It all started with an eBay auction for a new G4 Powerbook. My friend Cory wanted me to sell it for him just days after he bought it. Probably because he realized that, aside from looking cool, he had no real use for it. For the sake of an easy sale, I just pretended to sell it as my own, with a starting price of $1700, and the "Buy It Now" option for $2100.
You are bidding on my 19 day old G4 Powerbook. This was purchased for a project that fell through. When I tried to return it, I was informed of a 10 day limit for returns!
Your new laptop comes with its original box, all of its documentation, all of its original accessories, and the blue tooth mouse.
Days go by with no sign of interest, until I receive this email from an interested eBay member:
Hello I am very interested in your unit. I would like to know your best price to buy it now and if you ship international. I am in London UK right now. I would also want to know the condition of the unit. Please let me know I am very interested. Thank you in advance
OK, I went over all of this in the auction. Assuming he doesnít know how to read, I respond.
Well, I will ship it to you in London, but I will not do it for free. Iím sorry, but that is too much out of my own pocket. Please give me you address and I will go get a price for the shipping to London. As for the condition, it is pristine. Iíve only had it for 21 days now, only being used at my office. (although Iíve stopped using it now) If you would like, I can take more close up, high resolution pictures. The buy it now price is $2,100 (US currency) + the shipping to London. Please let me know if you are interested!
Thank you! Jeff
Seems like a smooth sale so far, right? Then I get this:
Hello, I'm very very interested for this item and I'm ready to pay you the best price $2100+ overnight or 2 days shipping charges (UPS DHL FEDEX OR FEDEX OR PARCEL FORCE) if we will use an escrow service to handle this transaction.As for the escrow service , I am already registered with www.set-ltd.net and my uzername is the same with my email address.I will pay the express shipping and also , the escrow fee . The escrow service will release you the money as soon as I will let them know that the item passed the inspection and is 100% ok.
The escrow fee is on my charge , don't worry .Please let me know if my offer is good enough for you . If it does , I will initiate the transaction with the escrow service as soon as I will have your confirmation.If is ok please register in order to make the deal and start the payment procedures.Hope that everything will be ok and close the deal in the best conditions.
Kind regards !
OK. Iíve seen this on CNN. Welcome to your textbook eBay scam. At first, I was just going to reply with a 72pt font FUCK OFF, or perhaps a disgusting picture, but I decided to see what the upstanding members of the Something Awful message board thought. And of course, right away, it is all picked apart. For instance, Grom wrote:
I draft an email to send to the scammer, when we get a better idea. Why donít we string him along? I register on the "escrow" site, and let him know.
From: MyNameIsJeff [mailto:email@example.com]
Sent: Saturday, April 24
Subject: What is the next step?
I have just finished creating my account on the escrow site that you suggested. My escrow username is MyNameIsJeffHarris. Before we continue, I wanted to ask; do you know if this site had a strong digital defense. I read that escrow services who do not utilize a strong digital defense can often be attacked, and the buyer and or seller can lose money or their item. I really donít want this to happen! Iím sure you donít either!
I donít mean to ask so many questions; as you can see, I am new at ebay. By doing it this way, will I get to skip the extra ebay fees? That would be really great. I donít want to pay them extra money. What is the next step? I have never really used escrow.
Thank you! Jeff
Here is where our friend gets excited.
From: Gianluca [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org]
Sent: Sunday, April 25
Subject: Re: What is the next step?
HELLO First of all I want ot tell you that you will not pay anything because I pay the escrow, UPS and other fees. Ok? I started the transaction with the nr. 6813088950 . Now please enter www.set-ltd.net, acces your account with the uzername that you have and if the transaction isOk with you please accept it. Ok? Once you do that I will send the funds =2100$ plus shipping $180. Ok? Please send the unit express UPS or Fedex.I will send them money and they will let you know as soon as they get the amount. Then you can send the unit at my address. Ok? Do not worry I know a lot of people that used this service and it is OK. Please let me know. THANKS
I write back:
Hello sir! Please let me thank you again for being so patient with me! It is too bad we are settling outside of ebay, because I was going to leave you "EXCELENT EBAYER!!!!!11 A++++++++== WOULD SELL TO ANYTIME" I guess it is ok though becaue I would have to give them an extra $300 when the auction was over.
I logged onto your preferred escrow site and saw our transaction. I did not see any place to accept it though! Did I just not see it? Sorry I am new at this. Where do I go to say OK?
