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eBay Fraud Vigilantes 357

Posted by timothy
from the more-power-to-'em dept.
firstadopter.com writes "New York Times (free registration needed) is reporting that users are sick of internet fraud on eBay. With lack of help from the company, they are taking the law into their own hands and closing down auctions they think are obvious scams."
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eBay Fraud Vigilantes

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  • Reg Free Link (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 20, 2004 @04:36PM (#8622527)
    Reg Free Link [nytimes.com]
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 20, 2004 @04:38PM (#8622538)
    ...and I couldn't find any "Viglanties".

    I did get a super deal on my new compter, though.
  • Like these "Alienware" scams I saw yesterday when looking for a system? By the way, these are still up now.

    http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item =2795846600&category=52476 [ebay.com]

    ***Please note, this auction is not selling the electronics themselves,we're selling electronic book packages that get you listed on a revolving list at our website. For list information and any other questions please visit our webpage @ www.revbuys.com--$220.00

    http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item =2795844320&category=52476 [ebay.com]

    **You are not buying the actual item, you are buying a link to a website where you can obtain the item for around a $250 US dollars. Link also includes lots of other good deals on nice electronics** $5.00

    http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item =2795281687&category=52476 [ebay.com]

    Please Read Auction Carefully. Winner will recieve information on where they can buy an Alienware Area-51 Extreme for only 275$. This is perfectly legal and I am usuing mine right now. Only one Alienware 275$ computer per household, so you can see why I am not selling the computers, but I am working on that.--$49.99

    http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item =2795708246&category=40176 [ebay.com]

    Please Read Description Carefully Before You Bid! you are not buying any electronics in this auction. Here are some examples of the amazing deals you will get upon winning this auction:

    Products:


    JL Audio 10w7 Subwoofer: $100
    Sony DVD/CD Changer: $100
    Sony Motorized indash 7" LCD: $100
    Exhaust Systems from $50
    NOS Kits: $100
    Body Kits: $100
    Playstation 2: $40
    Video Games: $20
    Gateway 42" Plasma TV: $200
    Sony DVD Dream Surround System: $100
    Sony Digital Camcorder: $100
    40GB Apple iPod: $115
    Compaq iPaq PDA: $50
    Panasonic Portable DVD Player: $50
    Alienware Desktop or Laptop: $275
    Sony VIAO Desktop: $150
    Sony VIAO Laptop: $100

    AND MANY MANY MANY MORE!!!!

    Shipping is absolutely free!, If you have any questions, please feel free to email us at http://TankDoggSC@aol.com $3.00

    http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item =2795726979&category=52476 [ebay.com]

    The item for sale isnt the real PC.the highest bidder will recieve the link to the site where you can purchase it for 160/275$.WHOEVER SAID ''THIS ISNT A REAL PC JUST A BUNCH OF LINKS'' MEANS THEY DID NOT READ THIS. $5.50-6 bids

    • this just blows my mind man... I was looking for someplace to report those just a few minutes ago
    • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 20, 2004 @04:45PM (#8622582)
      How are these scams? They are up front about what they are selling, information.

      the advertising is a little misleading, but that can be said about any advertising for almost anything. when was the last time you ate a burger that looked as good as it did in the adverts (or saw a girl that looked like an advert girl for that matter)

      This is more in the category of preying on the hopelessly gullible and exploiting their stupidity, rather than scam. Less like nigerian 419, more like religion.
      • by MoonBuggy (611105) on Saturday March 20, 2004 @04:50PM (#8622604) Journal
        You make a very fair point, but unfortunately the sites they link to are near always scams run by the people eBaying the links. Several times at work people have told me they're on a list to get x, y or z item cheaper than we are selling it - I enquire what site the list is on and type it into the browser only to find it's mysteriously disappeared off the web. Having said that, if the person selling it doesn't own the site in question then they are not in the wrong since they may earnestly belive that all of the people will recieve their items at 5% of retail value.
        • by canajin56 (660655) on Saturday March 20, 2004 @05:06PM (#8622694)
          No, they are still in the wrong because they are listing the auction under electronic systems, and they are giving it the title "Brand new PS2 never opened!" and when you read it it lists the features of a PS2 and has pictures of one, but if you read the fine print you see they are ACTUALLY selling a link to a website.
        • by LostCluster (625375) * on Saturday March 20, 2004 @05:07PM (#8622698)
          These are the latest variant on a pyramid scheme. Basically, people are paying today for a wait list for a product that will be delivered whenever the waiting list gets long enough to have enough money to buy your item. Early people on the list will in fact get their items, but as the list gets longer, the wait gets exponentially longer until the world runs out of fools to supply and the list stops growing. The people caught "below the line" when the scheme colapses end up paying to wait in a line that has stopped moving... they'll never get their stuff.
          • by EinarH (583836) on Saturday March 20, 2004 @05:38PM (#8622837) Journal
            Yup, it's a pyramid scheme. They call it "a matrix" but it's the same shit in a new wrapping.

