Tuesday June 18, 2024

Consumer Alert: Bootleg Software on Amazon Marketplace

Author: Wayne Eggert
Date: 03/02/08

Last November I wanted to purchase a retail version of Adobe Photoshop CS3, the latest version of Photoshop that Adobe offers. I had initially been looking for an older version of Photoshop on eBay -- something like Photoshop 7.0, because I figured there was no way I was going to be a be able to get a newer version for a cheap price. To my surprise, there were some Photoshop CS3's available on Amazon Marketplace for around $300-400.. and the descriptions said something like "full version, brand new in retail box, shrink-wrapped, not registered". Now, I'm usually pretty skeptical of things I buy, but I guess I was blinded by possibly getting a deal on software that normally costs over $600.

Yipee! Photoshop CS3 on the cheap!
I ordered off of Amazon Marketplace and purchased off of a seller named "valu-mart" who I thought was reputable because they had hundreds of positive feedback and very few negative feedback. To this day value-mart is still selling ILLEGAL versions of Photoshop CS3. I received the software a few weeks after ordering -- it came in a retail box, shrinkwrapped. It looked pretty professional, but something seemed a little off -- lack of colors in the manual, the feel of cardboard on the box. Something, but I couldn't quite put my finger on it. I inspected things further -- the DVDs looked very professional, nothing seemed really out-of-place, and I haven't bought much software in a while (I typically end up going for the freeware or open-source stuff when available). How was I to suspect something was wrong? It's not like the DVDs had a paper label on them or were CDR's written on with marker. There was a serial number on the DVD case and even a product activation notice when you install the software.

Here's a picture of the product I received:

Additional Images:
Box/DVD case (same as above but larger)
Professional looking DVDs
Close-up of DVD with Made in Singapore text
Instruction manual

Did I get what I ordered?
Fast forward several months later (January 2008), I was switching laptops and was about ready to install Photoshop CS3 when I noticed the DVD said "Made in Singapore". Not terribly unusual, but the box said "Made in USA".. now I know some products could have their packaging made in a different country than the actual product, but it just seemed odd to me for this particular software. So I typed "Singapore Adobe Photoshop CS3" into Google and after a while came across a few forum posts like this (scroll to the bottom) with warnings about a very professional Photoshop CS3 bootleg being manufactured in Singapore. I got that sinking feeling in my stomach. A few individuals advised calling Adobe up to verify whether the serial number was legit.

I called Adobe -- wondering how they would take the news if my serial number was in fact illegal.. but really wanting to know if what I got was a legit version or a $300 coaster. Sure enough, after talking to several customer service reps, I found that my serial number was indeed illegal. They advised that I return the software and purchase Photoshop directly from them -- yeah, thanks a lot.

But it asked me to Activate the software
As any programmer knows, code can be changed if someone is very determined. Activation routines can be removed and still look like they're working to the common Joe. That's how you get duped into thinking what you got was real -- and that's why these bootlegs are so fantastically profitable for these scam artists. How many people are going to think of calling up Adobe to verify their serial number if the product looks professional, the serial number works, and they get a successful Product Activation notice?

Filing a claim with Amazon
Luckily, Amazon Marketplace has an A-to-Z Guarantee. That's why I felt comfortable ordering from the "valu-mart" seller in the first place. So I emailed the seller and filed a claim with Amazon, thinking I'd have a decent chance of reclaiming my money. The only problem was, they give you up to 90 days to file a claim and I was at day #87.. so just under the deadline.

The seller emailed me several days later telling me I could RMA the software for a refund, but would need to cancel the claim since I could only do one or the other (ie. file the claim and wait for Amazon's ruling or return the software to the seller and get a refund). I suspected the seller knew he/she was selling bootleg software.. and opted to deal with Amazon, figuring the last thing I need to do is ship back the evidence never to hear from the seller again.

