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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 Slack0ff (590042) <(matbrady) (at) (bored.com)> on Thursday December 12, 2002 @05:24PM (#4874824)
    Would a windows user go through all that trouble? I bet not... a windows pc is a dime a dozen. A Mac is somthing on a whole different level. Also the "new" mac users who are attracted to OSX seem to be more geeky then previous macaddicts and there more ready to do this kind of stuff.
  • 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 zer0vector (94679) on Thursday December 12, 2002 @05:31PM (#4874912)
    I think the guy was forging the cashier's checks, which is why he tried to get the Secret Service involved.
  • by clutch110 (528473) on Thursday December 12, 2002 @05:33PM (#4874945)
    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 Latent IT (121513) on Thursday December 12, 2002 @05:33PM (#4874953)
    This is a "just in case" post. No down moderations are necessary. If the site remains up, leave this post at 2. Otherwise (as I suspect), please mod this up just so that others can read his story.

    Seriously, since you're the THIRD person posting this, *and* the site is performing fine, I assure you, down moderations are *extremely* necessary for your karma-whoring ass. Please mod this up just so that others can read his story my ass. I'll put my +2 up here so I can get modded down right along with you.

    If you're really posting this so that other people (people who are not YOU, or YOUR KARMA) can benefit, please post AC. You contributed nothing, and don't deserve to be modded up.

    Cheers!
  • 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 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.
  • Awfully dangerous (Score:5, Insightful)

    by interstellar_donkey (200782) <pathighgate@NOspAm.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.
  • by ScuzzMonkey (208981) on Thursday December 12, 2002 @05:47PM (#4875124) Homepage
    And then we would have got the story from the [i]buyer[/i] about how he sent this check off and it got cashed and WHOOPS! the PowerBook never showed up and he then had to track down the seller and threaten him with a baseball bat. :)

  • by ManoMarks (574691) on Thursday December 12, 2002 @05:48PM (#4875132) Journal
    It is always cool to catch a theif, and particularly someone who preys on people who don't have much money to pursue these things. And while I sympathize with those who say he shouldn't have sent it COD to begin with, we all make mistakes sometimes, and at least he did what he could to correct it. And if he had protected himself, this guy wouldn't have gotten caught. There's a couple of simple things he missed, though: 1) As someone else pointed out, he did have the delivery address. While that could have been a drop, it wasn't, and even if it was, someone lived there and could have been used to trace him. 2) As soon as the second person turned up with a $3,000 item, the total value was over the $5,000 minimum the FBI and Secret Service needed to go after it, so they could have been immediately contacted. Also, when they know there's a pattern, they're more likely to get involved.
  • by KirkH (148427) on Thursday December 12, 2002 @05:53PM (#4875189)
    The guy's practically foaming at the mouth with his rabid Mac-ness...

    Get a grip, pal. It's only an operating system.


    One might say the same about the way all the /. Linux geeks feel about their OS. To many Mac and Linux users it is certainly much more than just an OS.

    Besides, I think he was going for humor. He was probably expecting the vast majority of his audience to be Mac users. Don't take it personally.
  • COD!? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by wumarkus420 (548138) <(wumarkus) (at) (hotmail.com)> on Thursday December 12, 2002 @05:55PM (#4875213) Homepage
    Only a mac user would be stoned enough to send a $3000 laptop COD to somebody on eBay. COD protects the buyer more than it does the seller. You have to make sure you have CLEARED FUNDS before you EVER send anything to anybody on eBay. This is just common sense folks - especially when such high-priced items are at stake. While it's good that this guy was caught, the victim still has no laptop and no money. While having his site slashdotted may get him donations, he still came out looking like a sucker.
  • by hampton (209113) on Thursday December 12, 2002 @06:00PM (#4875258)
    The police are far too busy performing highway wallet rape^W^W^Wspeed enforcement (because it saves lives!) to worry about this sort of thing.
  • by anonymous loser (58627) on Thursday December 12, 2002 @06:05PM (#4875321)
    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.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 12, 2002 @06:07PM (#4875334)
    I bet you'll find that the police are quite concerned about crime on the Internet if you just hang out in an IRC room and invite a few underage girls to cross state lines to have sex with you. But of course, being concerned about that is fashionable in law-enforcement circles these days.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 12, 2002 @06:08PM (#4875348)
    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.

    Actually, that's not a bad idea. The FedEx guys alreay carry around those snifty gadgets for tracking deliveries and signatures that interface to the company's computers; why not something for tracking COD paperwork and verifying checks, too?
  • Re:Then again..... (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 12, 2002 @06:11PM (#4875380)
    Yeah, just like all those winos that commit crimes to by a 40oz of malt liquor.

