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MacAddict Tracks Down eBay Scam Artist 912

Posted by pudge
from the ha-ha dept.
OS24Ever writes "A future high school history teacher, Jason Eric Smith, sold an 867MHz PowerBook G4 on eBay right before finals. He found out the hard way that people are out there to rip you off, and he went to great lengths to catch this guy with the help of Mac heads everywhere. A great read and agreat way for us little guys to get back at these scammers."
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MacAddict Tracks Down eBay Scam Artist

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    there's a lot of rotten apples on ebay.
  • ...how about, when shipping something, trying to hide a GPS transponder somewhere in the object. Make it well-hidden, but also give it a limited-lifetime battery so that it won't be traceable after about a week.

    If you get ripped, just follow the signal or keep track of where it last vanished (perhaps it went into a basement where it couldn't be tracked any further). Meet the crook at his/her door with a .45.

    Well, okay, maybe not a .45 but be ready to inflict physical violence, since the feds are rarely helpful.
    • by Denito (196701) on Thursday December 12, 2002 @05:34PM (#4874960) Homepage

      What a fantastic idea. Instead of losing your money to scams, you can instead use it all buying GPS devices that you ship away and never get again.

      I haven't heard such great idea since my meeting with accounting 10 minutes ago.
    • SHHH!!! (Score:4, Funny)

      by ez76 (322080) <slashdot@e73.141596.us minus pi> on Thursday December 12, 2002 @06:25PM (#4875520) Homepage
      If you get ripped, just follow the signal or keep track of where it last vanished (perhaps it went into a basement where it couldn't be tracked any further). Meet the crook at his/her door with a .45.
      How many times do I have to tell you people?

      The first rule of GPS-based loss recovery retribution fight club is:

      You don't talk about GPS-based loss recovery retribution fight club!
    • by Greedo (304385) on Thursday December 12, 2002 @06:41PM (#4875664) Homepage Journal
      Sounds a lot like this guy's story [macscripter.net].

      Basically, stolen iBook has dynamic DNS and Timbuktu (VNC-like app) installed on it. Owner notes when stolen computer is logged into the net, runs Applescript to help track it, recovers it.

      I think I read about this on /. back in January.
    • by spike hay (534165) <blu_ice&violate,me,uk> on Thursday December 12, 2002 @09:10PM (#4876860) Homepage
      Better yet, why not just password-protect the bios? Once they pay you, tell them the password.
      • Wouldn't work. (Score:3, Informative)

        by j3ss (632376)
        Because all they have to do is pull the CMOS battery or whatver is powering the BIOS long enough so that the BIOS resets.
        • Re:Wouldn't work. (Score:4, Interesting)

          by Edmund (19021) on Friday December 13, 2002 @05:31AM (#4878963)
          Depends on the laptop. IBM laptops are well-known for being notoriously hard to crack. The passwords are stored on a seperate flash RAM chip on the motherboard, which is backed by a CRC checksum. In addition, the password is replicated on the hard drive, and when the BIOS password is set the exact same password is set on the hard drive.

          If you simply wiped or tamped with the data on the chip, the CRC check would fail and the laptop would refuse to boot. Even if somebody managed to bypass the BIOS password by obtaining a "virgin" password chip (i.e. one that has no password set and a checksum to reflect that), they would still be unable to access the hard drive because they lack the password. If the hard drive was put into another computer, it would come up with a controller failure without the password.

          Note that there is a way to circumvent this. You could buy a third party security chip (several companies sell them) and solder it in place of the original one. Then you simply toss out the original hard drive.

          Apparantly a talented man from Australia has figured out exactly how the passwords are stored/encrypted on the chip and built a simple serial circuit and program combination to read it. The schematics and software are freely available on his website, and the idea is that you build the circuit, read the contents of the chip, send him the dump and pay him money to recover the password from inside the binary dump. This allows you to keep the hard drive.

          Unfortunately, I don't have the URL of his website off-hand. If anybody has used his services, does it actually work? :)

          - Ed.
  • by neurostar (578917) <neurostar@noSPAM.privon.com> on Thursday December 12, 2002 @05:22PM (#4874795)

    "That night I dreamed of Mr. Christmas and a baseball bat, some duct tape, and roofing nails."

    neurostar
    • Honestly, that would have been my method, especially since there was little chance of recovering the stolen goods. I prefer the kind of vengence where I can take personal satisfaction with the feeling of hard metal or wood repeatedly slamming against flesh. I like to hear the crook whimper and beg and sob like a small child as I crush his legs.

      Of course, fun as it would be to let them live and leave them crippled for life, I would know the importance of ending it so that I could not be identified by them later.

      Yes, I am a very disturbed person, but I'm not that bad if you haven't tried to screw me over.
    • by kmellis (442405) <kmellis@io.com> on Thursday December 12, 2002 @07:27PM (#4876050) Homepage
      "That night I dreamed of Mr. Christmas and a baseball bat, some duct tape, and roofing nails."
      I have this recurring dream every year about this time. Weird.
  • A smart mob / posse? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by certron (57841) on Thursday December 12, 2002 @05:25PM (#4874829)
    I think this is interesting for the sole fact that a whole lot of people who owe no direct kinship to each other elected to cooperate for a common cause.

    I was listening to a presentation about different pagan holidays, and one component of one of the rituals was to honor / remember your ancestors. What made me remember this was that the presenter said that the ancestors didn't have to be biological, instead could be cultural, intellectual, or spiritual ancestors.