A few weeks go by and Amazon finally rules that since I did not contact them initially within the first 30 days and I had "received" the item -- they were denying my claim. Hog-wash. Amazon made money on the transaction and does not care if a seller is selling illegal software, as long as they are not blatantly advertising it's illegal software. I imagine that Amazon will do everything in their power to find a way to get out of paying your claim.. faulting you if you do not follow their process to the T.

The real kicker? During my process of filing the claim, Amazon did not allow me to leave feedback about the seller. I could not find a link to leave feedback on the transaction while the claim was pending. Additionally, after 90 days, Amazon does not allow you to leave feedback on a transaction. Wow. Talk about helping the consumer. So if you wait for your claim results before leaving negative feedback and the claim draws out over 90 days, you can't leave bad feedback to warn other individuals!

If "valu-mart" made a mistake, they would want to do everything to fix it, right?
After receiving the news about my claim being denied, I emailed the seller again explaining that I was very unhappy with the transaction and just wanted my money back and did not want to have to file mail fraud charges against them. After a month.. not a single response. Interesting, Amazon rules against me -- and the seller got away without recourse and continues to sell bootleg copies of Adobe Photoshop CS3. Other individuals who have purchased CS3 from this seller left positive feedback saying things like "Exactly as described. I had doubts because of the price, but this is a clean retail version of Photoshop CS3". Umm, call Adobe and give them your serial number -- you will likely be in for a huge surprise.

Now I am waiting to hear back from my credit card company after I filed a dispute with them. They also have a deadline on filing a dispute (typically 30 days).. so I am not expecting to hear a good outcome. Maybe I'll be surprised, but if not.. all I can do is warn other people to watch out for illegal software on Amazon, eBay and other online marketplaces and file mail fraud charges if I can get all the information. This type of scam is not just going to be limited to Adobe Photoshop CS3 -- it could be any expensive software and it might look entirely legit, but it's because the bootleggers have become more and more professional. It used to be easy to distinguish bootleg software from real retail software, but not these days.

Here is valu-mart's current inventory on Amazon -- as of today (March 2, 2008) they are still selling Adobe Photoshop CS3 to unsuspecting victims (screenshot). Take a look at their feedback page -- there are positive feedbacks about this software because no one has called Adobe to verify.

Lesson Learned
I have definitely learned my lesson -- I am not buying any expensive software from anyone but the manufacturer or reputable sites. It's just not worth the outcome. I really hope someone from Amazon sees this and they change their feedback policy or claim policy. After all, with software..just because you receive the item doesn't mean it's legal. If I'm under a 90 day claim deadline, some sort of exception should be allowed for if there are circumstances where the seller is trying to pass off bootleg software as legit software.

Do not buy anything from "valu-mart" or other Amazon sellers that are selling Photoshop for $200-400. I cannot stress this enough. During several of my emails to "valu-mart" they told me they would look into the legitimacy of their Photoshop software -- yet continued to list it with Amazon. Seems like they care a whole lot! If you have purchased Photoshop CS3 off of Amazon Marketplace or eBay recently, please call Adobe and verify that your serial number is legit and post a comment here mentioning where you purchased the bootleg so we can warn others. Adobe's customer service number is 800-833-6687. Here's a link to report piracy to Adobe, if you find that your version is a bootleg: Antipiracy Form.

Here's the information I have about valu-mart (taken from their profile page on Amazon Marketplace & also from email correspondence):

Mary [no last name given]
14525 SW MILLIKAN WAY; #48327
Beaverton, OR 97005

I was also given this address if I was going to RMA the product:

Fulfillment Center
7739 NW 112 WAY
Parkland, FL 33076

Update 4/2/2008... sent this email to Amazon now that it appears this seller's store is down due to recent negative feedbacks about bootleg software:

This is ridiculous.. I filed a claim within 90 days because I received bootleg Adobe Photoshop CS3 and it was denied because I did not first file the claim within 30 days. The seller "valu-mart" now appears to have been kicked off of Amazon because their store is now "temporarily unavailable". There is recent negative feedback for "valu-mart" indicating other people have also received bootleg software. I am certain that other Adobe Photoshop CS3 software from other sellers is also illegally being sold. The reason I did not make my claim earlier is this software *LOOKS* very legit... the bootleggers are making the packaging and everything look exactly like the real-deal. How am I to know that it wasn't legit unless I call Adobe up directly and have them verify my serial number? I am out over $300 because some seller can get away with selling bootleg copies of software and Amazon turns their back because they are making a profit on commission sales?