    If drugs were legalized, they'd be much cheaper. The "War On Drugs" is effectively price protection for dealers.
  • Re:Mod Parent Up. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by b1t r0t (216468) on Thursday December 12, 2002 @06:16PM (#4875441)
    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.

    But then law enforcement wouldn't be able to buy themselves as many new toys from all the siezure money that they can generate from the so-called "drug war"!

  • by LVWolfman (301977) on Thursday December 12, 2002 @06:25PM (#4875519)
    That is why anyone who does this on a regular basis uses one of the escrow services for items of that amount. I've done it, the escrow service doesn't tell the seller that it is ok to ship until the check clears.

    The buyer is protected because the the escrow company doesn't release the money to the seller until the buyer says the item arrived as advertised or until a certain time period has passed if the buyer doesn't respond.

    In my book, anyone who wants to buy or sell an item for more than $1,000 and who won't do it through an escrow service isn't to be trusted in the first place.
  • 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 krlynch (158571) on Thursday December 12, 2002 @06:43PM (#4875678) Homepage

    Not to be contrary or anything, but do you have references to any studies that show this? I imagine that this conclusion is NOT true. My reasoning is the following: pricing on addictive substances is generally highly inelastic (that is, demand and price are only weakly coupled). That is, producers can demand just about any price they want, and the users will continue to pay that high price. The same is true of many currently LEGAL addictive substances: alcohol, tobacco, gasoline, heating oil, food, etc (okay, I admit that I'm using "addictive" a bit loosely here). The demand for these substances has little to do with the current price (when the price of gasoline rises 50%, for instance, you don't drive substantially less ... you suck it up and pay the high price), and the current price has little to do with current end user demand. I don't see any reason that legalization of a currently illegal addictive substance would drive its price down. Nor do I see that driving down the price would greatly increase the number of users (the demand). I know that I, for instance, wouldn't run out and start to ingest cocaine or marijuana if it was suddenly legal...

    Please throw me some links if I'm wrong though; I'm quite curious if there is information contrary to my reasoning.

  • by ssstraub (581289) on Thursday December 12, 2002 @06:49PM (#4875724)
    I didn't use eBay. I used the Anandtech Forums. Kinda like a classified ad. Some guy swindled me out of the equivalent of $450 of PDA goodness and the authorities (Peoria, IL Police, FBI, etc) couldn't care less. Soon after I realized I was taken I found out that this guy had taken other people on other forums in the same way. Car stereos, computer parts, etc.

    There was much discussion and nothing happened for about 5 months. Then, out of the blue, I got a call from the scammer himself. It seemed that (Lucky for me!) someone convinced the Attorney General to take on the case and once he got the heat on this guy (we had his real address, obviously) the 23 year old kid made good on all his scams. I got my money and I read about other people getting theirs.

    I'm now of the opinion that the *only* way to catch people is if you can find others that they've ripped off and get a group effort rolling. The authorities simply do not care about single indiviuals.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 12, 2002 @06:55PM (#4875772)
    The whole story seems fishy. The guy claims he was selling to laptop to buy a cheaper one and dontate the extra money to charity. Then he goes on to say how he had to use to cashier check money to pay his rent. And goes on and on about how broke he now was and how being so far in debt made him do poorly on his finals.

    Now if he was selling the laptop to get a smaller one and to donate the rest of the money to charity, then why was he relying on the selling of the laptop to pay his rent? How did it make him broke that he was scammed? Yes out a laptop, but how did that make him so broke he suffered in school.

    A laptop is a nice thing to have in college, but it is not neccessary. Yes it would suck to be scammed, but it shouldnt have made him miss meals etc.

    Either he was out of cash and needed to sell the laptop to pay other bills, or there is no way that this scam made him broke. And WTF did he have to even tell us about how he ws going to give money to charity? The whole story reeks.

  • by uigrad_2000 (398500) on Thursday December 12, 2002 @07:02PM (#4875847) Homepage Journal
    Checks and money orders, but I wait until they clear before they ship.

    As others said, it was a cashier's check. Normally there's no reason to wait for a cashier's check to clear.

    From the article:

    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.
  • by Software (179033) on Thursday December 12, 2002 @07:15PM (#4875950) Homepage Journal
    >Mac users are very protective of their computers, and will
    >go to great lengths to ensure that people don't steal them.

    Fine, I'm with you, BUT this guy wasn't protective of his computer - he sent it to someone else! He was protective of his money.

    OK, the Mac heads helped him out, Mac users are all one big team, wonderful. But some of the lines in the article puzzle me: "It's hard to sleep comfortably knowing some asshole has your Mac and is doing god knows what with it."

