auction. There is quite a bit of discussion about their oevr-reaching tactics. I know from experience, two times. Here’s my story:

    I wanted to sell my full version of Adobe Captivate because I am no longer in that business. I contacted Adobe, got a “case number” for the transfer of the license, and then put the item up for sale on Ebay. My auction was very detailed. It spelled out that I had received a case number and would transfer the license to the buyer. Well, the SIIA or the BSA had the auction removed. And what was their reason? Because they considered the item price ($200) too low. So, I contacted Ebay again and Adobe. Adobe contacted the SIIA and BSA and told them not to flag my auction when I relisted it.

    Another time, I wanted to sell my full version of Adobe InDesign. I followed the above procedure again. A day after the auction had ended, Ebay contacted all bidders (including the bid winner/buyer) and told them that they were removing the auction and that none would be held liable for their bids. “A little late to remove it,” I thought, “it’s already ended.” Anyways, the buyer trusted me and was able to transfer the license and register the software with no issue.

    If that kind of thing happened twice to me, I can only imagine how many other legit sellers have experienced it, and how many of these kinds of cases were included in their “90% fake” stat. It certainly creates a lot of doubt on the credibility of the SIIA’s and BSA’s Ebay stats.

    And let’s not forget that the SIIA has investment in this issue; Adobe is one of their biggest clients.


  21. It’s more than likely the push to the cloud and all the claims of software piracy, though no doubt it happens, a huge push by Adobe to pump up their profits by squeezing their existing customer base for more money since there aren’t enough people willing to pay the massive price for Adobe CS. I’ve always bought legit software and the new policies have made my purchase of CS Master Suite worth nearly nothing. Ok, Adobe knocks off $20 a month for a year… Whoopee! Give I’ve spent prob around $2500 for something that’s worth $240, I’m not impressed. On top of that I’ll have to pay $50/mo plus tax to use Adobe Creative Cloud after a year. I’ll look at my options. Just seems like Adobe is sticking it to the little guy.


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