I have an article that I posted on my website to warn other people about this bootleg software: http://www.techdose.com/articles/article.php?aid=11

I would really love a good outcome from this and to be able to post on my website that Amazon is willing to help their customers when there are unjust transactions like this. Unfortunately it seems like as long as no one posts negative feedback about the seller and reports they received bootleg software, Amazon is okay with sellers continuing to sell the software. This seller, "valu-mart" continued to sell bootleg copies of Photoshop CS3 for 3 months after I filed my claim and warned Amazon that I received a counterfeit copy. I really enjoy shopping at Amazon, but frankly this A-to-Z Guarantee has been a joke.

Update 5/1/2008... Amazon responded!
Amazon responded to my email and offered to let me return the bootleg software to their A-to-Z Guarantee Claims Dept. They only gave me like 3 days to have it postmarked and wanted it shipped via a trackable method. I shipped it right out the following day and after a week emailed them to check on the status. They told me my claim was accepted & the original payment method was being refunded. After waiting another couple of weeks and not seeing the refund, I emailed them again & received several confirmations that my refund was taking place. Just got a full refund -- so very happy at the outcome here. Thank you Amazon! Nice to know they're willing to help their customers -- just wish it hadn't taken 4 months to get somewhere. I'll leave this article up to help others who might not know what they're buying on eBay or Amazon could be bootleg. Check your serial numbers immediately with Adobe and if what you have is a bootleg, try to get the claim in ASAP so you don't have to go through the mess I did!

Looks like eBay is starting to get some heat from Adobe for allowing users to sell illegal bootlegs of software like Photoshop CS3 -- Software group files lawsuits against eBay sellers Yay! Get 'em!!

I have received some comments via email -- thanks everyone! If you have had any issues with bootleg software bought from Amazon Marketplace or eBay, please let others know so we can raise awareness about these authentic looking bootlegs.Article Word Count: 1495

Got screwed over too
Posted 07/16/11 8:49PM by Anonymous Techdoser
Bought Adobe Master Collection CS3 on Amazon Marketplace and found out 2.5 years later. Amazon didnt care. They said they couldnt control what their partners are selling. What Im blaming them for is that this has been a know problem for years now and they havent done a thing to warn their customers. Just put out a warning with all software listings or with the order confirmation so customers can check right away if their copy is legit. It would be so darn easy, but as I said, they dont care. They love earning their commissions. I bet theyve made tons of money with it. We should sue them. McDonalds got sued for not putting a hot warning on their coffie cups and paid millions. I bet they would get Amazon as well. What do you think.
Still going on
Posted 06/30/11 2:27PM by Anonymous Techdoser
I recently bought CS3 design standard for $699 off ebay. At that price I thought it must be a genuine old stock, and the feedback 1400+ positive, no negative. It arrived very fast. Factory shrink wrapped (yes, but who's factory?), no manuals, just very professional looking cds in a case. The serial number label obviously newer than the product number on the case. Suspicious but hopeful, I installed it - it activated, did some updates, apparently registered, and all with barely time to connect to Adobe through the internet. Even more suspicious now, I looked through the install logs - one line stood out: "delete user" followed by chinese characters.
I contacted Adobe through their piracy contact form. They said the serial number was legit, but had no record of my registration. I've sent them the software and opened a dispute with Paypal, though I don't hold out much hope of a refund, just waiting for Adobe to confirm it's fake at the moment so that I can escalate my claim.
So, one hard disk reformat later - just in case, I'm poorer and wiser (and I thought I was already scam-proof!).
I wonder how many people are blissfully unaware that they may have installed malware, and that they don't have a legal copy, until they find out much too late.