            Some of the schemes invlove selling of ebooks other are driven entirely like a pyramid with people entering at a low cost, below $50, and then relying on the "members" (fraud victims) marketing the scheme to get their goods.

            Examples of schemes like this:
            Electronicmatrix.com [electronicsmatrix.com] or Ezdeal4u.com [ezdeal4u.com]

            • by throwaway18 (521472) on Saturday March 20, 2004 @06:58PM (#8623332) Journal
              it's a pyramid scheme. They call it "a matrix"

              Matrixwatch [matrixwatch.com] has a lot of info on how these scams work and are involved in bringing a lawsuit against one of the biggest operators.
              They have instructions on how to report those annoying "free link!" auctions to ebay and how to get paypal to close the accounts of people who start new matrix sites.

              There are a lot of people out there who are bad at maths and are unable to grasp that if they are the twentheth person to sign up for a plasma TV 50x matrix then they don't get their TV until 1000 people have join that list which will take years even if the matrix operator is not sued, shutdown by his card process and dosn't dissapear with the money or just not pay out when it's your turn.
              If you are signing up for place 20 to get a TV the chances are that people 1-19 are non existant or shills.

              Ebay is slow to remove "free link!" auctions but they are certainly monitoring for people offering to sell goods outside of ebay.
              I doubt it a conincidence that transactions outside ebay reduce their income whereas matrix scams just annoy users.
              I reccently bid for a computer. I got half a dozen email message sent via ebay saying "I have ten of those really cheap, email me!" followed by half a dozen warnings from "eBay Singapore customer support" (I'm nowhere near singapore) which began "We recently investigated the possibility that 'newoffretez@yahoo.com's account was compromised and used by an unauthorized third party. Our records indicate that you may have been contacted by this third party about purchasing an item off of the eBay site."
      • How are these scams? They are up front about what they are selling, information.

        You're absolutely right. So they should have their items moved to a section dedicated to sales of information, not actual electronics, and label their auctions accordingly. If the information doesn't provide the user with the ability to get a cheap system like these listings claim, then I would submit that it is a scam.

        the advertising is a little misleading, but that can be said about any advertising for almost anything.

        Again, you have a good point. These listings, when you see the item titles and parts of the description, are very misleading.

        when was the last time you ate a burger that looked as good as it did in the adverts (or saw a girl that looked like an advert girl for that matter)

        I can't remember when I ate anything that was as good as the ads.

      • by ameoba (173803) on Saturday March 20, 2004 @05:02PM (#8622672)
        I'm still suprised that eBay lets this go on. Having things like this around where the whole purpose is to separate a sucker from his money implacts the reputation of the whole site.

        There's a difference between stretching the truth and making statements that serve no purpose other than to mislead and confuse the consumers. Everyone knows that the burger they see on TV is going to be nicer than the one made by some stoned highschool kid working for minimum wage, but it's going to be essentially the same thing. If a 'real business' consistantly practiced the type of deception that these eBay guys are, they'd never be able to stay in business once word got out. Why is it different online?
    • by goombah99 (560566) on Saturday March 20, 2004 @04:54PM (#8622616)
      I got sick and tired of the acution frauds so i started finding them and bidding them up to inifity. Its not like you have too look hard to find them. Basically any high priced commodity item proably has frauds. One day while looking at apple powerbooks I notcies that over 90% of the auctions were definite frauds. Most of the other ones, probably real, maybe not.

      its usually pretty easy to spot: only takes western union, item is new in box for absurdly low price, eithe rmultiple auctions or a "private auction". You used to tell by low feed back but its getting so that can be a misleader. You send them an e-mail and it gets answered during romanian daylight hours.

      My favorite gambit is to ask them some absurd question that makes no sense like is this the power book that had the DVI fibrulator? They will answer "yes". Ask them if they take paypal and they dont answer.

      I have to say that for all the problems and accusations about pay-pal, it is a hallmark of an honest seller.

      E-bay claims a low fraud rate, but I think that is on a per-sale basis (most fruads dont result in sales, and there are many many honest auctions for $1.99 baseball cards, etc...). On a per dollar basis I'd bet it looks bad for e-bay. And certainly if you restrict the search to high vlaue commondity items i'd bet they average around fifty percent. E-bay needs to get sued and sued hard for knowing letting this go on.

      Some lawyer should go get a job ther coverty, find out what they do internally to prevent this, then sue the shit out of them for negligence.

      • by Chess_the_cat (653159) on Saturday March 20, 2004 @05:18PM (#8622752) Homepage
        I got sick and tired of the acution frauds so i started finding them and bidding them up to inifity.

        How dangerous is this? According to ebay your bid is a binding contract with the seller. What if you end up getting sued for payment from somebody who's running a legitimate auction? What if someone starts posting auctions that look suspicious but aren't in order to trap people like you and then sue you for payment? I'll tell you this: if you ran up my legit auction you'd be hearing from my lawyer.

