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eBay Scam Victim Strikes Back 631

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the this-is-funny-stuff dept.
jcomeau_ictx writes "Justin Spence doesn't take lightly being scammed out of $1155 for a laptop he never received. The seller, Salvatore Wise, Jr. of Philadelphia, is growing openly more hostile over the webpage Justin produced exposing his and his wife Michelle Heinlein's scams to the world. So far Justin has documented $6841.00 total lost to this crook, but the total is more likely in the tens of thousands. " As it goes along it just gets more and more bizarre. My favorite part is when "Sal" says that all the earlier messages were sent from a different Sal, but you can tell them apart because the true Sal always writes his emails in italics.
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eBay Scam Victim Strikes Back

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  • P-P-P-Powerbook (Score:5, Informative)

    by halo1982 (679554) * on Thursday July 22, 2004 @02:23PM (#9771900) Homepage Journal
    Has anyone heard of the P-P-P Powerbook [p-p-p-powerbook.com]? Its another case of the scammer being scammed, and quite amusing. Theres a full list of correspondence between the scammer and seller, complete with photos and videos. Enjoy.
    • Though I can't remember where... [slashdot.org]
    • Somewhere in Nigeria

      "Ha, Ha. Look, more money from those stupid Americans. I can't believe anyone would send a stranger money."

      "Hey Aba, open the envelope and see how much we got this time."

      "Son of a bitch!!! It's Monopoly money. Damn. Wait a second, what is this white powder?"

      "Is it sugar?"

      "I don't know, I'll taste it to see."

      I think if this plan were implemented, scams from Nigeria would decline drastically.
  • by stecoop (759508) on Thursday July 22, 2004 @02:24PM (#9771909) Journal
    This is a long and complex story. I dont blame either party but since I'm more intrested/concered in what eBay is doing to thwart crimes.
    • Credit Cards (Score:4, Interesting)

      by superpulpsicle (533373) on Thursday July 22, 2004 @02:47PM (#9772171)
      Isn't there some special online protection plan that can remburse you in case of an online purchase fraud? Why don't people just get one of these cards specifically for ebaying.

      • Re:Credit Cards (Score:5, Insightful)

        by kemapa (733992) * on Thursday July 22, 2004 @03:02PM (#9772325) Journal
        Isn't there some special online protection plan that can remburse you in case of an online purchase fraud? Why don't people just get one of these cards specifically for ebaying.

        Yes, several credit card companies offer plans that "prevent" online fraud (and many other types of fraud) by refunding your money in the event that you are a victim of fraud. In this case, however, this would not have been possible because the seller mentioned in this slashdot article would not accept credit card payments / paypal. Furthermore, all the credit cards with fraud protection that I have seen have a limit to how much they will cover in a year's time or how much you can claim at once. Your fraud protection might have a $1000 a year limit and a maximum of $300 per fraud. Meaning, with expensive items you don't get great protection anyway.

        What I really wish for is an offline protection plan that can crack skulls in case of an online purchase fraud.
        • Re:Credit Cards (Score:4, Informative)

          by Tassach (137772) on Thursday July 22, 2004 @04:34PM (#9773269)
          the seller mentioned in this slashdot article would not accept credit card payments / paypal
          And that should have been a HUGE RED FLAG to tell him not to buy from the yutz.

          The "online fraud protection" offered by credit cards generally supplements the automatic fraud protection that they are required by law to provide. You already have the right under federal law to dispute any charges on your credit card, which is a major reason why you should use a credit card for online purchases in the first place -- even when dealing with reputable vendors. I forget the maximum liability you can be legally charged for fraudulent charges on your card, but IIRC it is $50. At least on the cards that I have, the Online Fraud Protection kicks in to cover the difference, so you don't lose anything.

          Read your card holder agreement and know the law!

      • The problem is you don't buy the item with your credit card.
        Lets look at paying via paypal with a credit card.

        You ask paypal to send some money to someone, You pay for this service with your credit card.
        Paypal sends the money to this person. There is no fraud with the credit card transaction itself, paypal did exactly what they said they would.
      • Re:Credit Cards (Score:5, Informative)

        by tdrury (49462) on Thursday July 22, 2004 @04:14PM (#9773045) Homepage
        Pay with a credit card (not a debit card) and use Visa or Mastercard. As another poster below your thread said, Paypal is the merchant of record, not the scammer/seller, so both Discover and Amex won't pursue a chargeback request since Paypal did exactly as they were requested to do. Visa and Mastercard are much more forgiving. Note that if you persue a chargeback, you must file with Paypal first. Paypal requires that you give them the chance to recover the funds since they will be hit with the $25 chargeback fee from the CC company. After Paypal denies your claim, then you can ask your Visa/MC company to do a chargeback. I've had to do this. Failure to start with Paypal will often get your Paypal account suspended.

        You can read much more about how scams work, rules, and procedures on the eBay community board, "SafeHarbor". eBay itself is very little help in these matters. They stick with their 'venue' status and don't get involved in disputes unless the police request it. (You can do that too!)

        See also: http://members.ebay.com/aboutme/snipe_gt/

        -tim
        • Re:Credit Cards (Score:4, Insightful)

          by ryanwright (450832) on Thursday July 22, 2004 @05:55PM (#9773910)
          They stick with their 'venue' status

          A bunch of bullshit, too. I bought a $10 item and the seller added $20 for shipping (I expected $15, but whatever, I'll pay his overcharge), but then tacked a $20 "handling fee" on top of that! This was NOT mentioned in the auction!

          eBay has a rule about this, so I complained to them, but they refused to enforce it because his auction said "seller pays shipping and handling". They also kindly informed me that if I didn't pay, my account would be subject to disciplinary action. I asked, "So, the seller could make up whatever number he wanted - $1,000, perhaps - and if I didn't pay, you would trash MY account?" The response: "Yes."