    Was it easier for him to sleep when he thought the cashier's check was good?

  • Re:Then again..... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by White Roses (211207) on Thursday December 12, 2002 @07:17PM (#4875976)
    Well, (a) casual users aren't the problem. And (b) studies have shown that whether or not drugs are legal, you'll have similar numbers of addicts. An addict is an addict. AA's 12 step program is just a replacement addiction, albiet a safer and more productive one. Besides, drug legislation has historically been used for property seizures for the government, rather than as any kind of real deterrent to drug usage, going back at least to the seizures of opium dens in San Fransisco in the 1800's.

    Most crimes committed in the name of drugs are to keep profitable turf and eliminate competition. Make no mistake, drugs are illegal in this country because it keeps wallets fat. Think what the Mafia would be if we never had the 18th Amendment.

  • by AnonymousCowheard (239159) on Thursday December 12, 2002 @07:26PM (#4876038) Homepage
    This man was stolen from and it was accomplished by a method of exploiting the weakness of the banking system.

    Good people are getting stepped on. It is just like the gun control article on slashdot [slashdot.org] a couple days ago...people being argumentive and preaching to eachother the scenarios that dis-prove eachothers ideas.

    A friend of mine does business on eBay and ever since September 11, 2001, he lacks sufficient identification to convert checks and money orders into cash. What does he do to get by, since he is morally apposed to identification marks? You would call him a moron for how he accomplishes his pocket change... He sends the bidder their package FIRST and asks them to send cash through the mail after they receive! He only does this with people with extremly positive feedback and so far only 1% of people have scammed him. The end result is there are people who are greatful and that are thankful for his kindness and trustworthy.

    It's this disease known as immorality that has ruined the free-market. I have always said, open the prison doors and let the captives free; they'll do their worsed no matter where they are. Vigilante justice has its fair share of accomplishments, yet when it comes to vigilante justice, there is no more Constitution of the united States of America to apply to the fool who scammed you: it's ballsack crushing time.

  • by egburr (141740) on Thursday December 12, 2002 @07:37PM (#4876124) Homepage
    What you say would be true if "supply and demand" were the only force operating there. Competition has a huge effect, too.

    For your example about gasoline prices, the prices are directly affected by supply at the origin, but not much by demand at the end consumer. Most gas stations in an area are within a few cents of each other, because they are all maintaining prices as low as they can while still making a slight profit. Why? Competition. They don't get a lot of choice in the price, because (1) they do not determine the price they buy at, and (2) they have lots of competition.

    For drugs, the street dealers also generally do not determine the price they buy it at, but they do determine the competition (or lack thereof). In an area with a large organized group of dealers, how long does an upstart independent competitive dealer survive? What happens when two competitive dealers (or organizations of dealers) lay claim to an area? Lower prices or physical violence?

    Legalizing drugs may not be the complete solution, but it would go a long way towards lowering prices. When every gas station and grocrey store and drug store has a recreational drug counter, the competition will drive prices down to the point that the retailers are just barely making a profit. Also, a minimum quality of product will be assured. Taxes will be collected. The economy will benefit. (OK, so maybe I'm going a bit overboard there.)

    The people who can't handle their addiction will at least be able to get more for a lower price, and maybe overdose themselves out of existence. In the long term, that should cut down on the theft needed to maintain habits.

  • Re:Funny (Score:3, Insightful)

    by ChaosDiscord (4913) on Thursday December 12, 2002 @07:40PM (#4876148) Homepage Journal

    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 swv3752 (187722) <swv3752.hotmail@com> on Thursday December 12, 2002 @08:13PM (#4876430) Homepage Journal
    Check out the price of caffein. Caffein is more addictive than cocain, though the two used to be mixed together. The difference is that the effects are milder and the withdrawal is not as bad. the majority of headaches that people experience in the US and other Western countries are actually from caffein withdrawal.

    Anyways the price of caffein, or coffee, tea, and cola if you will, is kept in check by competition. Alcohol is also kept in check because there is competition. Oil is not a fair comparison as that is held mostly by a Cartel- OPEC anyone?

    Make it legal but controlled and most of the crimes associated with it would disappear. Just not overnight.
  • Why? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by TheRain (67313) on Thursday December 12, 2002 @08:16PM (#4876455) Homepage
    I think the thing that struck me the most was the fact the whole thing read like an ad for apple computers with the community as the major argument for owning one.

    Most of this guy's reasonings for his actions seemed contrived as well as many of the events that occured in his story.

    It could also be that he just sees people in black in white. Like this story, either they helped him or they didn't and Mac users are good, PC users are bad.
  • 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.