Where on the site does it say where to ship it to! I am very eager to get this thing shipped so I can hurry up and start the process to get my money! Once I ok our transaction does it tell me where to ship the laptop? I am very positive you will be satisfied with the laptop.
One other thing, You seemed to confident about this escrow service, that I think I am going to use it myself for my other transactions. Is that ok? I will be buying and selling other laptops and would like the security. I will be buying many things and will need a escrow service with a strong digital defense to send my money to so I don't get ripped off.
Thanks again! Jeff
While waiting for his response, I decide to report the incident to eBay. I go through all the hoops, letting them know what happened, and asking them to take some action. This is what I get:
Thank you for writing to eBay's Customer Support with your concerns. My name is John and I appreciate the chance to answer your question. I'm happy to assist you further.
An Escrow service allows the buyer to send their money to the Escrow Company, and the Seller then ships the item to the Buyer. Once the Buyer approves the item the Escrow service then pays the Seller. eBay recommends escrow for transactions over $500.00.
The Escrow service affiliated with eBay is called Escrow.com. eBay encourages members to take advantage of the assurance that escrow services can provide. For more information on escrow, please see the following eBay page:
I wish you the best with your future transactions.
John W. S.
eBay Customer Support
WELL THANK YOU JOHN! MY CUP RUNNETH OVER! Letís see. Someone is reporting an obvious scam and fake escrow site. Obviously he has no idea what escrow is. BETTER SCHOOL HIM!
This pissed me off. Can this be eBay's response to other scams? Perhaps my follow-up e-mail was a little too angry:
Not to be rude, but I know quite well what escrow is. I also happen to know that this is an obvious scam attempt. Had you actually read the form I filled out on your site, and not replied with the canned response: Escrow 101, you would notice that I did not ask what escrow was. I was reporting someone wants to settle the sale outside of ebay, through an escrow site he referred me to. A site that claims to be a VeriSign secure site, but then you click the logo, he is hosting the VeriSign page -the page that should take you to the verisign site. This is a text book rip off. This can't be your answer to everyone who reports these types of things can it? I really think you should take some action against this person.
It isnít long before I have our next email from the scammer.
Sent: Monday, April 26
Subject: Re: Ready to ship laptop
OK I talk with escrow services and now is ok he have a litle problem with website.The money is sent express to escrow. Please email me when you will receive the confirmation.
And when he says express, he means express! Hours later I get my "confirmation."
From : Set-Ltd Customer Service
Sent : Monday, April 26
To : email@example.com
Subject : Payment received for transaction #6813088950
Your partner "scont06" has completed the payment for transaction ID 6813088950
Item name: PowerBook G4
Item price:2100.00 USD
Shipping cost: 180.00 USD
Inspection period: 1 day
Escrow fee: 25.20 USD
Total cost to buyer:2305.20 USD
Your action is required now. The next step of the transaction is to ship the merchandise to the buyer. Please send the shipping details to your partner "scont06".
As soon as your partner receives the merchandise and the inspection period ends we will contact you to complete payment.
Billing Support Team
But wait? What is also sitting in my Inbox, right next to this?
From: Gianluca [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org]
Sent: Monday, April 26, 2004 3:44 PM
Subject: I'm waiting the track#
Hello I receive the confirmation from escrow services about the money is received.Please send it as we agreed: fedex ups or dhl tnt express and please put a small value on the package so I will pay less taxes .Here the duty taxes are 27,5% from the total amount wrote on the package so please do your best and send it as a family gift and with a low value. This is my address: GIANLUCA SESSAREGO 9B VARLEY PARADE COLINDALE,LONDON,UK zip code:NW9 6RR
Please email me when you will send the package and give me the tracking number. Regards
So now we had his address. Everyone had a lot of ideas on how to mess with this guy, like lushka16:
Holy shit!! The next course of action is WICKED obvious, he even said it himself: "Here the duty taxes are 27,5% from the total amount wrote on the package." Put like $8000 on the package and make the fucker pay $2200 for it.
This was perfect! Obviously, $8000 was high, but marking it $2200 and having him pay the 27% was genius! I wanted to send the scammer something that was worth the effort. But what? EricFate got my imagination going:
Send a three ring binder with a hand drawn keyboard taped to the inside of the bottom flap, and a hand drawn screen taped to the inside of the top flap.
YES. This was perfect! Trick the scammer into paying a few hundred dollars for a fake laptop! Genius! And thus it was born...
(Click for full-sized pictures)
Next: Sending it to the scammer!