Why are scam retailers so attracted to the photography market? I'll leave that question for someone else to answer, but I want to shout a warning message to you.
If you have ever opened a photography magazine to the full-page ads near the back, you have undoubtedly seen some eye-opening camera and lens deals from some certain retailers. As the internet's popularity soared, these scam artists quickly made the web their favorite place to do business. It is now easy to find these unscrupulous retailers in price comparison shopping sites, banner ads, search engines, etc.
The scam almost always starts the same - you see an amazing price. And the scam almost always ends the same - you do not get what you want for the price you see advertised.
This is the common way (but not the only way) the scam game works: You place your order for the amazing deal. Then you get a phone call. Game on.
While reputable retailers sometimes call to confirm an order, the scammers have something else in mind. The way the game is played now varies widely, but basically, they are either going to get more of your money or they are going to send you something less than you had in mind.
One common technique used is to sell you some overpriced accessories such as filter kits (decline the additional items and your ordered item suddenly goes out of stock).
Another technique is to inform you that the advertised lens was an imported version and that this version is out of stock - BUT they just happen to have the USA version in stock - for more money of course. The buyer's built up anticipation combined with the high pressure tactics used by the sales person far too often makes this tactic successful.
Variations of this specific scam include telling you that the imported lens is plastic but the USA version is metal (Canon does not make two versions of the same lens). A similar scam refers to the lens mount being plastic on a lens that Canon manufactures with a metal mount (which is most of them). This classic game is usually called "bait and switch"
If they do sell you the lens you order at the price you ordered it for, it will likely be missing some important standard part when it arrives. Missing may be the tripod ring, lens hood, pouch, case ... and perhaps the warranty. Cameras frequently ship without batteries, chargers and other essential (and expensive) parts.
Another game played is that the item simply never shows up - but your credit card gets charged. Oh - and be sure to find out what they are charging for shipping. It is often more eye-opening than their low-ball prices.
A near worst-case scam is the theft of and re-use of your credit card information.
I was going to create a list of the camera and lens scam retailers, but these crooks are continually opening new online and mail order storefronts under new names. I can't keep track of them and I don't want to give you a false sense of security.
To protect yourself, make sure the retailer you purchase from is trustworthy. When making a purchase, always use a credit card for the protection it offers you (but don't carry a balance on the card - the interest rates are extremely high). When you realize that you have been scammed, immediately call your credit card bank and ask them to dispute the charge. You will find that your bank is usually there to defend you.
Credit cards often have additional benefits such as warranty extensions and some limited-time insurance against theft or breakage. Check your card member agreement for your card's specific benefits. I use cash-back rewards credit cards for all of my purchases - resulting in tangible savings on every purchase.
Even though your bank will often right the wrong done by a camera and lens scam retailer, don't discount the huge amount of time you can spend dealing with this situation. Your time is valuable - you can never get more of it.
I generally source my cameras, lenses and accessories from the retailers listed under the Bryan Recommends sections of the Reviews. The retailers listed have proved to be reliable - and they in general offer best-available prices. No retailer is perfect, but these are some of the best. I highly recommend that you also use these retailers.