          When I complained further, they pulled the "we're just a venue" bullshit, and compared themselves to the classifieds section of the newspaper. But they're not "just a venue". They have proactively taken steps to remove troublesome users and to create a large base of rules governing transactions. The fact that they go around slapping people who don't pay, no matter what the circumstances, proves they're not "just a venue."

          eBay pisses me off. I still use it, because there aren't any other choices. But they're a bunch of asshats. Either you're a venue or not. Either you enforce rules or you don't have them at all. You can't have it both ways.

          (I ended up paying half the seller's extortion fee and letting him keep some of the items in the lot that I didn't need, and making a note to never, ever bid on anything that doesn't have all shipping & handling costs clearly listed in the auction.)
          • Re:Credit Cards (Score:3, Informative)

            by tdrury (49462)
            The time to get a quote for shipping and handling is prior to bidding. If you can't get an answer or get an answer you don't like, hit the back button. Blaming eBay for your ignorance is foolish. Learn the rules before you play.

            And just because an item is cheap doesn't mean shipping and handling won't be. Sure there are S&H scams, but often not. I just sold a RAID array that fetched about $40. Shipping was $60 via UPS and I charged $10 for handling to box it up safely. I probably could have char
            • Re:Credit Cards (Score:4, Informative)

              by ryanwright (450832) on Thursday July 22, 2004 @07:30PM (#9774614)
              Blaming eBay for your ignorance is foolish. Learn the rules before you play.


              It's not "my ignorance" or not "learning the rules". I followed the damn rules but eBay decided they didn't matter. I'll explain:

              eBay's policies state that sellers can't just randomly tack on fees after the auction ends. Other than normal shipping fees, they must list these things in their auctions. I assumed that eBay's policy in this matter actually had teeth. In other words, I should have been able to say, "Sorry, that's bullshit, you violated eBay's policy and I'm not paying", and eBay should have busted him for not listing this handling fee in the auction. No harm done.

              Had eBay played the game according to their own rules, this wouldn't have been an issue. I wouldn't have paid for the item and the seller would have been slapped for violating listing rules. Instead, eBay participates in "extortion" by forcing me to pay under threat of my account.

              My ignorance wasn't in bidding on that item without knowing about this fee. It was in assuming eBay would enforce their own rules.

              What if it had sold for the opening bid of $5? Is charging $70 S&H wrong? That was the true cost.

              This guy tried to charge $40 in shipping fees. He paid less than $10 to ship the item to me. The price was right there on the box when it arrived. To make it a fair comparison, "What if (your item) had sold for the opening bid of $5? Is charging $280 S&H wrong? It's only 4x the true cost, and that stupid bidder should have asked first, right?"

              When I'm told that I'll be paying for shipping, I figure I'm paying within a few bucks of what the shipper is going to charge unless the item requires special shipping or packaging (large/heavy/delicate/etc). That's the moral and ethical way to do business. If you're going to charge a huge handling fee, it needs to be stated UP FRONT, so there are no surprises.

              These people won't do that because they're trying to screw you. They'll take an item that retails for $20, sell it to you for $5, and tack on $40 in shipping costs. Others just randomly tack on a bunch of handling fees after the fact to make up for their item selling for less than they expected. It's unethical at best, if not outright fraud. You know it, I know it, and eBay knows it. Yet eBay lets it happen and people like you blame the buyer.

              When I posted this to one of eBay's boards while the situation was ongoing, I heard from a hundred people just like you. They called ME a "no good non-paying bidder". Yeah, with nearly 200 transactions worth tens of thousands of dollars, all 100% positive, suddenly I'm a deadbeat bidder on a $10 win from a guy with a small handful of transactions. That's bullshit and you know it.
    • As long as the gross number of transactions grows, nothing. They have no motivation to, since they make money off of all transactions, including fraudulent ones.

      If the gross number of transactions were to fall and it was linked to perceptions of fraud, they might, but how likely is that?
    • How can eBay verify an item without having access to said item?

      eBay will be hesitant to interfere when their whole premise is a marketplace where transactions are easy to setup. Only when eBay's volume of sales and listings goes down or high-ticket items become rare, will radical changes be likely. Perhaps public criticism, and some bad karma with investors, could shake something.

      However since none of these conditions seem to be fulfilled, I would not expect a broad change of policy at eBay.
    • by Cylix (55374)
      Provided it's a true eBay scam, they have lawyers you can hire for 25$.

      I recently had a problem with something like this. Basically, my boss didn't consult me and got ripped off.

      Fake emails and the whole bit. I tracked everything down as best I could without court orders for information, but I'm only IT and not a lawyer.

      In this particular instance, my manager did everything wrong. He followed links that looked like an ebay page (provided via email), didn't question the cost (too cheap), sent a money orde
  • Spam time! (Score:4, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 22, 2004 @02:24PM (#9771911)
    ...From: mich617@comcast.net
    yes you can call me at 2154682929 anytime today.thanks

    Ain't revenge a bitch?
  • Karma Whoring (Score:5, Informative)

    by ack154 (591432) * on Thursday July 22, 2004 @02:25PM (#9771918)
    Full text:

    Salvatore Wise, Jr., or someone going by that alias for several years at least (verified since 1997), has taken tens of thousands, and perhaps hundreds of thousands, of dollars from eBay shoppers. Whether or not he does other types of online trading is not yet known to me.

