We have been down this road before. The last time around, people paid from $60 to $220 for a cheap Chinese lens they could have bought for $12. The lens was touted as a German product and the ads used fake quotes from a fake German engineer. They created fake test results and used fake testimonials. They grabbed professionally created photographs taken with professional photo equipment and passed them off as iPhone photos created with the so called “German engineered lens”.
Originally posted August 1, 2020. Updated, expanded, and re-posted March 12, 2021.
What has happened since last August.
As soon as I saw this scam hit the internet in late July 2020, I wrote my first article about the deception involved.
In the months since I originally posted this article I have received mostly two kinds of emails.
The first kind is from people who bought one of these “zoom monocular telescopes” before reading my article. Every single person who wrote to me said it was a worthless piece of junk. Some people were seriously overcharged. Refunds were difficult to get. Some of them sent me links to the sites where they got ripped-off. There are a lot of them.
The second kind of email is from people who saw my article and thanked me for warning them about this scam before they clicked “BUY”.
I also received an email from Natalie Clark, one of the co-authors of the NASA paper that was crudely Photoshopped (see below) to spread the dubious story that Johns Hopkins University designed this monocular telescope. Thanks to my information on this scam, the Photoshopped NASA article has been brought to the attention of NASA’s Inspector General.
Now, on to the updated version of this article.
The New Zoom Monocular Telescope Scam
If you want to go into business, you can buy these super zoom telescopes in quantities of 500 or more from Global Sources in China. The cost varies from $10-12 each, depending on how many you order. If you order a high enough quantity you can get any brand name you want put on the telescope, even your own. Decide on the price you want to charge, open up a website, and sell them.
I have no problem with products made in China, or importing them and selling them in the U.S., so long as they are clearly identified.
I have a problem with falsifying a NASA document to prove the telescope was invented by Johns Hopkins University. I have a problem with making outrageous claims for the quality of a lousy telescope. I have a problem with using professional photos created with professional equipment by professional photographers, and giving the impression they were created with a smart phone and this cheaply made telescope. I have a problem with charging ridiculously inflated prices. I also have a problem with making it difficult to get a refund.
Like last time, they will probably make a small fortune selling these to people who know very little about quality optics and prices.
The Digitally Altered NASA Article
So the dishonest people who put together the ad changed Natalie Clark’s first name to Iris and her address from NASA Langley Research Center to Johns Hopkins University Institute of Optics to promote the notion that the telescope was “invented” by Johns Hopkins University.
It is typical in this type of scam to grab professionally created photos and videos on the internet and pass them off as photos and videos created with the product they are selling. That is just as true for this new telescope scam. Many of the photos in the ads were published months or years before the telescope’s release date of July 1, 2020. This screen capture from the ad at the Tomaob site is typical. They are clever. They do their best to give you the impression these photos were created with their zoom telescope, but they never come right out and actually say it.
I went looking for these images on the internet.
You get the point. The photos in these ads have nothing to do with the kind of images this telescope/lens can actually create. There is a reason for that. If they could produce quality images with the product they are selling, they would use those images in the ad instead of grabbing images off the internet that were created with professional quality photo gear.
More Sites Pushing the Same Scam
Here’s the same zoom telescope at the blawmp.com web site. I used a red arrow to mark the claim that this telescope was “invented by Johns Hopkins University and released on July 1”.
And here at the Genie Mania site is the Photoshopped NASA paper used to make the claim that Johns Hopkins University invented this telescope.
The Dangers of Buying From These Sites
I suggest you do not buy from any of these fly-by-night websites. Past history indicates that at many of these sites you can be charged well over the the price in the ad, and hit with huge shipping and handling charges. As an example, in one comment in the Facebook section below a person was charged $149 despite the ad saying the telescope was $39.95. And if you try to return it, you pay for the return shipping, and you usually have to ship it to some country in Asia, often China. Then you wait for weeks for your refund, if it ever comes. Some people have purchased these telescopes and not been able to return them for a refund. Not only is the telescope a scam, many of the sites that sell them are shady.
Where Many of These Sites Are Located
If you do an ICANN lookup of the domain names of these web sites, guess where many of these “companies” are located? China.
And it gets worse. Thanks to recent changes in federal consumer protection laws, you may not have a legal claim to get your money back. Since you are dealing with a company that is not based in the U.S., you increase the odds you won’t get your money back if you aren’t happy with your purchase. And thanks to the new vagaries of U.S. law, your credit card company may not be legally legally obligated to return your money. The moral of the story is to purchase lenses only from highly reputable dealers. And most of them, for obvious reasons, don’t carry these cheap, poorly made, poor quality Chinese items.
Besides, you don’t seriously believe a telescope/lens that sells for as little as $30 can give you good optical quality at 300X, do you? If you do, I hear there is a bridge for sale in Brooklyn.
A professional review follows from Oberwerk High Performance Optics, followed by customer reviews at Facebook and Amazon.
The folks at Oberwerk High Performance Optics (Dayton Ohio) bought one of these telescopes and did a review. According to them, every statement in the ad is a lie. No surprise there. The actual optical zoom according to their tests is 8x24X not 10x300X. No surprise there either. The image quality is “very poor”. Of course.
The full review is here and fun to read.
Facebook Ad and Reviews
Ads like this using all kinds of different “company” names are showing up all over Facebook.
Comments like this are typical. People unable to return the telescope. People being charged much more than the advertised price. Jerry Kolker’s comment is not unusual. He was charged $149 for a $39.95 telescope. What happened to him has happened to others. Whoever posts these ads on Facebook periodically goes back and deletes the negative comments.
You can buy this zoom monocular telescope all over Amazon for varying prices from a lot of different sellers. The product names are different but it is the same exact product. I grabbed some screen captures of reviews to give you an idea what they are like.