    In this case, it seems that these 'artificial' families are willing to stick together and cooperate on a common goal, even if they themselves will not directly benefit. I suppose this is just a regular community, with enough people in it that a few would be motivated to assist. Then again, I could just be amazed by my own insight, marvelling at a fact that others have known for ages, and so think that I am smarter than I actually am. :-)

    • by bricriu (184334) on Thursday December 12, 2002 @05:44PM (#4875071) Homepage
      There's a Vonnegut novel, "Slapstick," that involves the plot point of the President of the US giving everyone new randomly-from-amongst-a-certain-set-of-words-and-n umbers-assigned middle names. The idea was exactly what you say -- that now everyone has a new "family". Typically loopy Vonnegut, but ultimately an interesting idea (which is also typical Vonnegut behavior).
  • I sell things on Ebay as well (usually old games that I'm done with) - and I don't do COD. Paypal - sure. Checks and money orders, but I wait until they clear before they ship.

    I know we should be more trusting of people, but I've become convinced that 20% of the population is made of Assholes that can be trusted only as far as they can be shot.

    Still, I have to admire his spirit tracking the guy down - if nothing else, that's one less asshole to worry about. Only 1 billion to go!
  • by Mr Guy (547690) on Thursday December 12, 2002 @05:25PM (#4874846) Journal
    If he was a spammer [slashdot.org] and not a scammer, he could have just posted it here and had the guy in hours.
  • by Vaughn Anderson (581869) on Thursday December 12, 2002 @05:28PM (#4874877)
    new Beatles tune mp3... only available K**Za

    "I Catch Counterfeiters with a Little Help from my Friends" ...who just happen to be Addicts... go figure..

  • It was... (Score:5, Funny)

    by PDHoss (141657) on Thursday December 12, 2002 @05:28PM (#4874878)
    like, a really good 867MHz PowerBook G4. ... ... ... ... bummer.
  • here goes (Score:5, Informative)

    by mao che minh (611166) on Thursday December 12, 2002 @05:28PM (#4874879) Journal

    Mac Addicts to the Rescue

    or

    How I Caught a Counterfeiter with a Little Help from my Friends

    a true story by Jason Eric Smith

    Check out the Forum

    in the interest of getting this out, no fancy layout, just hand coding. maybe i'll spruce it up later. the names of the innocent have been changed, the names of the guilty though...

    I am a college student (my second time around). Specifically, I'm studying to become a high school history teacher. I am a student with a lifelong habit though, Macintosh. I got my first Mac in 1986, a used Mac Plus with 1 megabyte of RAM a massive 40 megabyte external hardrive. Since then, I've always had to keep up, first it was the SE, then the IIsi, the Powerbook 140, and from there on, more Macs than you can shake a stick at (I missed the Mac TV). I usually keep my Mac for about 6 months, and then resell it and move up. I almost always buy used, so don't get any ideas about me being rich.

    Since I went back to being a student again, I've been selling Macs more regularly, picking up good deals on used Macs locally and then reselling on eBay. I've been doing this for about two years now, its relatively easy, takes about an extra hour of my day, and usually pays the rent. In November when the new Powerbooks came out I decided I was going to buy one for myself, to keep, an early Christmas present that would come in handy for taking notes in class and finishing up a presentation I needed to do on the New Orleans school system. The day they were announced I ordered a nice new Powerbook G4 867 and found it on my doorstep only a few days later.

    It was a beautiful machine, if you've never played with one in person, you won't believe it. I played with it for a couple of days, took it to school to take notes and do research on. The more I used it, the more I loved it. But, it was just too much to be carrying around, $2300 in my backpack had a tendency to make me a little nervous. I decided maybe I should turn it around and pick up an iBook. My girlfriend and I decided we would use the extra money to donate to some charities for Christmas. So on November 19th, up on eBay it went, along with an Airport Basestation and a bunch of other knickknacks. I set a buy-it-now price on a whim for $2950.

    The next morning I checked my auction, a couple of bids placed, and so the buy-it-now option was gone. Checking my email I got a couple of questions about the computer and much to my surprise, an offer to buy it for $2900 from Steve Matthews, a dad with a lucky son in college who was going to be getting a Powerbook for his birthday. Steve wanted to pay for it COD, no problem, its actually how I usually sell things. I called him on the phone number he gave me to ask a couple of questions and make sure everything was on the up and up.

    He reiterated that he was buying it as a last minute present for his son and since it was already setup as a package, he thought it was a good deal. Not to mention the Chicago Apple stores were still out of stock. I got home from school, packed up my Powerbook and accessories, and off they went Fedex overnight to Chicago, never to be seen again.

    At 10:21AM on November 21st, a man going by the name of Paul Smith signed for my two packages and gave the driver an official cashier's check from LaSalle Bank for $3052.78 in return. The check made it back to my doorstep the next morning. I went to the bank, deposited the check and withdrew enough to go ahead and pay my rent and pick up a couple of household items. I sent an email to Steve to make sure he got everything ok and to check that nothing had been damaged in shipping. No reply. As the old saying goes, no news is good news, right?

    My girlfriend and I went away for Thanksgiving, and when we got back on Friday, I had a message from my bank. The branch manager had called to let me know she had a returned item for $3052.78 and that my account was now in the negative. Seriously in the negative. No problem I thought, I'll just call Steve and see what's up.

    So I dialed the number I had. In the back of my mind I expected a "this number has been disconnected message". Instead I got an answer, the voice sounded identical to Steve, so I asked if Steve was there.

    "Oh, Steve, yeah, that's my cousin, he's out of town for Thanksgiving you know. He'll be back Tuesday"

    "Can I leave a message for him?"

    So I left my information and asked that he give me a call. That little voice in the back of my mind let out a sigh and an uh-oh. The voices were the same right? Was I being scammed? Well, if I was, I certainly wasn't going to let the weekend go by without doing a little investigating.