    "How could that be possible?", you must be asking. Surely there are safeguards against that kind of thing, right? Yes, there are. But Sal has been ingenious in finding workarounds for those safeguards. See, for example, how Justin Spence [justinspence.com], a shrewd businessman himself who was initially suspect of Sal's integrity, was conned into finishing the deal. Sal doesn't accept credit cards nor Paypal in any form; he wants his money in checks, cashiers checks or money orders. And he often makes believe he hasn't received your payment when in fact he's already cashed it.

    Sal's accounts have all been terminated, of course, but he always seems to have one more on the back burner he can use in a pinch. Lately, his wife Michelle Heinlein [ebay.com] appears to be actively involved, since in at least one case a check made out to her name was cashed, in one of the scams. Notice the same trading pattern as Sal's former username needforspeed97 [ebay.com], starting off good then, once he gets a good reputation, cashing it in for a few thousand dollars before eBay kicks him off. I'm pretty sure this guy Robin, needforspeed [ebay.com], is the same dude too, but Sal of course denies it.

    I'll post more info as I can. Watch out for anybody on eBay from PA who sells high-dollar items. Sorry Pennsylvanians, but you've got a scoundrel in your midst. He lives at 1941 W. Passyunk Ave. [phila.gov] in Philadelphia, but he sometimes sets his eBay "area" identity as Pittsburgh.

    So if I know where he lives, why don't I just go break his legs? Believe me, I've thought about it, but I don't want to do something illegal that'll get me thrown in jail. Besides, he's threatened to shoot me if I come there. So if the threat turns out to be real, I'd either have to kill him or get killed myself, either of which has consequences I don't want to consider. And on top of all that, I'm a coward.

    Well anyway, not to be outdone by Justin, I'm digging up my emails now too... here's the most recent thread [slashdot.org] which shows the same typing style (being very loose with that word here) as his recent threats to Justin. More to follow!

    Wow, that was fast! Here [slashdot.org] he is again... it's after 2AM on the east coast, so he must be sweating bullets! Aren't you, Sal old buddy?

    This is getting to be another blog in itself, so let's just follow the story in my existing blog [slashdot.org], shall we?

  • by Neil Blender (555885) <neilblender@gmail.com> on Thursday July 22, 2004 @02:26PM (#9771936)
    Check this [timeswrsw.com] out.
    • Jeez, this schmuck really deserves the death penality. With the world's population growing so rapidly, we just don't need people like this around.
      Life is really all that special. Every life form is unique. When someone comes out of the tube with their brain scrambled like this, we don't really have any moral obligation to keep them around.
      For hundreds of years we dealt with people like this by putting them in the Army. They go wacko and kill dozens of people on the other side of the world? Cool, g
    • How is this informative? The date at the top says 03-26-1998. But at the bottom is says,"Times-Union 1997". This has nothing to do with people being scammed on eBay. There's at least two alleged scammers out there that have scammed people out of tens of thousands of dollars. I'm not trying to troll, but I dare say that's more important that an off topic story that happened over six years ago.
  • Slashdotted (Score:4, Funny)

    by Vaginal Discharge (706367) on Thursday July 22, 2004 @02:26PM (#9771937)
    That guy's hosting bill is going to be huge after we're done with him. Maybe he'll do an expose piece on how slashdot users cost him thousands of dollars in hosting fees.
  • eBay? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by jawtheshark (198669) * <[slashdot] [at] [jawtheshark.com]> on Thursday July 22, 2004 @02:26PM (#9771938) Homepage Journal
    Well, I never understood the craze about ebay. You're dealing with unknown untrusted people, giving them money in advance (as I understood) I just can't trust anyone on such sites. In case I want something I'd rather buy it new. If I can't afford something new, I just won't buy it.

    So, buying anything in those priceranges is taking a huge risk. I'm not saying that these scammer should get away with it (they should be thrown in jail), I'm just saying that I prefer not to take risks.

    • Re:eBay? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Pharmboy (216950) on Thursday July 22, 2004 @02:33PM (#9772019) Journal
      Well, I never understood the craze about ebay. You're dealing with unknown untrusted people, giving them money in advance (as I understood) I just can't trust anyone on such sites. In case I want something I'd rather buy it new. If I can't afford something new, I just won't buy it.
      So, buying anything in those priceranges is taking a huge risk. I'm not saying that these scammer should get away with it (they should be thrown in jail), I'm just saying that I prefer not to take risks.


      I have eBayed since 98, and have sold tens of thousands of dollars worth of stuff, and bought thousands of dollars worth as well. Never directly ripped off. Of course, I only buy from people with good ratings, use a credit card/pay pal only, and take other precautions, but still its safer than buying from a flea market.
      • "...but still its safer than buying from a flea market."

        how do you figure? At a flea market I have the goods in my hand when I pay.
    • Re:eBay? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by savagedome (742194) on Thursday July 22, 2004 @02:35PM (#9772038)
      I just can't trust anyone on such sites

      You are absolutely right about the risk part. eBay is a risk to begin with. That's the risk you are taking for the low price that appealed you at the first place. However, I disagree with "anyone" part. eBay has millions of users and probably a miniscule percentage are the crooks. But even miniscule percentage of a million adds up fairly quickly and we see stories like the current one.

      I have a personal upper limit on buying stuff from eBay. If I want something, I place the maximum bid (which eBay automatically increments on your behalf) and be done with it. If I win it, I get it otherwise forget about it.