The seller has been very polite, but his dead giveaway is that he says there is virtually no counterfeit Adobe software, particularly for the Mac. I have my fingers crossed that even if I don't get my money back, Adobe will follow it up - they have done in the past.

What is sad is that with Adobe's pricing structure (100% markup in Europe) + the number of available fakes + the activation problems, so many people, me included, are turning to other software - and there IS comparable software out there.
Citrus Software
Posted 09/07/10 8:49AM by dio5
Guess what?

2 years ago I bought Photoshop CS3 from 'Citrus Software' on Amazon UK.

Last week I bought the CS5 upgrade, which arrived today: INVALID SERIAL for CS3.

Contacted Adobe, and they confirm my serial number for CS3 is not genuine. I thought they were joking.

Just as the article mentions, the box, cd, etc everything looks pretty genuine, how was I supposed to know?

I've contacted Amazon as well, still awaiting their answer... but my guess is that I'm f*d.

Today Citrus Software still appears on Amazon, but no more products in their store. I've sent them a message, but Amazon auto-responded that their email is incorrect.
Amazon Software
Posted 08/25/10 8:27AM by Anonymous Techdoser
2010 Still selling pirate software Microsoft Windows 7 Ultimate After three months Microsoft announced it was an illegal copy!
Another bootleg from Amazon
Posted 06/08/10 8:52AM by aLeoLady
I purchased Adobe Photoshop CS3 Extended from PRABHMEET1978 through Amazon.com. I have contacted Amazon and they asked me to give the seller an opporunity to correct the problem.

I received the CD in what I believe was the standard Adobe package and the serial number on that package was as follows: 1330-1929-7932-6585-9973-2475. This purchase was made on April 25, 2008.

Recently, I downloaded an upgrade to CS5 from Adobe and to prove that I have the right to upgrade, I had to enter the serial number of the CS3 - which I took from the package and was immediately informed the serial number is not valid. I had them check again through their tech department, and again was told that was not a valid serial number.

Thus, I could not access the CS5 version already purchased. After about 6 hours of communication with Adobe representatives I was told that I HAD to get a valid Serial Number from the person who sold me Photoshop CS3.

The response from PRABHMEET1978 was - Sorry. You purchased this product more than 90 days ago. Well YEAH!!

I have since contacted Amazon and the lady I spoke with said she understood my problem, agreed that I had one but her hands were tied because Amazon has this - within-one-year - policy.

She concurred that not many people update software every year and she was going to try to see if she can help me and asked for a couple of days to do so. I am not too hopeful.

I paid $278 for the CD only version - I have been Photoshop user for many years at business and specifically ordered this package so I could update in future - NOT!!! Like the author, I got it in a recognizable Adobe Package - the CD was also compatible and the software has run on my computer with no problems - I was even able to load it onto my laptop - using the "invalid" serial number. Go figure.

Since I had already downloaded the upgrade - the cost of which is reflected on my charge card - before I found out about the invalid serial number - I had only the trial version - which has expired and now I have to go through the hoops to get that money back.

At this point, I will probably stick with the CS3 and say to heck with the Adobe upgrade. Maybe someday I will be willing and/or able to purchase the full version - which is oddly available on Amazon for $699 for us non-educators and $199 for educators. Again, go figure.

I am not going to let this drop - and thank the author for giving me some new avenues to follow. There are others who have recorded the same problem on other blogs - and I am collecting all the information to submit to Amazon - and put my findings on my personal website - and all the other blog groups I belong to = to help spread the word.

Thank you for this opportunity to get some of my frustration out - I think Amazon is going to find they will be getting a lot more complaints until they begin to background check their sellers.