    I started off with the information I had. His AOL email address, his phone number, and the address I shipped the computer to. The AOL address didn't yield anything. Doing a reverse lookup on the address (thanks to Whitepages.com) I got three names and phone numbers, none of which matched anything I had. The phone number didn't give me anything. I finally found a way to lookup the exchange on the number to see if it was a cell phone or a landline (Fone Finder). It came back as Nextel and I wanted to scream.

    There really isn't anything you can do with a cell phone number. There are no directory services. The cell phone companies won't give out any information. And that's that. I called Nextel and pleaded with them. The customer service rep I spoke with seemed more confused than anything. He kept asking me what my Nextel phone number was and why I suspected someone was fraudulently billing to my account. I calmly explained at least three times that I was not a Nextel customer, that I was just trying to get an address for another customer I suspect has defrauded me, etc, etc. I finally gave up on Chris from Nextel, I've had customer service reps who don't even speak English who were more helpful.

    I was at a dead end. I'd just sent my $2300 laptop, my Airport basestation, and a load of stuff to somebody I didn't know and all I had to show for it was a bill from Fedex for overnight shipping and a returned cashier's check. It's hard to sleep comfortably knowing some asshole has your Mac and is doing god knows what with it.

    Sunday the first of December, I sprang into action full force. I called for help. I knew I wasn't going to get anywhere with this on my own, so I figured I might be able to get some help from some bulletin boards. I posted my tale of woe and call for assistance on every Mac bulletin board I could think of. I hoped that somebody who worked for Nextel, some fellow Mac addict like myself, might be willing to bend the rules a little. I wanted this guy's address and I wanted it bad. I was already pricing flights to Chicago and putting my professors on notice that I might have to miss a little class. I may have made an error in trusting this person, but I'm not someone you want to have that happen to. I will get you. I will hunt you down, and I will bring a baseball bat with me.

    I got more replies than I could keep up with. Everyone wanted to know what they could do to help or at least offer support. Well, everyone except one guy who just wanted to let me know how incredibly stupid he thought I was and that he would never have accepted a counterfeit anything. I think a 102:1 great person to asshole ratio is pretty good. Several people living in Chicago offered their assistance, be it in gathering information or even forming a tough guy squad if necessary.

    The most important reply I got was a pointer to an online PI service that does reverse lookups on cell phones. I was already beyond broke, but I figured $85.00 more wouldn't kill me. Twelve hours and $85.00 later, I had a name, an address, and a landline phone number for this guy. The name and his AOL email were eerily close, actually with a last name like Christmas, it would be pretty weird if it didn't match up. I couldn't believe it. A Chicago resident named Melvin Christmas had just ruined my Christmas. I was expecting William Faulkner to come popping out of the pantry at any moment and laugh at me.

    I was now ready to call the police. I called the Chicago police department and filed a report. I gave the operator all of my information, including the real name and address I had managed to get. "A detective will contact you within one to two weeks, thank you." One to two weeks?!? I had this guy, I'd done all the work already, all you had to do was go pick him up. I'd even gone ahead and called Fedex and spoken to the Chicago station manager and was assured that the driver would cooperate in identifying the guy if necessary. All they had to do was pick him up. In one to two weeks he could be gone. And all the while my precious Powerbook is sitting god knows where being used by somebody completely undeserving of a Mac. I know in my heart that Mr. Christmas is really a PC guy.

    I was furious. Chicago PD weren't going to do anything about this. If they were anything like the New Orleans PD, one to two weeks was likely to turn in to never. I figured I'd call Mr. Christmas myself. Let him know I was going to give him a chance to fix this, and I thought, maybe at least scare him. Let him know he was dealing with someone who would track him down no matter what, even if I had to make a deal with the Prince of Darkness to do it. Mr. Christmas said he didn't even know what email was. Obviously a PC user.

    I kept checking the message boards. Maybe someone would have a better idea. I called the local FBI field office. Agent Jones was very understanding, but let me know that even though this crossed state lines, the field office didn't take anything involving less than $5000. "Try the Chicago PD".

    I kept everyone on the Mac boards updated as best I could. On Tuesday I got a useful reply, try the Secret Service, counterfeiting is their jurisdiction. I made my way to the under-renovation Federal Building here in New Orleans. After walking many a dark, scary hallway, found myself at the door of Agent Keith Lopola. Keith came out and heard my case. I had brought copies of all the emails between myself and Steve Matthews/Paul Smith/Mr. Christmas, a copy of the check, and the call journal I had started keeping. Agent Lopola told me the same thing the FBI did, "It falls under our jurisdiction, but we can't take the case." He wanted to let me know that he really felt for me. Thanks. I left the office determined to call and bother him and the Chicago PD everyday for the rest of my life or at least until Mr. Christmas was behind bars.

    Finals were fast approaching. It's not very easy to concentrate on school when all you can think about all day is the fact that all of your student loans for the next semester are going to cover this counterfeit check. That and some grubby criminal has your Powerbook. It's enough to drive someone to the drink.

    Tuesday night I got an email from someone who had seen my story posted on O'Grady's Powerpage, a Powerbook enthusiast site. George Dunbar had seen the story and thought it sounded eerily similar to his. I called him, we compared notes, and turns out it was the same guy. George forwarded me all of his emails. Everything was the same, word for word, it was like Mr. Christmas just copied and pasted and magically made money. George was in it worse than I was though and had completely given up. He was out $6000 and two computers. He also let me know that there were more victims. He'd talked to at least three other people who had been taken by the same guy, all of whom had just given up. I was not going to give up. That night I dreamed of Mr. Christmas and a baseball bat, some duct tape, and roofing nails.