      Personal anecdote: The most expensive thing I bought off of eBay was a Nikon FM3A camera. The price I was bidding was close to USD500. I was a little shaky to bid that and so I did some research (aka Googling). Found a similar post on a photography forum (under a similar name) that was a month older than the eBay listing. The words and sentences used in both the posts also were fairly similar. Also, a little more power Googling narrowed it down to someone in a specific university. So I wrote a question to the seller and phrased it in such a way that it would make him atleast hint at the university. He replied back with the kind of answer I was expecting and right away I placed my bid. I got the camera and am happy.

      Moral of the story: Have a personal upper limit on bidding amount and do some Googling!
    • I too am skeptical of Ebay, however, I have found a bargain once on some cisco routers. Nevertheless, I found them on Ebay - but was able to pick them up in person before payment was made (not far from where I live). That's the only reason I made the purchase. Even then, the guy was in a hurry to get cash - he said he was leaving town.
    • Re:eBay? (Score:2, Insightful)

      by gmhowell (26755)
      Some things don't exist new. Many 45 rpm records. Jukebox spare parts. Parts for old motorcycles.

      People who buy new stuff via eBay... Questionable. I also question the bidders who run prices up to near new prices. If you can get a discount, eBay is great. If not, amazon.com and the gang are just fine.

    • Well, I have purchased plenty of gear over Ebay, including a rather expensive pair of speakers for which I paid over US$1000.

      The trick is to understand the risk.

      For purchases of around $200 or less, the reputation of the seller, manner of shipping, payment, insurance, and general professionalism is usually enough to judge whether it is "safe". It's not worth soiling a rep over $200. Recent bad feedback is poison for an Ebayer.

      However, for larger purchases, I prefer using a credit card that provides fr

  • Mirror (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 22, 2004 @02:28PM (#9771964)
    http://www.ibnads.com/sal/salwise.html
  • [I]Congradulashuns u have fownd the l0053R. No one but this guy writes in Italics.[/I]

    Seriously, who bases identity based upon writing style, or even font style. That's surely not irrefutable proof, even to /. standards.

    503 errors, the gross mis-spellings in headlines. It's a wonder I don't just find something better to do... like work or something.
  • by cOdEgUru (181536) <cherian@abraham.gmail@com> on Thursday July 22, 2004 @02:30PM (#9771986) Homepage Journal
    Kinda makes you wonder whether Sal posted the story himself..and must be laughing his way to the bank knowing the site's getting its ass raped by millions of pointed clicks..

    By the way, hope Sal finds his way to the following conversation.

    Sal, meet Bubba.
    Bubba, meet thy Bitch.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 22, 2004 @02:31PM (#9771993)

    Ignore whatever this guys says on his webpage. There are plenty of good sellers on ebay, and plenty of bad buyers.

    If anyone is interested I have laptops for sale. Contact me.

    Sal^H^H^HJoe
  • by Jim_Hawkins (649847) on Thursday July 22, 2004 @02:32PM (#9772003)
    Spur of the moment inspiration based on this article.
    [to the tune of: Erie Canal]

    I know a guy
    His name is Sal
    I buy stuff from him
    He's my E-bay pal

    I send all my money
    To his locale
    He'll send me his stuff
    He's my E-bay pal

    Watch out!
    He just skipped out of town
    Watch out!
    'cause in legal fees he'll drown
    And all my angry neighbors
    They're gonna hunt him down
    'cause we're gonna take out this E-bay cloooooown.

    Oh...come on! It's funny!
  • where's he live? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by jeffy124 (453342) on Thursday July 22, 2004 @02:32PM (#9772010) Homepage Journal
    I live near philly, maybe I'll pay him a visit.... or least go do a recon.
  • jcomeau_ictx, or Salvatore Wise? Considering the accessibility of Justin's site, I think we can all guess who submitted this...
  • Looks like it's well past time for eBay to have human beings vet all sellers hawking stuff over, oh, $1K.

    <grrr>
    • The problem here is that sellers are realizing that a lot of buyers are "greedy" - they're looking for a great deal, and are sometimes blinded by the deal.

      If they're concerned that they may be scammed out of the money, they need to utilize an escrow service. They're not that expensive (compared to the alternative).
    • Nah, buyers just need to stop being so loose with their money and start using escrow. If a seller won't agree to escrow, even if you offer to pay all the fees, he's probably a low-life scam artist.

      Many people wouldn't buy a laptop sight-unseen by mail from a classified ad, but sell it on eBay and they're tripping all over themselves trying to fork over the cash without a lick of common sense.

      Big-ticket items? Escrow, escrow, escrow. And always use Escrow.com [escrow.com] -- it's the only escrow service eBay recommends
  • by T_O_M (149414) on Thursday July 22, 2004 @02:37PM (#9772071)
    Since the scammer wants money orders, I assume that someone has sent a U.S. Postal Money Order.
    _IF_ the sender was VERY CAREFUL to enclose the POMO with a "mail order" that PRECISELY describes the item ordered, the Postal Inspectors are VERY happy to help out; they HATE eBay scammers!
    It usually takes them a simple fone call or casual visit (flash badge and BIG gun) to convince the seller to cough up the goods pronto.
    If necessary, the inspector can patiently explain how 5 years "quality time" with Bubba is a 5 FULL years: no time off for ANYTHING in the Federal pen.

    Been tried on me twice. In both cases I eventually received the merchandise - in the condition described at the time of the sale.
    Yes - it make take as long as 9 months (in one case) but I have yet to be dissapointed by the power behind that $.90 piece of paper.