Regards all.
bootleg copy of Photoshop CS3 from Amazon Marketplace
Posted 09/30/09 11:15AM by Anonymous Techdoser
I ordered a "used-like new" copy of Photoshop CS3 Extended from "gina obeyt" from Amazon Marketplace yesterday, and AFTER I paid I got this email message from her:

"this is used and cant be registered when you load it just skip over the registration and activation and click finish. if you have any problems call 330-596-2592 or email to blbsly@aol.com."

So far my requests to cancel the order have gone unanswered, so I expect I'll have to file a complaint and go through that whole process to get my $99 back. Certainly a lesson learned for me!

A word to the wise - bootleg software sales can and do occur on "reputable" sites such as Amazon Marketplace. As to the $99 price tag, as they say, if a deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is!
This is widespread!
Posted 09/16/09 5:24PM by Anonymous Techdoser
I got scammed too with a counterfeit copy of Photoshop CS3 - not from Amazon Marketplace but another vendor with good reviews on a lot of shopping sites (Nextag, etc.). I've posted a blog about it here - http://bogusware.wordpress.com/
(I've added a link to your story too)
Thought I'd share my experience..
Posted 06/11/09 2:19AM by daf
Did some research and stumbled on this article after receiving an ebay purchase today of what I thought would be a legit copy of Photoshop CS3 Extended. It pretty much sums up what I got.

The box came wrapped but instantly there were a few things not quite right about the quality such as the poorly printed box and manual and also a lack of warranty information.

I didn't even bother trying to install it, went straight to Adobe's production reg and it said the serial number was invalid. No surprise here.

A buyer of a previous transaction had even given positive feedback to the seller on a previous purchase of photoshop CS3. This buyer is either naive or stupid not to notice the discrepancies.

Now I have to go through the painful process of trying to get a refund via paypal.

Bottom line is if it seems to good to be true on Ebay it probably is. This is the first time I have thought about purchasing software on ebay and after this experince will be the last.
Photoshop CS3-counterfeit thru PrincessFiona on Amazon.
Posted 05/09/09 1:43PM by Anonymous Techdoser
Thanks to the info here, I knew to call Amazon to confirm the SN, which turned to be invalid. Have filed a claim with Amazon.

So I lost a lot of time trying to install the bogus unit but will get my money back either thru Amazon or Amex.

WORD OF WARNING: Pay with a credit card, not a debit card if you can. It gives you more protection.

Now I know to call immediately when I get software to confirm the SN with the software company. Knowing this also saved me $100 on buying MS Office yesterday. I bought an opened unit which they say is brand new and has never been installed. When it comes in, I will confirm that with MS and if it's not true, then I will claim a refund.

Double the damage
Posted 04/04/09 8:16AM by Anonymous Techdoser
Shoot! guess I'm stuck. I purchased 2 boxes of these back in December 2007, I think from Value Mart (I will need to dig for the receipts). Not much chance of making a claim with either Amazon or Visa after more than a year. All was well till I upgraded one of my 4 computers to a Vista machine. Seemed to load but will not open. Tried everything I could after researching work arounds. Called Adobe for help. They asked for my product serial number and that is when I was informed that I had an illegitimate copy. The tech did not want to talk to me after that point. Every question I asked was met with "that is an illegitimate serial number".After spending around $600 for the two boxes now a year later I have to spend another $600 for a illegitimate copy. I guess that I will be postponing any further computer upgrades since they will come with a built in surcharge of buying another PS. The moral of the story is "if it sounds too good to be true, then it isn't".
Bootleg made in USA
Posted 04/01/09 3:52PM by Jepne
I bought mine from eBay and never thought a thing about it until a year later when I had to deactivate it to switch computers. Serial number was not authentic and it said MADE IN USA on the disk. They can print anything they want on the disk.
Photoshop CS3
Posted 01/09/09 5:45PM by Anonymous Techdoser
Geez, I feel like a fool as I bought this from dguerrero_62 on amazon back 6/08 and just found out it was illegal 1/09. The main reason i never suspected was the activation I had to go through.
I bought counterfeit Photoshop 3 on EBay...
Posted 11/07/08 5:48PM by Anonymous Techdoser
On 10/26/08 I bought a Photoshop 3 Ex on EBay. Thanks to another Ebay members email with a link to this page, I am writing to this post. I contacted Ebay today, 11/7/08, and have filed a claim. They will give the seller 10 days to contact EBay back. If they do not, then my claim will go to EBays review department. He said he saw no problems and since usually if bootlegged, the seller never responds back. I also told him I had just called Adobe and they stated it was not a valid serial number. I was able to register mine on line too. The cd said made in singapore as did the box. I did buy this using my Pay Pal account, so I have EBays "Buyer Protection with PayPal" Guarantee. I will write back to this thread when I hear something. My address is totallylosthere(at)msn.com if any one finds out anything more.