    Wednesday morning I decided I was going to Chicago. I set up another eBay auction under my girlfriend's account, this time for same computer, different city. Three hours later, lo and behold I received an email from eBay user videopro55 (the same one) asking me if I'd like to sell the computer right now for $2500. Oh yes, I'd love to sell the computer, I'll even be there when it gets delivered to make sure it gets "setup properly".

    He emailed me a new address and phone number, the phone number again traced back to the same address for Mr. Christmas. I called the Secret Service and the Chicago PD, pleading, all they had to do was be there when Fedex dropped off the package. It was a guaranteed hit, he'd have another counterfeit cashier's check, all you'd have to do is arrest him. Like shooting fish in a barrel. "Sorry, Detective McDonaugh will be out until next Wednesday, can I take a message?" Fine, if the cops won't do it, I decided I'd just Priceline a ticket and be waiting next door when it got dropped off. So I'd know what kind of neighborhood I was looking at, I asked for help again in the Mac boards. Two Chicago residents replied, and the next morning, courtesy of Tim, I had 23 pictures of the house, the cars in the driveway (with license plate numbers) and the neighborhood. I'd like to see a Dell user do something like that at 4:30 in the morning for a complete stranger a thousand miles away. I started planning my trip. I decided I'd leave on Saturday, have the package delivered on Monday, and make it back just in time to screw up on all my finals.

    On Friday in preparation for flying up I mapped the new address from the one for Mr. Christmas to see how close it was. As I looked at the map, it hit me. The new address wasn't in Chicago. It was in a suburb, Markham. I googled for the Markham police and 5 minutes later was talking to a very enthusiastic Sargeant Knapp. I had hit the jackpot, the new drop was outside of Chicago jurisdiction and therefore outside of their inattentiveness as well. Sargeant Knapp informed me he loved this kind of thing, even had a UPS and Fedex uniform ready. He'd call Fedex and they would set it up for Tuesday. I was certain I was dreaming. After talking to two detectives in Chicago, an FBI field agent, an agent in the New Orleans field office of the Secret Service, an agent with the L.A. Secret Service and having a conference call with a large group of agents from the Chicago Secret Service, I finally was getting somewhere. And I didn't even have to stand on someone's doorstep with a baseball bat to do it.

    I spent the entire weekend on pins and needles. What if Mr. Christmas figured something out between now and Tuesday? All would be lost. I wouldn't even get the chance to confront him on my own. On Monday I spoke with Sgt. Knapp to make sure everything was ready to go. I had sent him a package with all of my documentation (he didn't have email), and I tried to explain what all the email stuff meant as best I could. He had worked everything out with Fedex and they were set for the delivery on Tuesday.

    I called my brother in Nashville and had him send the package. I had set everything up to be coming from there so that Mr. Christmas wouldn't get suspicious. I could barely sleep Monday night. All I could think about was something going wrong and my only chance at getting this guy being missed. I wanted to update everyone on the Mac boards, but I had to keep it quiet until I knew something was going to happen.

    Tuesday afternoon Sgt. Knapp called. They had tried the delivery but no one was home. I just wanted to scream. The board users kept posting how the suspense was driving them nuts. Well, it was going to give me an aneurism. A million possibilities went through my head. Maybe he had somebody working at Fedex who tipped him off, maybe I worded something in one of my email a little off. Sgt. Knapp called me back to let me know they would try the delivery again tomorrow. He also wanted to let me know that they had intercepted another package that was being sent to the same address. Looks like he'd already struck again, thankfully the lady from New York will get her computer back. He also told me that he was definitely going to keep pursuing this, and that oddly enough, the address I'd given him was also related to another fraud case, but this one much bigger (hundreds of thousands) involving a certain Chicago franchise I won't mention. So maybe I had led them to something bigger than just some asshole counterfeiting cashier's checks.

    Today I had finals all day. I'm a 4.0 honors student. I've had a 4.0 all semester. I'm not sure if I'll keep that after today. I just couldn't sleep last night. All I could think about was Mr. Christmas and the delivery. I couldn't study either. So I winged it, I'll get my grades tomorrow. I called Sgt. Knapp at 2:45. He told me he was on his way back to the house. They'd already made the delivery and arrested the guy. He had more than $10,000 in counterfeit cashier's checks waiting for deliveries.

    *I* got him.

    I'm right now waiting on Sgt. Knapp to fax me a copy of his mug shot for posterity. Then I'm going to go celebrate. Sgt. Knapp said the guy was cooperating and he was going to try to recover my laptop. I'm hopeful, but I don't expect it. I might not ever get my computer back, but at least there is one less asshole on the street. When will criminals learn? You just shouldn't mess with Mac people.

    For everyone on all the boards who offered their help and encouragement, I thank you. This would have been a lot harder without you. If you're ever in New Orleans, look me up and I'll buy you a beer. I've still got to figure out how I'm paying to college next semester, but I'll keep some beer money set aside for ya'll.

    Oh yeah, and if there are any lawyers in the Chicago area who can file a civil suit against this guy for damages (yeah I know I'm not going to collect) please contact me, misterye a t yahoo d o t com

    The sites with great users that helped out (you can sign up for the forums and read all about this as it was going on): MacRumors.com MacNN ThinkSecret O'Grady's PowerPage

    Update 12/11/02 18:58 CST: Sgt. Knapp is sending me a copy of Mr. Christmas's mug shot. I'll post it as soon as I get it.

    Update 12/11/02 21:39 CST: For those interesting in getting in contact with me, my email address is misterye at yahoo dot com, if you think you were also a victim, please call me at 504-894-1243 and I'll put you in touch with the appropriate people.

    Update 12/11/02 23:36 CST: I've gone back through and added links where appropriate. I'll try to reformat this tomorrow.