    Bill
    T_O_M

    • by avandesande (143899) on Thursday July 22, 2004 @03:24PM (#9772556) Journal
      Almost any crime associated with USPS is a federal crime...
    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 22, 2004 @03:34PM (#9772638)
      This is what I encourage people to do instead of risking a transaction through Paypal or some other entity where you're subject to their mediation in the event of a dispute. If you send a money order through the US mail accompanied with documentation about exactly what you're ordering and how and where said order is to be shipped, it becomes mail fraud if the seller balks and it falls under the jurisdiction of the US postal inspectors.

      In most cases of small-time fraud, you're lucky if the local authorities do much more than file a report. Postal inspectors take mail fraud very seriously regardless of the amount involved.

      IMO, sending a postal money order through the US mail is the safest form of payment. It protects both the seller and the buyer.
      • People should also be aware that Postal Inspectors pack a heavy amount of fire power. I used to be in a MP Battalion and we got to check out the Postal Inspectors daily routine. At first I thought it would be a joke.. I thought the whole thing was a joke until I saw the amount of weapons and dilligence these guys have. Ever since that day everytime I see a postal inspectors blue/white trailing some truck or person. Instead of laughing thinking "Ohh look at the little girlie-man". I move to the right and slo
  • by jebilbrey (764968) on Thursday July 22, 2004 @02:41PM (#9772104) Homepage
    Salvatore probably couldn't get him to take his site down, so instead he posted this story on Slashdot and let the /. effect do his dirty work! Muhahaha!
  • Michelle Heinlein (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Orbital Sander (237340) on Thursday July 22, 2004 @02:42PM (#9772112) Homepage
    "Michelle" is one of the aliases that the computer personality in Robert A. Heinlein's The Moon is a Harsh Mistress [wikipedia.org] goes by. Cute.
  • by heyitsme (472683) on Thursday July 22, 2004 @02:42PM (#9772117) Homepage
    I posted a back-link to this slashdot article on his obituary thread [lexusownersclub.com] at the Lexus owner's club... it was promptly delted. You all should do the same.
  • by hacker (14635) <hacker@gnu-designs.com> on Thursday July 22, 2004 @02:45PM (#9772146)
    I had something even worse [advogato.org] happen to myself, and about 200 other people with a very similar-sounding laptop scam from "electro_depot", otherwise known as "Brian Silverman".

    Luckily, my vigilance paid off, and Brian Silverman, aka "electro_depot" was caught and charged by the FTC [ftc.gov] for his crimes.

    Dozens upon dozens of people were scammed by Brian over the course of a year or two. Many of them went to google to find out more about him, because he failed to return emails and phone calls. At that time, my Advogato diary entry was the only hit that google returned, and over 80 people contacted me directly via email to ask if I had ever received my laptop (at the time, I hadn't).

    I had an officer, Det. Mike Gischner from the NYC "Computer Crime Squad" division call me directly, based on that same Advogato diary entry (the only one mentioning "Brian Silverman" by name at the time), asking me if I had heard of anyone else that had problems with Brian. I asked him if 120 people was enough. Silence on the phone. He thought I was kidding. I forwarded him all of the emails I had received at the time, and proceeded with his end of the case. He had no idea that there were that many people being screwed by this jerk.

    As time went on, several web sites popped up to try to track the fraud from Brian Silverman, based on my original "collection" of users and emails that I had received. I take full credit for bringing enough evidence to bring him to justice.

    I did eventually receive my laptop... the last one he actually sent out to anyone. I managed to track him down, at his home address, and called him one night asking (no no, demanding ) my laptop, or I would be at his front door the next morning. The laptop arrived a couple of days later.

    As an aside note, the laptop, which I am typing this reply on right now, has been back to IBM 7 times for repair in the last couple of years, for repairs and replacement of almost every part, several times. Its definately a lemon, but it works well now.. and is basically brand-new again.

    Basically his scam was as follows:

    • Put "several" laptop models online on eBay for sale (note: He never actually has these laptops at all, he has never even purchased them). Let's use 10 laptops as an example; 5 IBM laptops and 5 Sony laptops.
    • Get several dozen bidders on the laptops, raising the price around normal MSRP
    • Take the highest bidders on all of the auctions, and demand that they send the payment within 5 days of auction close
    • 10 people send in their payments for the "10" laptops (remember, he hasn't ever purchased a single laptop)
    • Keep the money as long as possible, in a bank account, until people start complaining about shipment
    • Delay delay delay, using whatever tactics are necessary. I've heard dozens of his excuses from various bidders.
    • Delay some more, making sure to keep that bank account interest rolling in (more profit in his pocket)
    • When people get heated enough to start threatening, send 8 people back their money (leaving the highest 1 IBM and 1 Sony buyer waiting) (more profit in his pocket)
    • It is now 2-3 months later, and the "top-of-the-line" laptop is now no longer top-of-the-line.
    • He purchases the laptops, wholesale, from the absolute-cheapest place he can find, having them shipped ground, factory-direct. At this point, since it is 1/4 of a year later, the laptops cost anywhere from 20%-40% less than the original auction price (more profit in his pocket).

    Eventually, he decided that the whole "Ship the laptop" thing was just too much trouble, and he started keeping the money, never purchasing any laptops at all, for any bidders.

    I'm glad he's rotting in a federal prison right now, getting 60 months (from what I understand), for his crimes, and an enormous $600k fine and penalties.

  • by telemonster (605238) on Thursday July 22, 2004 @02:45PM (#9772147) Homepage
    Anyone seen the recent 3rd party company "SquareTrade?" I bought an item from a seller, he never responded to any emails from me, he left negative feedback and a squaretrade case, I responded with my side, and squaretrade still spams me every day telling me I have to pay $20 to get this dorks negative feedbacks removed. I needed the MPEG2 encoder unit for the 5th hope conference in NYC. Time was critical.