Thank you to all who wrote in this post and to my fellow EBayer.


Mine a Bootleg?
Posted 07/31/08 9:11AM by Anonymous Techdoser
Just bought a "made in Singapore" adobe web premium over on eBay for half the retail price before i read this post, everything works fine.. even for the authorization ( i even registered my serial number over at adobe.com). This post really makes me think twice of what i had bought..maybe i should call or email them about the authenticity of the product.
Ellegal CS3 COPY,S ON E,BAY.
Posted 07/19/08 12:01PM by Anonymous Techdoser
Thanks for this Information !
Posted 05/31/08 6:12AM by Anonymous Techdoser
Well, somehow I have to be thankfull for your experience (as bad as that might sound).
I'm thinking about buying CS3 on my next Trip to the US - since there it is like 65% cheaper than here in Germany (considering the 'normal' retail price).
I allready wondered why several dealers seem to sell the Licences aroung $300 - which would be half as much as the normal price ..
It was allready suspicious to me - but I don't know much about the SW market in the US ...
Now I know, either pas the 650 bucks it costs or let it.


Re: valu-mart scams
Posted 04/02/08 8:11AM by AceBHound
Sorry to hear of your bad experience -- it looks like selling illegal copies is starting to catch up with this seller, as valu-mart's storefront is now "temporarily unavailable." I am hoping this means they were kicked off Amazon. Unfortunately, I don't doubt that they will just create another user ID or just sell on other marketplaces. The more people that are aware of these types of scams on Amazon/eBay for this high-dollar software, the more they will be skeptical enough to call the software manufacturer up to verify what they got was legit and get these sellers kicked off.

If you are within 30 days of the purchase from Amazon and start a claim, you are in a much better position than I was. Check with your credit card company to see how long you have to file a dispute -- they will send you paperwork and you will want to file it immediately so you meet their guidelines. Unfortunately I exceeded the time limits on my paperwork for both Amazon A-to-Z and with my credit card company, so I think I'm SoL with getting any money back. File claims immediately and you should be okay. Do please keep us updated on your experience with getting your money back!
valu-mart scams
Posted 04/02/08 3:21AM by Anonymous Techdoser
I to bought the cs3, it works etc., actually love the program, very poor delivery and the lady at valu mart was rather bitchy. I left a feedback that the delivery was poor etc and they emailed me saying if I'd remove the feedback they'd leave a glowing one for me. Like I care! Things got pretty heated after that even with a suposed liable suit and crap like that. Because they irked me I did call adobe and sure enough the serial number is a fake. I further reported it to the piracy end of adobe and they want me to send them the bootleg and all emails pertaining to it. I also filed a complaint with Amazon but I doubt they are very concerned. I will see if Amazon will return my money, if not I'll go through my credit card. Valu Mart seems to be located in Ft. Lauderdale. I hope they get what they deserve, what creeps. Wish I'd seen this blog before buying. I can be emailed at thepaintlady[at]mindspring.com if you have more information. Good luck and watch out.