    Update 12/12/02 10:36 CST: Ok, so how's this for small world: Apparently this thing is getting posted everywhere. I just got a call from Matt of the Real World Season 9 (the New Orleans Real World). So anyway, the cast of the New Orleans Real World used to all work at 735 Nightclub. I moved down here to actually take-over their marketing right after the show ended. So I never met Matt or any of them until speaking to him today. Small, weird world.

    Update 12/12/02 12:03 CST: I've added a forum where everyone can talk about this. Here it is.

    Update 12/12/02 13:30 CST: For those of you wanting to donate to my cause, I urge you to choose a local charity. There are a lot of needy people and organizations out there this season, if you can't think of anything local, I'm a big fan of Doctor's Without Borders and Lambda International. If you really must, you can send money to my girlfriend's Paypal account, cranberry_coyote@hotmail.com. She's the one who's covering this check for me right now, so I guess she should get this. I'm still not entirely sure about this, but you've insisted. Thanks again.

    Last update Wednesday, December 12th 13:49 PM CST

    Copyright 2002 Jason Eric Smith

    • Re:here goes (Score:3, Interesting)

      by ubrayj02 (513476)
      It sure seems a shame that after all of that work, and hassle, the guy is still out over 3000$ I'm not sure what sort of implications this would have for our legal institutions - but shouldn't someone who has stolen or ripped someone else off, has gotten arrested, and is convicted of that crime pay back the people who were robbed? Maybe just an equal amount of money as the stolen goods, or with some extra for pain and suffering, or something.
      I realize that making people pay for their crimes with currency, or goods, or services, might seem strange (and maybe un-American too)but there are lots of instances of this in other parts of the world.
      Just off the top of my head, in Iraq when you murder someone, you owe their family a certain fixed amount of "blood money" (heard this on NPR a month ago). In Morrocco the theft of sheep could (circa the 1930's - from a paper by Clifford Geertz on "thick description") be re-imbursed from the thiefs family's flocks. These are obviously just random snippets from around the world, but I wonder if they might work in certain cases - like this one.
    • by doc_traig (453913) on Thursday December 12, 2002 @06:39PM (#4875651) Homepage Journal

      Cut it out. The guy's server is a smoking corpse right now. If it weren't for this guy, I wouldn't have been able to read the story.

      Please, go find something good and MOD IT UP for a change.

      - DDT

    • by LegendOfLink (574790) on Thursday December 12, 2002 @07:16PM (#4875968) Homepage
      When will criminals learn? You just shouldn't mess with Mac people.

      Man, forget using police officers and government agents to keep order among society, just put Mac users on patrol.

      Remember boys and girls, Mac users are our FRIEND.

      Sarcasm aside, I'm glad Jason found this jerkass. However, I do think it'd be funny to see a group of angry Mac users chucking IMacs through the scammer's window.
  • by Anonymous Cowtard (573891) on Thursday December 12, 2002 @05:28PM (#4874886)
    ...if this guy had just waited to ship the item until the payment had cleared. If the buyer wasn't interested in that, then wait for another buyer who *is* willing.

    Would've saved him a lot more trouble and money in the long run.
  • by rjstanford (69735) on Thursday December 12, 2002 @05:29PM (#4874898) Homepage Journal
    Doesn't FedEX have some responsibility in this case? After all, if you ship something COD and they accept a counterfit check, why is that completely your fault?

    I'm not saying that it isn't legally your problem, just that in an ideal world it shouldn't be. After all, presumably it would be FedEX's fault if they accepted something written in crayon on a brown paper sack ... where do you draw the line? Any ideas?
    • by Mandi Walls (6721) on Thursday December 12, 2002 @05:42PM (#4875047) Homepage Journal
      I dunno, man.

      Cashier's checks look different at every bank. You can't expect the FedEx guy to whip out his cel phone and call the bank right at the guy's doorstep to check out the legitimacy of the paperwork.

      He's just the messenger.

      's almost as bad as relying on the manager at McDonald's to catch counterfeit $20s.

      Mac users are a posse, man. They're like one big inbred family. They trust other Mac users 'cause they have some bizarre kinship for being on the short end of the tech stick.

      Like us here, only with the social stick...

      --mandi

  • Find (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward
    try catching him by his mac address
  • "It's hard to sleep comfortably knowing some asshole has your Mac and is doing god knows what with it."

    If he's a normal user, he's probably filling the various ports and orafices with various..uh..plug-like devices.
  • by eclectric (528520)
    Don't fuck with the Mac Heads.

    this reminds me of an episode of South Park where a kid sold Cartman some pubic hair, and cartman got the kid back by tricking the kid into eating the kid's parents.
  • It's sad that, even to all the great lengths he went to, all PC users to him are bad guys. Congrats on getting the guy who stole your Mac, but maybe you will find time to realize it's the community your in and it has nothing to do the type of computer you use.
  • by Nefrayu (601593) on Thursday December 12, 2002 @05:37PM (#4874985) Homepage
    Ok, so it sounds like from this article the guy listed his system on eBay, but then sold it to a guy who "saw his ad" on eBay, but didn't actually bid on the item. This is 1. Against eBay rules for selling, and 2. Stupid. There's no way to get any kind of verification on who it was he was talking with (as he found out), no way to check out the guy's prior habits (via feedback), and no way to get back at the guy without a lot of effort. Every sale on eBay is insured up to a certain amount, with fraud protection offered through PayPal and through credit cards, COD is also the worst way to go.
    I tell everyone who contacts me in this manner to bid on my auctions. Period. There's a reason eBay has these rules, and this is one of them.
    But, no one ever said Mac users were the shiniest apples in the barrel.
  • by Fished (574624) <amphigory&gmail,com> on Thursday December 12, 2002 @05:39PM (#4875007)
    One of the things he mentions is tha tthe FBI and Secret Service were not interested in anything less than $5000. Chicago police just weren't interested... This brings up something called "the broken window theory." It goes like this: some socioligists whose names escape me observed that, as long as no window was broken in a building, they tended to stay unbroken. However, as soon as one was broken, if it was not repaired every window in the building would be broken in a couple of weeks.