  • by tres (151637) on Thursday December 12, 2002 @08:56PM (#4876741) Homepage
    The sad thing is that this is a repeat story; it happens every day to countless people. You've probably had some asshole steal from you, and I know I have.

    Fact is, I'd be glad if there were a lot more stories like this on Slashdot. It's a well written first-person account.

    Nothing personal, but I'm quite tired of all the little ankle biters complaining about repeat stories. Yes, there's been cases in the past where the same story will be posted twice--big fricking deal. Get over it, move on to the next story, make your own message board, start submitting other stories--do something other than whine.

    In this case, to call it a repeat is a long stretch to say the least.

  • by spike hay (534165) <.ku.em.etaloiv. .ta. .eci_ulb.> 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.
  • Obvious (Score:2, Insightful)

    by sparkleytone (561198) on Thursday December 12, 2002 @09:25PM (#4876949)
    I think by now it is glaringly obvious that this story is true. Yes, the author seems to embellish thoughts and emotions. This is more the sign of a competent writer than a hoax. Of course the slashdotters expect a whitepaper on the scientific process of catching a thief. No thank you. It was a good read.

    This story has proliferated throughout the web now and made its way onto many well-regarded websites, one of them being the register. Judging by their article, it looks as if the information at the core of the story indeed checks out. So what if the guy is emotional? I would be too. I believe we all would be.
  • by B.D.Mills (18626) on Thursday December 12, 2002 @10:09PM (#4877230)
    The Chicago Tribune just called me

    Sell them an exclusive for $5000. They get a cheap exclusive, and you get to recoup your losses, and even come out ahead. Heck, you might as well start the negotiations at $10,000.

    Good luck.
  • by MoneyT (548795) on Thursday December 12, 2002 @10:36PM (#4877334) Journal
    As said in the story, the phone number he was given went to a cell phone, the adress whent to another phone. Do you have any idea how easy it is to scam fedex? Have an item sent to an adress fed-ex. Track said item. Stand outside of adress pretentding to do yard work during deliviery day. Intercept fed-ex man before he gets to the door. Sign for package. The adress had to be verified another way.
  • by zabieru (622547) on Thursday December 12, 2002 @10:42PM (#4877377)
    It's pretty common. Our system was inherited from the Romans, and descended from the Code of Hammurabi, based on the principle of lex talionis, or retribution. A lot of more tribal peoples (generalization, but retribution tends to come from urbanized cultures) base their law on repayment instead. Partly that's because they tend to have closer family ties (imagine making an American family pay for the crimes of an adult member). But I am not an anthropologist OR a lawyer, let alone a legal historian, so my suppositions as to the reasons for this could be completely wrong.
  • by craw (6958) on Thursday December 12, 2002 @11:27PM (#4877591) Homepage
    They should consider cumulative financial damages when setting the $5K barrier. Then again, one would need to identify additional people to boost the damage amount.

    Too bad the guy was named Christmas. If his name was Ramadan, then the FBI would have gotten involved.:-)

    About ten years I had to get involved with the press (CNN, PBS, etc...). It was quite an experience. They have their own agenda and spin on things. Use this towards your advantage. Sound bites! Ask then if you can preview what they will write/show before they publish/show. The police should also be in the loop. Say something like this is a criminal case and you don't want to present anything incorrect.

    20/20 should present what you did. I would love to see them present your case.

    Finally, this would make a great "switcher" ad. Apple should send you a new TiBook. Maybe I will send a note to Apple.

    Take care. I just upgraded from my old lombard to the new 1Ghz SD TiBook. I perused the various Mac forums (MacNN, O'Grady, etc...) to get a feel for the the +/-'s, and saw your story.
  • by djrogers (153854) on Friday December 13, 2002 @03:04AM (#4878487)
    But of course, being concerned about that is fashionable in law-enforcement circles these days.


    Umm, ok... I know it's really cool to use daddy's 1337 computer to make fun of cops, but how on earth can you bring yourself to question the motives of someone trying to save a child from rape, torture, murder, or worse?

    What gives you the balls to even _think_ that a man who has dedicated his life to protecting innocent children does it because it makes him look good?

    Tell you what, you sit in on an interview with a 9 year old girl after the fact, and then come back and tell me that cops just do what's 'fashionable'.

    shmuck...
  • by sapporoitchy (634019) on Friday December 13, 2002 @03:56PM (#4882938)

    Where do these people get the idea that owning a Mac makes them a superior human being?

    The author never said 'superior human beings' but according to this study and CNET article [com.com], we're smarter and make more money. I don't suggest you read this, however, since it may just make you angrier and hate us more.

The more cordial the buyer's secretary, the greater the odds that the competition already has the order.

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