        • And if I'm in Romania or Nigeria, good luck collecting. If the seller isn't legit, then it's not like they're going to sue!
        • by haraldm (643017) on Saturday March 20, 2004 @07:05PM (#8623370)
          These FUDs against "fun bidding" are void, at least here in Germany. According to German law (Fernabsatzgesetz), you can devoid a remote buying contract within 14 days without any specific reason.

          As far as eBay, these folks don't take their own terms and conditions serious. I don't remember how often I reported one specific seller due to duplicate auctions (still forbidden according to the German terms and conditions). All I get is form e-mails. A day or two later, the seller usually changes all but one of the dupes completely, and continues as usual. This specific seller also attempts to bully people in order to avoid negative feedback. eBay did nothing about it. The point is that eBay has a monopoly, and the lack of competition makes them talk not act.

      • by PhotoBoy (684898) on Saturday March 20, 2004 @05:29PM (#8622797)
        I run a webmail system and I caught someone signing up multiple accounts and creating fake auctions on eBay. He had about 50 accounts when I caught him. I tried reporting the accounts he'd created to eBay but they didn't reply.

        So instead I locked all his accounts and put an auto-responder message on them. This auto-responder would explain to the sender that the guy was a con-artist and that they should not under any circumstances send him money.

        I wish I could have seen his face when he realised he'd lost all his correspondance with people he was planning to con.
        • by mkro (644055) on Saturday March 20, 2004 @07:29PM (#8623467)
          Cool, you host a free webmail service, and you read peoples e-mail when you are suspicious?
          So, how many people from my company/IP would have to register before you feel justified to start reading our mail?
          • I doubt he reads the messages, and even if he did it's his responsability to make sure no illegal activity passes through his server (it makes him liable)

            if your company needs email I suggest setting up your own mail server and serve them that way instead of using the ever popular hotmail accounts
          • by Blackneto (516458) on Saturday March 20, 2004 @08:47PM (#8623853) Journal
            Since when is email a secure, private, guaranteed communications medium?

          • One. It's his computer... if you put your data on it why WOULDN'T he read it!?
          • by PhotoBoy (684898) on Sunday March 21, 2004 @07:46AM (#8626577)
            I didn't want to give many details since it might give scammers hints (not that I did anything really clever here), but since I've given the impression I spend my days snooping people's emails, I'll try to go into some detail. The first thing to tip me off was just the large number of signups from the same address. At first I thought it was another 419er.

            Next I checked his sign up details, he'd created 50 accounts all with the same details (e.g. firstname, lastname, address were all identical). Finally, earlier that week I had noticed a large amount of traffic from eBay's mail system, delivering lots of emails to these accounts.

            With a give away like that I did one final check by looking up some of his addresses on eBay. He was selling satellite nav, plasma TVs etc, and all of it was way too cheap for what it was worth. At this point I thought that if he wasn't scamming, why set up 50 separate accounts? The whole point of the eBay feedback system is that lots of good feedback shows you are a trustworthy seller. So by then I was certain he was up to no good and checked one of his mailboxes, which revealed the last of his tricks:

            The guy would open an auction, and invite potential buyers to email him any questions about the product. When he'd got enough "fish on the hook" he would close the auction and email the "fish" telling them he was having problems with eBay but he was still willing to sell if they were interested. He then asked if they would mind paying him directly.... Since he only had 1 of each product to sell on eBay it was clear he was trying to sell the same thing multiple times and by being paid directly he was skipping the relative safety of PayPal et al. At which point I slapped the auto-responders on and locked his accounts.

            It is a condition in our T&Cs that we reserve the right to inspect an account if we suspect illegal activity, but I only exercise that right if I am absolutely sure there is something going on. Usually this means an email sent to the abuse address with headers that prove the email came from our system.

            Now, if you think eBay scammers are bad, try keeping 419ers of your system. Luckily the rise of broadband means they usually have the same IP address for extended periods of time. So when we are informed of a scamming account we can find all of their other accounts at the same time.
      • by FortranDragon (98478) on Saturday March 20, 2004 @05:56PM (#8622971)
        I have to say that for all the problems and accusations about pay-pal, it is a hallmark of an honest seller.

        Unfortunately, PayPal is the first resort of the deadbeat buyer. :-/ PayPal only gives seller protection in the US and only if you use something like signature-on-delivery to show the item did arrive safely. Outside the US there is *no* seller protection. In fact, if you sell to a country outside PayPal's authorized list you can get your account cancelled.