    The idea here is that, by ignoring small crimes, the police miss chances to prevent big crimes. The funny thing is that the people wanted for "small" (I don't think of $3000 as small, but that's just me) crimes are often pulling the same scam again and again - but no one ever turns them in. These "small" scams can add up to really large amounts of money and become big ones.

    A few years ago, we had a homeless man who we gave a household job to steal a check out of my wife's checkbook. We only found out when we got a call from the grocery store, asking if we had actually written the check. Of course we hadn't -- the reason the grocery store had called us was that the guy had pulled the same stunt, at the same grocery store, seven times before. No one ever pressed charges. Well, we pressed charges, and it turned out the guy was also wanted for 10 counts of car theft, forging, fraud, etc. etc. ad nauseam. The really nauseating part? The police never followed through on our theft and forgery complaints, even though this guy had dozens of similar complaints against him.

    So, the bottom line in my not so humble opinion is that, if you want to prevent crime, you don't need to outlaw guns or anything: just start enforcing the laws you already have.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 12, 2002 @05:42PM (#4875049)
      you should have planted a joint on him before calling the cops, that would have got them interested.
      • Mod Parent Up. (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Fished (574624) <amphigory&gmail,com> on Thursday December 12, 2002 @05:47PM (#4875109)
        You know ... you've really got a point there. Maybe if we weren't putting all our law enforcement dollars into trivial, non-violent drug "crimes" (or would be non-violent if they weren't illegal) we would have time, money and energy to pursue things like theft, fraud, forgery, utterance, grand theft auto, etc.

        Never thought I'd see an Insightful AC.

    • by Osty (16825) on Thursday December 12, 2002 @05:46PM (#4875100)

      few years ago, we had a homeless man who we gave a household job to steal a check out of my wife's checkbook.

      You hired a homeless man to steal checks from your wife? No wonder you got screwed.


      (Hint: Next time, try using decent setence structure to not confuse your point.)

    • by psxndc (105904) on Thursday December 12, 2002 @05:54PM (#4875202) Journal
      This is also know as the tipping point. There is X point in a relationship where going just beyond that point causes a dramatic shift in that relationship. Example: Say crime in CityX is 5%. 6% is the tipping point such that if crime stays at 5% it will remain 5% indefinitely. By inching that percentage up 1% to 6% for some reason the reality is that crime will jump to say 12% the year after it hit 6%. It's just a weird phenomenom that has to do with people's perception of a reality becoming a self fulfilling prophecy. More info can be found here [fsbassociates.com]

      psxndc

    • by Dark Paladin (116525) <jhummel@jo[ ]ummel.net ['hnh' in gap]> on Thursday December 12, 2002 @05:57PM (#4875234) Homepage
      As I seem to recall (and people from New York feel free to correct me on this), one of the things that Rudy Guiliani [sic] did was have the police start ticketing people who jaywalked.

      The result? Overall reduction in crime - since if you were going to be caught for the little things, odds are you were going to be caught for doing a big thing (selling drugs, etc). And it made the police highly visible - and the one thing I remembered from my old criminal law classes (before I ditched law) - the likelyhood of getting caught for a crime is a far greater deterance than the punishment of a crime.

      I have to agree - if we have a system that busted people for crimes - regardless of the "level" (no, I'm not suggesting death penalties for jaywalking, calm down, or a police state - just if a crime is obviously committed, like a bike theft **cough**like I went through once**cough**), go after it. Odds are, it would do more good in the long run by nipping these "small time" crooks in the bud before they ever become "big time".
      • by lysurgon (126252) <joshk@outland[ ]josh.com ['ish' in gap]> on Thursday December 12, 2002 @06:24PM (#4875515) Homepage Journal
        Actually the Guiliani directive to crack down on "quality of life" crime went way further back than jaywaliking. In fact the aggressive prosecution of jaywalkers (and the outlawying of dancing in unlicensed city bars and clubs) is really where he went over the line.

        The basis of the quality of life program was to try to move in and bust kids writing graffitti, homeless people loitering and especially low-level drug dealers. Beat cops had previously been instructed to avoid drug deals for fear of corruption.

        The numbers largely speak for themselves (though there's a strong case that improved economic conditions do as much to deter crime as incresed police presence), but because of endemic flaws in the police system (e.g. a certain amount of ingranced racism) the whole campaign caused a lot of acrimony.

        People (more often than not minorities) were being stopped and shaken down for guns and drugs illegally, but since these shakedowns seemed effective, the department allowed it to go on. The high-profile beatings and killings of minorities around the city was causing a lot of civil unrest. Thankfully, since 9-11 the relationship between the police and the people of the city seems to be back on track. Too bad it took such a tragedy to set things right.
        • by neocon (580579) on Thursday December 12, 2002 @08:31PM (#4876560) Homepage Journal

          I'm going to make a wild guess here -- you don't live in New York at all, right?

          If you do, you must not get off campus much, eh?

          You've just presented a remarkably inaccurate picture of the police program which turned New York around, and had already improved relations between police and communities (including minority communities) long before 9/11.

          See, `the minorities' aren't any different than the rest of us. Everyone wants to be safe in their home and neighborhood. By having the police fight crime in minority neighborhoods as well as rich neighborhoods, instead of just giving up on areas like East Harlem and Bed-Stuy, Giuliani did more for police-community relations than any of the hundreds of `outreach programs' ever had.