    The funny thing is, the guy never responded to squaretrade either. It eggs you on like it will take care of you and help you out, but then it always asks for 20 dollars. It's like the loch ness monster, only instead of $3.50 the fucker wants $20! This all happened months ago, and this Squaretrade piece of shit still emails me every other day about paying $20 to resolve some negative feedback that I honestly could care less about. It was false, I'm not giving the squaretrade assholes $20 to remove it from eBay's database.

    Ebay and Paypal are a love/hate relationship. They have grown too big for their own good without proper competition to keep them in check.

    I sold a Cray supercomputer on eBay. Ebay quickly took the $100 in commision, but the bidder was slow to pay. I went thru eBays 6 step process of reporting the non-paying bidder, and the bidder said he would pay. So eBay still charged me $100 in comission. Here I am 6 months later calling daily trying to get these people at VRSim to pay. I contacted eBay asking why they never did anything / refunded / assisted, and they said "Please go to this page" which took me back to step 2. The deal is, everything has to be done in 30 days .... so once time runs out, eBay is home free. It takes like 2 weeks minimum to complete the non-paying bidder process.

    Oh well, what can you do? The deals are good. The fees keep going up on a site with basically no customer service. Gotta love it.
      • I sold a Cray supercomputer on eBay. Ebay quickly took the $100 in commision, but the bidder was slow to pay. I went thru eBays 6 step process of reporting the non-paying bidder, and the bidder said he would pay. So eBay still charged me $100 in comission.

      Even when the process works you still lose money as a seller. I had a non paying bidder that apparently signed up one night and bid on about 100 auctions (including mine) and won nearly all of them. Then they didn't pay for any of them. By the time

  • Caveat Emptor (Score:5, Interesting)

    by MosesJones (55544) on Thursday July 22, 2004 @02:48PM (#9772177) Homepage

    "Buyer beware" really is as old as the hills. Its an interesting challenge in this digital age as you can't see the person, and you can't be sure they are the person they say they are.

    Would we buy a laptop off a bloke on the street who "promised to bring us the laptop same time tomorrow" ? Of course not. But on ebay we make a similar decision on a regular basis.

    How about an "eBay bond" where sellers have to lodge the cash with eBay until the point at which the seller receives the goods, i.e. the money is in escrow until the whole transaction is complete. The company goes bust or fails to supply within a set period (agreed as part of the sale) then the money is refunded.

    • The escrow service idea would work great as long as you can inspect the merchandise prior to accepting shipment and thereby releasing payment. It's more of a hassle but safer.

      Bottom line: unless you're buying something from a reputable store on ebay with return policies, customer service, etc, you're taking a chance.
    • That is what Paypal/Credit cards do, it offers a way to get the money back. I am willing to give someone on the street my credit card number (not the expire date or the confirm code on the back), with the promise to bring me the laptop tomorrow.
    • Re:Caveat Emptor (Score:2, Interesting)

      by nanter (613346)
      That merely reverses the dilemma. The buyer can claim she never received the item and, in turn, have her money refunded to her.

      Instead of the buyer getting screwed by non-delivery of the goods, the seller gets screwed by a false assertion by the buyer!

      Unfortunately, buyers must exercise caution when bidding on big ticket items, and when the system fails due to dishonesty, eBay should support the legal recourse taken by the buyer to its fullest capability. Historically, disputes such as these are resol

  • by telemonster (605238) on Thursday July 22, 2004 @02:56PM (#9772264) Homepage
    Just in case anyone runs across this... there are lots of people that sell things like AOL CDs on eBay for $1. They get lots of buyers. Basically, people are buying feedback. You will see someone selling 10 or so plasma TVs for $5k a pop. Look thru their history, and they bought $30 in $1 items. $30 to walk away with $15k or so in stolen profits. Just a heads up.

    A long time eBay user, I've definitly come out way ahead... but there are risks. Nothing is as bad as Yahoo auctions. I caught a fraudulent seller red handed, notified Yahoo as there was 6 other bidders on the same item... and Yahoo wouldn't / didn't seem to do a thing about it. They (Yahoo) should be held accountable if money was lost -- they knew. I contacted the police in LA but since I didn't fall for it, there was no case to be opened.

      • Nothing is as bad as Yahoo auctions. I caught a fraudulent seller red handed, notified Yahoo as there was 6 other bidders on the same item... and Yahoo wouldn't / didn't seem to do a thing about it.

      This doesn't surprise me. Yahoo also refuses to remove spammers who join a Yahoo E-mail group (even with overwhelming proof, the moderator's access was down for a week and they spammed mercilessly from one single account the whole time. Worst part is the group had quite a few underage readers and most of t

  • It's in all italics. Or does it make me Italic?
  • Sorry if I sound ignorant or anything. It would be because I never use eBay myself. How come he can't just call the police on this guy. He payed money for a item he didn't recieve. That is fraud in my book. Atleast he can take the guy to small claims court or something. Can some more experienced eBayer tell me what is tying this guy's hands??
    • Sadly even "computer crime units" of the local PD tend to be disinterested in this kinda thing. Unlike this case, most ebay fraud is hard to document, and each individual auction is less than $5000 (which has been the magic number that has to be exceeded to get the cops interest. Worse local PDs tend to work poorly with the folks in other states.

      The postal inspectors are great for this thing, they are highly professional, and pretty much deal only in mail fraud, so they're experts.