        Even requiring the buyer to use funds from a bank account won't protect you. The buyer can do a 'charge back' or equivalent at any time and you, the seller, have to prove you sent the item and it was received. When PayPal protects the buyer and the seller equally and fairly I'll start using the service.
    • Often times, these people who are auctioning "information" on how to acquire products for cheap are just banking on how lazy and stupid buyers are. Recently I was looking into buying the Zelda Collector's Disc for gamecube, since I purchased my cube too late to get it for free. Doing a quick google search for it, I found that I could get the disc as a free gift if I purhcased a one year subscription to Nintendo Power Magazine. It wasn't a bad deal, but I decided to see if E-Bay could do any better. Look
  • www.paypalsucks.com (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 20, 2004 @04:40PM (#8622550)
    Following is my opinion only:

    Don't use paypal's "withdraw from bank account" option. Use the credit card option. If something goes wrong and you go past 30 days - your are screwed. My experience is that Paypal (an ebay company) is the worst in getting problems resolved.

    www.paypalsucks.com
    • OK, I happen to share that suspicion. Problem is, PayPal limits you to a $2K cumulative transaction total if you don't give them access to an account (which I won't do, at least not an account I use for anything else). How do you deal with that? I suppose one could close the account and open another, but I suspect their terms of use frown on that.

      The only solution I can see is opening a special-purpose bank account for PayPal use only, and feeding it only what it needs for the transactions I authorize. Whi
      • The only solution I can see is opening a special-purpose bank account for PayPal use only, and feeding it only what it needs for the transactions I authorize. Which is rather a lot of inconvenience for the convenience of one-click shopping...

        My mother has about 2500 ebay transactions, (dont ask). And after getting royally phucked by paypal once the solution was pretty evident. Get a throw away bank account. She went down to the local credit union (not our normal bank), got an account, and linked that u

      • Re:OK, but... (Score:4, Informative)

        by Bombcar (16057) <racbmob@bomb c a r . c om> on Saturday March 20, 2004 @06:12PM (#8623078) Homepage Journal
        Netbank.com doesn't allow paypal to transfer money FROM your checking account, but will allow paypal to transfer money into the checking account.

        And it is free. As Dan's Data would say, Recommended.
    • Absolutely (Score:5, Informative)

      by macdaddy (38372) on Saturday March 20, 2004 @04:59PM (#8622655) Homepage Journal
      I have had to (more than once!) dispute a charge on a CC I used on PayPal because they were trying to screw me out of my money (or the product). The PayPal folks wouldn't return my calls or letters. I got a live body once and told them I was going to dispute the charges if they didn't stop trying to defraud me. They immediately transfered me to a guy that IMHO does nothing other than threaten to sue PayPal users if they threaten to dispute CC charges. I mean that's all he didn't. He knew nothing about the circumstances. He was just there to read me the riot act (from a script) about what they'd do if I disputed the charge. I told him just exactly what he could do with his business and called my CC company. The CC company credited me my $$ within a week and I never heard any more about it. Paypal, contrary to what many of the horror stories said, didn't freeze my account. It wouldn't surprise me if they did but they didn't to me at least. Always Always ALWAYS use a CC when paying via PayPal. In fact I don't have a valid checking account registered with them anymore. I closed that account nearly 8 months ago when I moved. They already verified the account and I'm not going to try and tell them otherwise. :)
      • Re:Absolutely (Score:3, Informative)

        by cookie_cutter (533841)
        Paypal's rule is that you MUST file with them prior to doing a CC chargeback.

        You can still file with them after the 30 day deadline to meet this requirement, and of course your claim with Paypal will quickly get rejected, but then you'll be in the clear with them.

        A VERY good idea is to open up a second chequing account with no funds in it, so if they try to dip in (which they have been known to), they'll get nowhere. I have a 2nd account at my bank and I can easily transfer funds between the two accou
        • Re:Absolutely (Score:3, Informative)

          by macdaddy (38372)
          I'm trying to remember the exact details of the two instances of problems I had with them. One of the items was a pair of GigE switches. The other was a Cabletron router. It's been too many years though. I just can't remember what exactly happened. I do know the fault was with PP, not the seller or myself. They were so unbelievably rude to me, avoided any and all possible contact with me (hanging up on my calls once I identified myself by account), and of absolutely no help that I really didn't have a
    • eBay is financially rigged to favor the
      auctioneer instead of the customer. As a
      fee based system, they derive the bulk of
      their income from these same auctioneers.
      By joining eBay, the bidders relinquish
      any right to sue, and the cap on any
      arbitrated settlement is $200. PayPal
      might be convenient, but they have next
      to zero for security and auditing. A
      close friend had their checking account
      cleaned out by someone either at PayPal
      or one of the auctioneers. I stopped
      doing ANY business with eBay after getting
      ripped o
      • It depends a lot on the kind of stuff you buy on eBay.

        I have noticed that my wife, who buys what I would call 'cheap trashy things' on eBay, like 'collectable christmas ornaments,' runs with a less reputable crowd. Likewise, buying or selling 'new laptops' on eBay is a crapshoot.

        But there are different crowds buying and selling different things. I mostly buy and sell in pure 'geek' categories (things you're almost entirely unable to buy any other way, like used Sun hardware) and I find it an ethical 'ge
      • I have not had any real problems with paypal but I recognize the risk. Anything over 50 dollars I pay with a credit card on paypal not my bank accounts. I would prefer to do it the other way and save the merchant the fee but there is just no other way to be safe because paypal does not handle disputes appropriately.

        And I no longer keep any money in my paypal account because of that whole barely legal freezing thing they do when they get pissed off at you for making them work.