      • Los Angeles, too (Score:3, Interesting)

        by clem.dickey (102292)
        San Francisco is well-known for tolerance of illegal parking. About 25 years ago the SF police wanted higher wages but were forbidden to strike. One day the police protested by ticketing all illegally parked cars, especially those around City Hall and the local newspaper offices. That night the Chief of Police appeared on local TV to apologize for the unprofessional conduct of his men!

        By comparison, there were - and are - Los Angeles suburbs in which police will ticket a car parked facing the wrong direction. The police infer that something illegal must have happened to place the car in that position.

        This difference broke the Patty Hearst case. While the Symbionese Liberation Army held Patty Hearst in San Francisco, police and FBI had no luck finding her. Then the SLA moved to Los Angeles - unfamiliar territory for them. They parked a van in a red zone, which would have been no big deal in SF. Police arrived to ticket the van, determined that it was stolen, and caught or killed a large part of the SLA.
    • by Gimpin (595657) on Thursday December 12, 2002 @06:26PM (#4875532)
      No, no, no...the broken window theory is untrue. I, with over 1100 hours of 'Cops' logged on my TiVo, am an expert of crimes of the felony rank. The only way for the police to lock up dirtbags is they must either reside in a trailer (aka dirtbag theory) or have a missing article of clothing (excluding shoes).
  • Awfully dangerous (Score:5, Insightful)

    by interstellar_donkey (200782) <pathighgate@@@hotmail...com> on Thursday December 12, 2002 @05:42PM (#4875052) Homepage Journal
    This story should be fowarded to everyone at the Chicago police. It should be an embarassment for them.

    The ho hum attitude of law inforcement regarding things done on the Internet is sad, and scary. If the young man hadn't finally been able to contact an agency that actually wanted to do their job (stop crime), who knows where it would have gone.

    Being a vigilante is never a good idea, but when the police don't do anything, it leaves the average person little choice.

    I suspect we'll start seeing this more and more in the future, as long as law enforcement refuses to act on these things. Why should a person have to spend their own time and money in order to stop criminals? Are we going to reach a point where the only way someone can get an investigation is if they pay somebody to do it? I thought that's what our taxes which paid for police departments were supposed to do.

    Just wait.. Withen a few years somebodys going to get killed because the police sat on their hands and a frustrated victim did their footwork and blows the person who scammed them away.
    • Put simply the average detective's case load is way too high to worry about a $3k fraud. When you have more work to do than you can possibly do, what do you tackle first? The case that gives you the biggest bang for your buck. I.e. cases involving fraud of *large* amounts of money, murder, drugs, etc.

      • Re:Awfully dangerous (Score:3, Interesting)

        by sweetooth (21075)
        This is flawed logic. By going after the big criminal you look good and stop one or two big thefts. If you let the small time fraud cases go you can ultimatly be letting a larger amount be stolen. The fact that it's taken in smaller amounts doesn't make it any less of a crime. In fact if you read the article you would see that the individual committing the fraud in this case was committing $10,000 in fraud that day. How many other times had he done this? Probably quite a bit. Is it worth it to go after one $100,000 fraud case and not 5 $3,000-$6,000 dollar fraud cases that may ultimatly add up to >$100,000? If small time criminals find out that as long as they keep the dollar amount down they won't be investigated by the police, they are basically provided incentive to continue committing the crimes in those small amounts. Over time it can add up to a lot of money. They are also likely to tell other people about it and the trend can increase.
  • Funny (Score:3, Funny)

    by cheezedawg (413482) on Thursday December 12, 2002 @05:49PM (#4875151) Journal
    I think its funny that

    1) He no longer has his mac
    2) He is out $3000
    3) He failed his finals
    4) He spent a bunch of extra money tracking the guy down (plane ticket, PI, etc)
    5) He is still happy about it

    I'd guess he is a "Glass is half full" kind of guy.
    • Re:Funny (Score:3, Insightful)

      by ChaosDiscord (4913)

      He may be out time, money, hardware, and grades, but he got revenge. Never underestimate the value of revenge.

      (If I had the chance to catch someone who defrauded me, I'd do so in a second. If I knew he had defrauded many other people and would continue to do so, I'd spend a fair amount of time and effort to track him down.)

  • by The Fun Guy (21791) on Thursday December 12, 2002 @05:51PM (#4875167) Homepage Journal
    ... unless you try to screw a Mac addict. Then you'll be hunted down in meatspace like a, like a, like a something-or-other.

    Serves the thief right for messing with a Mac type. Everybody knows they're unstable to begin with, and all it takes is a just a little push for them to go postal.

    (So, +1 Funny for the first paragraph, -1 Flamebait for the second? Worth the risk.)
  • Mirror (Score:5, Informative)

    by Selanit (192811) on Thursday December 12, 2002 @05:55PM (#4875211)
    Here is a mirror of the article [atuan.com].

    I'll leave it up for a day or two. If it's Saturday 14 Dec 2002 and you're reading this, the mirror has probably gone poof.

    I sure hope my server can take it.

    Regarding the article -- it's kind of spooky how dedicated Mac fans get. I mean, at one point he talks about the horror of not knowing who was using his mac. Most people would have been more concerned about the thousands of dollars lost due to a counterfeit check. 0_o
  • Escrow (Score:4, Informative)

    by Malc (1751) on Thursday December 12, 2002 @06:01PM (#4875269)
    If you can't afford to lose the money, use escrow. This is exactly why the service exists. If the other party doesn't want to use escrow, move on - there are plenty of other fish in the sea. Well, this applies for the buyer as the seller has the control. By going COD, the seller gives control and thus the chance to defraud to the buyer.