      Ebay fraud is especial
  • Mirror (Score:5, Informative)

    by smclean (521851) on Thursday July 22, 2004 @03:00PM (#9772295) Homepage
    Main Page [longstair.com] and E-mail Page [longstair.com]
  • Look - Sal's dead! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by BLKMGK (34057) <morejunk4me@nOSpaM.hotmail.com> on Thursday July 22, 2004 @03:00PM (#9772301) Homepage Journal
    http://us.lexusownersclub.com/forums/index.php?sho wtopic=11024&

    Might as well /. them too. Yes, that's the same Sal! Spread the word - these folks are thieves.
  • Watch out! (Score:3, Funny)

    by jpmkm (160526) on Thursday July 22, 2004 @03:00PM (#9772302) Homepage
    I will file my own set of stuff against you if you dont stop.

    NO! Don't file your stuff against me!
  • by ThatDamnMurphyGuy (109869) on Thursday July 22, 2004 @03:01PM (#9772309) Homepage
    "My name is Justin Spence. You kiled my server. Prepare to die."
  • low ticket items (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bludstone (103539) on Thursday July 22, 2004 @03:02PM (#9772320)
    This is why you only buy SMALL TICKET items off of ebay.

    Im talking dvds, videogames, maybe hdds. If you get ripped off, the loss is minimal.

    I thought everyone knew this already :)
  • by Beardo the Bearded (321478) on Thursday July 22, 2004 @03:04PM (#9772337)
    Link to the bounty. [freelancesecurity.com]
  • I struck back (Score:5, Interesting)

    by jdavidb (449077) on Thursday July 22, 2004 @03:26PM (#9772577) Homepage Journal

    Honestly, if you always use a credit card, striking back is usually not that hard. Most credit cards guarantee your purchases, whether or not the merchant does.

    Last year I decided I wanted to buy a Pioneer Tivo/DVD recorder combo set. Retail price at the time was about $1500; I noticed on ebay I could pick one up for around $700. While thinking the decision over for a few days, a seller popped up suddenly with a "buy it now" price of $350. I foolishly decided this was an offer I couldn't pass up and bought immediately.

    Well, this seller had made some legitimate sales before, but apparently he decided that the time between taking my money and sending me the product was a good time to close up shop and disappear. In retrospect, I could see from his feedback that several people had had problems with him. A couple had sent complaints, not received a prompt answer, and posted bad feedback, only to receive angry replies to their feedback denigrating them. Apparently, this seller believed he was a better person than the rest of us for not sending prompt responses, because that indicates that he "doesn't sit at a 'puter [sic] 24-7 like you!" I still fail to see how that makes one a paragon of virtue, but I digress.

    So after a decent amount of time I contacted the seller and received no response. I had initially contacted him on purchase to verify what he said in the sale about shipping being free (yes, that should have been another tipoff), and did receive a response. But now he was nowhere to be seen. And ebay reported that his userid did not exist and/or was not active (although it was still in the system complete with previous bad feedback).

    At this point I looked up the seller's phone number and tried to call it, only to get a message that it was out of service. That made sense, since the number had four or five consecutive digits in it. (The number was something like ###-4567, though the area code did match the seller's alleged area.)

    Satisfied I'd done everything in my power to contact the seller and resolve the situation, I contacted paypal and informed them I had not received the product and expected to take advantage of their policy. They informed me they would launch an investigation and attempt to recover my money, and I would hear from them within a week. I was a little bit dissuaded by the claims on their policy page that they were only liable up to a certain dollar limit, but I was not terribly worried because I knew my credit card guaranteed me!

    After a week, paypal cheerfully sent me a message telling me they had determined two things:

    • The seller was indeed at fault and had cheated me.
    • My money could not be recoved.

    Apparently they thought this news was going to overjoy and satisfy me. Wonder of wonders; I had been vindicated! At last the whole world knew that the seller was at fault! I felt better already. (Yeah, right.) Turns out the only real promise paypal makes is that they will investigate.

    So I immediately contacted my credit card company and let them know what had happened, and that I had no attention of paying the bill. The credit card representative expressed mild surprise that paypal/ebay were not cooperating with me. I was immediately given a provisional credit, pending followup investigation by my credit card company with paypal. I had done this about 6 months earlier, over a DVD bought from an Amazon.com associate seller; the policy is that once they take over, you don't have to worry about anything. The credit card company investigates and, unless you're found to be lying, you get your money back. You don't have to deal with the offending merchant at all going forward.

    So, about a day later, I got another form email from paypal. This one stated that they were now involved in responding to an investigation from my credit card company. The form email mentioned that paypal had a very generous policy and would have been happy to have dealt with me directly and investigate

  • by kmahan (80459) on Thursday July 22, 2004 @03:51PM (#9772819)
    As an EBay Scam victim myself all I can say after looking into it is that EBay supports scammers.

    In my case I asked a seller about an existing auction (for a Sony Vaio Picturebook C1MZX). He answered the question and mentioned that he had a couple more for sale. His story checked out -- he had previously sold one with excellent feedback a couple of weeks earlier. And of course had good feedback. So foolishly I bought it (doing everything I caution others against - sending via WU, etc).. And "George Ward - 1703 Amherst St, Buffalo, NY 14214-2019 716-862-9606 jk_fan@earthlink.net ebayid 'jkfan' " delayed shipping, the phone was disconnected, the alternate number he gave me "866-537-7305" answers and says "goodbye". So in the end I'm screwed. As are other people who lost more than I did buying from the same "jkfan" scammer.

    Now since I bought "outside" of EBay they refuse to help beyond politely saying "you're fscked." So I made all the rounds reporting it to the police, IFFCFBI, etc.. Great. But funny how none of the auctions are listed as "fraudulent". EBay's response is "We have to leave it up for evidence." Actually what it does is provide the scammer with a way of creating a great history for himself so that he can continue with his scams. While ebay says this is left up for evidence, as the scammer deletes his ebay accounts the auctions and such disappear. So much for the evidence. Asking EBay for any kind of help is of course a waste of time.