        I am fairly sure that any unau
        • If an account holder accepts credit cards through Paypal, they pay a fee on ANY payment received, whether it be from a credit card, eCheque or Paypal balance.

          That's where Paypal makes the real money.

          By signing up with Paypal, you allow them to go into your bank account to cover certain debts. That's why you should open a 2nd account with nothing in it. Why walk in a legal gray area when you can prevent the situation from happening entirely.

          I'd say Paypal favours the buyer and not the seller anyway,
  • Good... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Bl33d4merican (723119) on Saturday March 20, 2004 @04:41PM (#8622552)
    About time somebody did something useful. Not like eBay has done anything. With problems like this running rampant over eBay, I wonder what kind of future the company has. Many users are already abandoning the service in favor of other means of purchase. I think people have realized that eBay, with scams, high shipping costs, and long waiting periods before getting a product, is often more expensive and less convenient than just purchasing the product at the store.
  • by bc90021 (43730) * <<ten.12009cb> <ta> <12009cb>> on Saturday March 20, 2004 @04:42PM (#8622566) Homepage
    ...but more often than not, it's the banks that are watching out for suspicious things. The one time someone tried to pay me with stolen credit cards, it was the bank that alerted me (thankfully before I sent the laptop).

    Really, what should be happening is that eBay should cooperate as much as possible with the banks/credit companies, and that would take care of a lot of fraud then and there.
  • by The-Dalai-LLama (755919) on Saturday March 20, 2004 @04:45PM (#8622580) Homepage Journal

    ...the clever people who've sold things like "genuine air guitars" and "nothing".

    Half the fun of e-bay is the really bizarre stuff. [bidboy.com]

    The Dalai Llama
    This .sig available for purchase: $100,000 USD -ebay auction #66666. Buyer pays shipping from Andorra.

    • by Necrobruiser (611198) on Saturday March 20, 2004 @05:26PM (#8622789)
      I'll never forget the first time I surfed Ebay. I ended up in the "Adult" section, and found an auction for a "5 Ball Butt Plug". Now, I know what a butt plug is, but I had no idea what a "5 Ball" butt plug is, so I checked out the description. There was a lovely picture, and I now know what a "5 Ball" butt plug looks like. However, the scary part was when I saw the descriptive phrase "Like New" next to the picture.

      Needless to say, I'm still emotionally scarred.
  • by Graemee (524726) on Saturday March 20, 2004 @04:48PM (#8622593)
    Many forums have a link right on the post that allows reporting of improper material. Ebay could use this feature.

    I've found questionable sales, usually someone asks me "Hey, look at the deal", but when I've looked for a way to report it. Zip nothing. They did not list any contact in safeharbour for this.

    Hell, it took way too much time to find the link to report the phish emails I got last year.

    Yes, it will mean more overhead, but that's what it's going to take if Ebay expects people to continue to use the site. Allowing a group of moderators that can flag obvious problems will help.
  • Once... (Score:4, Funny)

    by LordK3nn3th (715352) on Saturday March 20, 2004 @04:50PM (#8622603)
    Once someone was selling a car headlight modification they didn't have. The way they were busted was rather unique-- they posted pictures (hosted off-site, of course) of a car that wasn't theirs.

    The person who owned the site saw the traffic coming from the ebay page. He then proceeded to change the images to one insulting the scammer in a very something awful-esque way, and photoshopped eyes over the car headlights. It was hilarious-- anyone have a link to it?
    • Re:Once... (Score:5, Funny)

      by Jafafa Hots (580169) on Saturday March 20, 2004 @07:12PM (#8623401) Homepage Journal
      I had this happen to me once when I ran an auction for a PXL-2000 camcorder. Someone linked to my pic for their auction, so I closed my auction and emailed all bidders why I did it, then I replaced the image file on my server with a jpg of text saying something along the lines of "The seller in this auction stole this picture from seller (myID). Do not bid on this item as the seller is dishonest and quite possibly doesn;t even have the PXL, may be out to rip you off"

      The seller contacted me and apprently I had caused him a good deal of grief. Which is a good thing.
  • Here's a tip (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Stop bidding on items from Andora and Romania. A little common sense goes a long way.
  • by LostCluster (625375) * on Saturday March 20, 2004 @04:55PM (#8622631)
    The reason people pay to use eBay rather than setup their own auction script on their web site is because eBay is providing a regulated marketplace, one where eBay makes the rules and enforces them to prevent fraudulent activities from affecting buyers and sellers.

    If eBay can't get a grip on their fraud problems, then the door will be wide open for another marketplace to challenge them.
  • by Eberlin (570874) on Saturday March 20, 2004 @04:56PM (#8622641) Homepage
    Here I was auctioning off evidence/information on whereabouts of WMDs in Iraq when people got all huffy and decided to shut it down. I nearly got some dude named Dubya bidding oodles of cash for the info but got shutdown before bidding was over.

    Why can't you vigilantes just mind your own biz, damn it!!!