    I haven't bought anything online since last February, so I'm rather disappointed to see that Escrow.ca has closed shop... they were far cheaper than Escrow.com. The latter's fees almost make it unusable for items of just a couple of hundred dollars. The other good thing with escrow.ca was I could walk 5 mins down the road and deposit cash directly in to the TD bank account and get the item shipped quickly.

    What with stupid people commonly bidding stuff up to retail prices or above, plus extortionate shipping charges and escrow fees, eBay isn't very useful to me anymore.
    • Re:Escrow (Score:5, Informative)

      by tdrury (49462) on Thursday December 12, 2002 @07:53PM (#4876239) Homepage

      Be careful about escrow scams. escrow.com is a valid site, but there are many, many scam sites. eBay user fenton.smith keeps a database of these and is very quick to spot and catalog them. See fenton's escrow scam page here: sos4auctions [sos4auctions.com]

      I maintain a list of scam auction red flags. See my page here [ebay.com].
  • Imagine the butthead sitting with his buddy drinkin beeeer outside on the porch (assuming its out in the middle of nowhere) watching black cars and vw minis go by with strange white folk staring out through tinted glasses with cameras in hand snapping pics like crazy :) ..

    Had to laugh..
  • by cardozo (64194) on Thursday December 12, 2002 @07:02PM (#4875851)
    Ebay has fraud protection program [ebay.com]. Why didn't this guy go through them. Sure they're not going to go arrest the guy, but they'll certainly close him down on ebay. Even now he can get some of his money back from them... if it was an ebay transaction

    For that matter if Mr. Christmas had done this a lot, why didn't the seller look at the buyer's feedback? Certainly if Mr. Christmas has been ripping people off the sellers would leave negative feedback.

    Well, it turns out that videopro55 has no feedback [ebay.com]!

    Looking on ebay for the transaction turned up nothing either.

    From a more careful reading of the story, I infer that the seller took it off of ebay and sold it privately. This was a bad idea. Yeah, you have to pay ebay a commission, but that's their business, and you wouldn't have sold it without them. It's also against ebay's seller policies [ebay.com] to do this.

    So while I'm really very sympathetic about this guy getting ripped off, I think he could have been a little smarter about it.

    Lesson to all of us: Don't circumvent ebay's safeguards.

    • Ebay has fraud protection program [ebay.com]. Why didn't this guy go through them.

      I am definately not going to support avoiding ebay auction fees (isn't that violating the auction? what did he tell to the person who was the highest bidder??). However, to your point I have one thing to answer -- Bullshit! The ebay fraud protection is useless. It does work but with $25 deductable and UP TO $200. So escrow service is your only chance with very expensive items.

    • by matt_wilts (249194) <(moc.liamtoh) (ta) (stliw_ttam)> on Thursday December 12, 2002 @08:37PM (#4876595)
      Here's the response I got from Ebay when I thought I detected shill bidding:


      To: Matt {matt_wilts}
      Subject: Re: Possible shill bidding on auction 1235911285 (KMM28339167C0KM)
      From: eBay UK Investigations {ukinvestigations@ebay.com}
      Reply-To: eBay UK Investigations {ukinvestigations@ebay.com}

      Hello Matt,

      Thank you for writing to us.

      I sincerely apologize for the delay of this e-mail and hope that it did not cause you any inconveniences!

      I have investigated your report regarding {{ insert user id }}, and can understand how this would be troublesome.

      Please be assured, if a violation of eBay policy has occurred, we will take the appropriate action in accordance with our site policies. Such action may include issuing a warning, temporary suspension, indefinite suspension or terminating the membership.

      Due to eBay's Privacy policy we are unable to provide information regarding the details of another user's account. We are equally
      concerned about violations on the site, and will thoroughly investigate each report we receive. However, the details of our actions cannot be
      disclosed with third party members. Please remember that this is for the protection of all eBay users.

      We appreciate your assistance in keeping eBay a fun and safe place to trade..

      I hope you have a wonderful week!
      Regards,
      Darcy
      eBay UK SafeHarbour
      Investigations Team


      Must be some new use of the word "safe" that I've not yet come across...

      Matt
  • Eligible for reward? (Score:3, Informative)

    by Fencepost (107992) on Thursday December 12, 2002 @07:22PM (#4876011) Journal
    Keep track of the case as much as possible - you may be eligible for a reward from an organization like CrimeStoppers (Canadian?) [crimestoppers.org] or (International "Parent") [c-s-i.org] or something similar. Unfortunately the sites don't seem to be particularly well set up for finding programs, but you've shown that you can be determined.

    The sergeant you worked with may be able to tell you if there's a CrimeStoppers or other program that might cover you - particularly if you're just hoping to cover what it cost you track everything down.

  • by JebusIsLord (566856) on Thursday December 12, 2002 @07:26PM (#4876046) Homepage
    Does a future history teacher teach the present?
  • by Hubert_Shrump (256081) <cobranetNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Thursday December 12, 2002 @07:46PM (#4876179) Journal
    I was not going to give up. That night I dreamed of Mr. Christmas and a baseball bat, some duct tape, and roofing nails.

    Look, if you're going to have him retar up there, at least give him a hammer instead of the bat. He'll be up there all week! Jiminy!

  • More impressive (Score:4, Informative)

    by harlequinSmurf (620030) on Thursday December 12, 2002 @11:42PM (#4877663)
    I still think that the story of the guy who tracked down his sisters stolen iMac using timbuktu. here: Mac Thief Caught Thanks To Applescript & Timbuktu [slashdot] [slashdot.org] and here: Turning Macs on Thievery [wired.com] [wired.com]

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