    This set of scammers has a pretty easy auction page to identify for their auctions -- pointing this out to ebay is met with silence. And they seem allow the auctions to continue (and having contacted some of the buyers the scams just keep on rolling...)

    Oh, if you're buying Sony Vaio equipment off of ebay -- don't buy from folks in New York -- it's absolutely amazing how many fraudulent auctions for that stuff are listed as originating in NY.

    So while EBay keeps lots of records and seems willing to give them out at the drop of a hat to any law enforcement folks, if you're one of the "little people" who wants to try and investigate (because the cops do the "file and forget" routine) EBay doesn't want to hear from you.
  • by jcomeau_ictx (696704) on Thursday July 22, 2004 @04:53PM (#9773437) Homepage
    Looks like I lost my freeshell.org account. I thought my CGI scripts (bash) were up to snuff but they'd never been stress-tested until now. So let me publicly apologize to the guys hosted on otaku, and please let me know how to make amends. I really didn't think this would get published, or I'd have planned better.

    Well anyway, since Justin's T1 is being pummeled too, a bunch of slashdotters have come to the rescue and mirrored the site! Here are the ones I've had pointed out to me so far, and more are appearing as I type:

    http://pio.longstair.com/misc/salwise.htm [longstair.com]
    http://pio.longstair.com/misc/salwise2.htm [longstair.com]
    http://www.ibnads.com/sal/salwise.html [ibnads.com]
    http://sd.wiretapped.us/07222004/ [wiretapped.us]
    http://www.freelancesecurity.com/projects/10898246 67.html [freelancesecurity.com]

  • Protect Yourself (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Ancil (622971) on Thursday July 22, 2004 @05:38PM (#9773796)
    I've seen a few responses advising people use a credit card on big-ticket items. Of course, scammers are hip to this and will often require a cashier's check or money order. They want cash, as quickly as possible.

    How To Buy Big-Ticket Items on EBay

    Use the postal service!!! Don't send a check via FedEx, UPS, or any other method. If you get scammed, these people will not help you.

    Local police, and even the FBI, will often ignore "petty" scams less than $3,000 or $5,000. I don't know about you, but five grand is a lot of money to me.

    Go buy a USPS Money Order, and send it Express or Priority Mail, signature required. Note exactly what goods the Money Order is for. If you get scammed, contact the Postal Inspection service. These people do nothing except investigate mail fraud.

    The minute a con-artist signs for his package, or cashes the Money Order, he is on the hook for a federal felony. Unlike the FBI or your Local PD, the USPS doesn't regard mail fraud as a "minor crime".

    They will go to bat for you. [usps.com]

    Also, Lance Armstrong kicks ass. Just one more reason.

  • Ebay Feedback (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Infe (52681) on Thursday July 22, 2004 @06:37PM (#9774235)
    Has anyone else noticed how hard it can be to read the neutral/negative feedback of a seller? They purposely make it this way. The feedbacks used to say Complaint: or Neutral: in front of each feedback, so you could for example view the maximum feedback per page and search the page for Complaints.

    Now, you get a stupid icon, and scrolling down the screen with a lot of feedback, good luck spotting the grey Neutral against the green positive, and it's not easy to spot the complaints, either. It certainly was much easier before. There's no reason they couldn't have Complaint: and then the stupid icon. I've bitched about it to them, and got a non-response. I hope others complain as well.

    I hope competitors clean ebay's clock, because they don't orient their business for the convenience or protection of buyers. In fact, there should be a way to click and view only complaints. They're afraid this will scare off a few sales, but look how many damn frauds it would prevent!!!
  • by bbsal (799397) on Friday July 23, 2004 @12:31AM (#9776498)
    All you guys need to look at something.I am sal wise but not the one who sold anything on ebay.I got plenty of documents to back up it wasnt me but my father but everywere i look i am seeing my name being jr but it is wrong.Yous are all playing follow the leader and saying guilty before reading facts.I tried to help out with this when i was out of the hospital but justin just toke it as it was me and that was that.I even went as far as asked him to call my hospital so he can see it was impossible for it to be me but he didnt do that right either. Now enough is enough and i dont have a problem with any of you's but at least accuse the right person.I mean if my father acually comes thru with them auctions then all this is over anyway but all the info on justins web page that is now down like i said it would be is mostly of my father.The civil dockets,The emails etc.. etc.. All i want is my wifes name off the web pages being hosted by other people now.Of course if they fail to do so then i guess they will have to get shut down also.I usally dont threaten anyone and for all that want proof it really wasnt me and was indeed my father call the hospital that justin should of provided and ask how long i been in and out of it.That should be enough proof to show you people it was sr not jr and not my wife. Now why would a scammer come on here and even type to you people?Because i did nothing wrong and im tired of seeing people putting my name out there like it was me and like im a crook.Anyone in philly who wants to see me come on down to 19th and passyunk ave right on the corner i have a scooter shop im in partners with and yes its a bunch of mostly old time mafia but so what we do nothing wrong and have a legit buisness and i dont hide from no one. Put yourself in my shoes.Im in the hospital not knowing whats going on and get out and find all this crap floating around and then find out it was my father.I want to hang him more then anyone. Acually he should be fixing this mess but he dont know i know whats going on yet but i have to tell him soon because this is getting out of hand and he must fix this and i dont care what the hell he does after that but im done with him. So people whoever wants real facts i will prove it and end it at that.

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