    Yo, it's a joke -- no need to start a super-secret file on me.
    • It's a scary world (Score:3, Insightful)

      by mao che minh (611166)
      It's a scary world when you have to include a disclaimer such as "Yo, it's a joke -- no need to start a super-secret file on me." in a Slashdot post making parody of the president. The Patriot Act has proven far too powerful and unjust.

      By the way, this was just a joke, no need to make an entry of me in the CIA's secret files.

      • by dasunt (249686) on Saturday March 20, 2004 @07:20PM (#8623432)

        It's a scary world when you have to include a disclaimer such as "Yo, it's a joke -- no need to start a super-secret file on me." in a Slashdot post making parody of the president. The Patriot Act has proven far too powerful and unjust.

        On Kuro5hin, there was a comment [kuro5hin.org] during the anthrax scare about how to assassinate the president of the United States by infecting the vice president with an infectious disease.

        The poster of that message received a visit from the United States Secret Service.

        From the analysis of that tale, it seems that if you are flagged as a dangerous individual (through, presumably, religion, association with certain political groups, region of origin, etc) and make a nasty comment on a monitored website, the powers that be will investigate.

        Scary thought indeed.

  • by LostCluster (625375) * on Saturday March 20, 2004 @05:03PM (#8622678)
    One reason why people are able to place a $2.5 million bid to try to kill off an auction they think is fraudulent is that it doesn't cost anything to place a over-high bid on eBay.

    Maybe eBay should set some threshholds at which point bids require a deposit in escrow in order to justify a large bid, money that is returned if the bid doesn't win, but is lost if the transaction doesn't close because its withdrawn while being the high bidder.
  • by Genghis9 (575560) * on Saturday March 20, 2004 @05:03PM (#8622682)
    Recently bought a router, the seller shipped a hard drive to me by mistake. After emailing back and forth I sent the hd back, but no router. Seller stops responding to emails. So what happens when I fill out the Paypal form to try and get a refund?

    They have an item asking if you received ANYTHING in the mail. So I checked that off. Bad mistake! They classified the report as "misrepresented item"!!!! Then a few days later closed the complaint saying they didn't do anything in those cases!

    Paypal = SCAM CITY

    Lesson: accept Paypal payments for expensive items and mail a jellybean to the buyer. Paypal will support you all the way.
    • Nooooo (Score:3, Informative)

      by Sycraft-fu (314770)
      You = Not educated in online purchasing. You need to excersize due diligence in protection yourself. If you recieve the wrong item:

      ALWAYS PAY WITH CREDIT CARD. Credit cards offer you the protection of canceling a fradulant charge within 30 days. A misshipped item that they refuse to exchange counts. Contact the seller and demand a refund. If they don't ssue one, stop payment on your card. Contact the seller and let them know you are happy to ship it back to them, at their expense.

      Also, if you get ripped o
    • Hmmm... Did the seller by any chance ship from Tbilisi, Georgian Republic? Did he also misrepresent where he was from, saying he was from another country entirely?

      If so, he's the same guy who scammed me in the same way. I purchased a copy of Mac Quark Passport at a reasonable price, and got a OEM Windows Installation CD/Manual/hologram certification instead.

      The return address was made up, but it definitely came from Tbilisi. Anyhow, I contacted paypal, and essentially they said that since he committed
  • Hit me too (Score:3, Interesting)

    by AigariusDebian (721386) <aigarius.debian@org> on Saturday March 20, 2004 @05:03PM (#8622683) Homepage
    I must admit that I also was the one to suffer from that. After a great deal on an expensive digital camera (Sony F717 :)) that went flawlessly I got too relaxed.
    They got me with a road bike for 100 EUR + 50 for shipping and I bought it. It's been a month without the bike and any reply to the emails.
    This article motivated me to go to the authorities to try to get the money back. This fraud was stupid enough to give me his bank acount and a postal address. Let's see what the police san do about it!
  • amazing (Score:5, Funny)

    by segment (695309) <sil@NOSpam.politrix.org> on Saturday March 20, 2004 @05:06PM (#8622692) Homepage Journal

    You mean that Paris Hilton action figure [ebay.com] is a fraud!. People auctioning off their life [ebay.com], and those imginary girlfriends [ebay.com] are frauds! I for one am shocked. And awed too
    • Actually, the "imaginary girlfriend" services are sort of ingenious when you know what you're actually getting. They send messages, flowers, etc. as if you really did have a distant girlfriend (all of which, of course, you've paid for and then some) for the sake of creating the illusion that there's really somebody sending this stuff... useful for fooling an ex if they are still close enough to be observing such deliveries such as at an office.
  • by cpex (601202) <jvivona@nOspAm.ucsd.edu> on Saturday March 20, 2004 @05:12PM (#8622721)
    I liked ebay when it was just people selling second hand items, businesses selling surplus etc. Ever since the ebay business model sprung to life ebay imho sucks. Sure they let something like a cell phone faceplate go for $2.00 that you would pay $15 for in the mall. ut then they hit you with a $8 to $10 s/h fee, and you get it in an envlope with 0.95 postage marked on it. They are just using the shipping and handling fee to insure their profit. And good luck if something is broken or incorrect when it comes back with these mega sellers of cheap crap, they glady will take the negative feedback point as it will be lost in the thousands of others were they didnt screw up. And the scams are unblievable. Instructions to build your own projection tv, wholesaler list. errr
  • Oh man,

    You can't even hit up ebay for anything these days without getting billions of those.

    Add the professional snipers, and Ebay wasn't what it used to be (well what did we expect ? heh)

    Sunny Dubey
  • by dpbsmith (263124) on Saturday March 20, 2004 @05:18PM (#8622753) Homepage
    I've been buying and selling low-value items on eBay for some time with nothing but good results. It's fun.

    The other day, I remembered an LP I found fascinating when I was a kid, called "Hearing is Believing." RCA put it out--I believe they gave it away for free--in the early fifties. It was an introduction to hi-fi. I suddenly "I'd get a kick out of hearing that again." I went on to eBay, there was a copy up for bid at a starting bid of $3.00, nobody else bid, I got it for $3.00 plus $3.50 shipping, and experienced a intense burst of pleasurable nostalgia at hearing it again.

    Nobody can make a fortune scamming people $3 at a time, so most of the low-value weird junk items are legit. And if they aren't--so you're out a few dollars, who cares?

    I won't say there are easy answers, but by far the largest number of horror stories seem to all be about one specific category: people that believe they can get new or practically new electronic gadgets for substantially below the new price. Indeed, no doubt you sometimes can, but that is the kind of item where the risk is high.

    Of course, trading junk doesn't appeal to everyone, but I think it is one of eBay's highest and best uses.
  • by grungebox (578982) on Saturday March 20, 2004 @05:24PM (#8622776) Homepage
    A while ago some people were auctioning off CD's with all the cartoons from Homestar Runner [homestarrunner.com] on eBay. Some fans got pissed at the people selling the CD's and overbid them to millions of dollars. I've seen it happen to people trying to sell CD's of Penny Arcade [penny-arcade.com] strips as well.
  • Start a new E-Bay (Score:5, Interesting)

    by randomErr (172078) <ervin@kosch.gmail@com> on Saturday March 20, 2004 @05:25PM (#8622788) Homepage Journal
    Vigilanties usually don't fix a problem. They almost always make things worse. If one person is saying an auction is real and another says they are fake then who should you believe? The answer is no one, go other to Yahoo! Auctions or somewhere else.

    E-bay will have to restructure and get rid of these fake auctions or die.

    So which will it be e-Bay?
    • E-Bay won't, though. They need the growth. Sure, there's a point at which the level of fraud becomes a hindrance to growth, but I'd wager my next paycheck that they have detailed models telling them at what point the fraud level is too high to sustain their revenue growth.
  • Anime Bootlegs? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Ondo (187980) on Saturday March 20, 2004 @05:29PM (#8622796)
    What about bootleg anime on eBay or half.com? They're often easy to spot, but I don't know what to do about them. Is there an effective way to report them?
  • by tomatoguy (545272) on Saturday March 20, 2004 @05:49PM (#8622912)
    I've been on eBay for I think 5 years now (feedback rating of 530+), buying memorabilia for a particular marque of British auto. Like another poster I buy pretty small things and out of nearly 1000 transactions I've had only a couple items in my "Stiffed" file - 1 from a seller who (apparently) died, 3 or 4 lost in the mail, and a 2 from a seller that was woefully disorganized for their volume. I've paid by PayPal, US$ cheque and cash, and only 1 payment went astray and it was a cheque that I cancelled. I have sent money to various spots around the world that would make people a bit leery, but anything like this is a gamble. I deal in a niche, not in the mainstream consumer products market, so that's probably why my experience is so good. Nobody's wanting to get rich off the stuff I buy. People chasing "deals" on the same stuff everyone else is chasing will always be targets for the unscrupulous.
  • caveat emptor (Score:4, Interesting)

    by b17bmbr (608864) on Saturday March 20, 2004 @05:51PM (#8622928)
    fraud is never okay, but people think they can get things on the cheap on ebay. you get what you pay for. i see lots of 17" powerbooks for like $999. i'm thinking, yeah right. but i read where some guys got hosed on these "deals". people are stupid for thinking they can find deals on ebay that are too good to be true. my wife buys and sells kids clothes. but she bought her canon 10D at a brick and mortar store, though she could've got it for a lot less on ebay. so why? well, you pay for service. and it is safer. you pay for that too. i have no sympathy for people who drop big dollars to people they have no way of verifying, especially if it's in some BFE country. they should use sense. though ebay has a responsibility, they can't possibly track the millions (and millions) of auctions. it is incumbent on the bidder. there are great deals on refurb'd laptops. but i'd only buy them from legit ebay stores. i wouldn't buy it from a regular user.
  • by N8F8 (4562) on Saturday March 20, 2004 @06:00PM (#8623003)
    What is this vigilante stuff gets out of hand and peple start closing down auctions for stuff they don't like: religious articles, Nazi memoralbilia, etc?

    Example :I was wandering around a local church yard sale and stumbled across a book filled with pictures of dead people. So I bought it and put it up on EBay [ebay.com].

  • Covering your butt (Score:3, Interesting)

    by ljavelin (41345) on Saturday March 20, 2004 @06:14PM (#8623091)
    eBay's feedback system is pretty effective. A combintation of eBay feedback and how the seller represents the goods can really help you determine how legit the seller is.

    Also, it is reasonable to send the seller and email, or call the seller. You can even have someone visit the seller if necessary.

    As both a buyer and a seller, I've had very few problems. I bought one item that didn't work as advertised, but it was only $9. Not a bad loss.

    I've sold some stuff to a bunch of people that didn't pay. All said, illegit bidders cost me over $85. That pisses me off, but it's part of business on eBay.

    I always make sure that there's a lot of quality feedback when buying. If there are some negative feedbacks, I read them and try to figure out who the loser is. Often times, the loser is a first-time (and last-time) eBay buyer.

    A seller with little-to-no feedback is a huge warning sign. I can't imagine someone selling on eBay without first buying several items on eBay. It's OK to buy from a person with little feedback, as long as then item is very little money. I won't panic if I lose a few bucks (like less than $10).

    I watch to see where the product is coming from. Something that's in the USA is much safer in my eyes. It's rare that someone will be selling a Plasma TV on eBay from some east Asian country. I simply stay away from that kind of unwieldy, unlikely-to-be-true stuff.

    Paypal is easier for me as a buyer and seller. However, PayPal's fee (for the seller) is quite high. I usually sell with some kind of proof-of-delivery. I understand that Paypal doesn't offer me any real protection - so I always think safety first.
  • by adzoox (615327) * on Saturday March 20, 2004 @06:20PM (#8623131) Journal
    If you think eBay has rampant fraud - you should look at the Mac section of yahoo auctions. It is just an obvious (at least) 80% fraudulent auctions.

    I've used their auction alert system for about 2 years and it really works, it's an easy system to tell yahoo that something is wrong with an auction. It allows "you and me" to police auctions - ebay should have something similar.

  • by hacker (14635) <hacker@gnu-designs.com> on Saturday March 20, 2004 @06:33PM (#8623208)
    I bid on an auction for a Thinkpad T23 from a buyer calling himself "electro_depot" on eBay. After several emails to the seller asking for details, I "won" the bid.

    Full details on the event are in my advogato diary [advogato.org].

    Basically the scam was that this seller puts a laptop model for sale on eBay, dozens of times. Dozens of people bid on the item and he picks the 'n' number of highest bidders to "win" the auction. At no time does he own these laptop models he is selling. He requires that all payment be sent to him within 5 days of the auction close.

    After 4-6 weeks of delays, people start sending emails, getting pissed, and mad. "Brian Silverman" emails them back, with excuses about delays at the "warehouse" and other excuses.

    Meanwhile, 2-2.5 months later, he purchases the laptop model, at quite a discounted price from the vendor (not being the "newest" model on the market anymore).

    So he keeps hundreds of thousands of dollars in auction buyers' money in his account, accruing interest, and then he purchases the laptops, at roughly 30-40% less than his original auction price.

    But wait, it gets better... Brian decided that the whole "send the item to the buyer" part of the scam was eating into his profits too much, so he decided to just not send any laptops to anyone.

    I was the last person he ever sent a laptop to. I actually tracked him down, and called him at home one night to demand my laptop, or the FBI would be at his door in 30 minutes. He claimed he would send it out that night, and double the RAM "for my troubles". A week later, I did indeed receive the laptop.

    But I posted all of the details in my Advogato diary entries. Hundreds of other people who were being scammed by Brian Silverman googled [google.com] for his "electro_depot" name, and my diary entry was the only one to come up. They would email me directly asking for more details.

    I then received a call from the NY Cyber Crime division, asking me if I had any details on the "scam" with Brian Silverman, and if anyone else had contacted me, because they had a "few calls".

    I said I had 141 separate people who had emailed me to complain. 141 people!!!

    The end result, was that Mr. Silverman was tracked down out of the country, and the FTC caught and nailed him. I even received a nice little letter from the FTC praising me for my efforts in catching him.

    My diary entry was THE reason people were brought together, and the FTC and NYPD took notice in the matter.

    Vigilante justice does definately work, but you have to be very careful about how you go about it. After people found my diary entry, they created all of those other websites to track and report on Mr. Silverman's scams.

    (And that T23 that I "won" is currently at IBM repair, for the 6th time in 2 years, so it wasn't exactly a "win" in my case).

  • Nasty Plan (Score:4, Funny)

    by Mattwolf7 (633112) on Saturday March 20, 2004 @06:47PM (#8623277)
    "Still, it was another eBay user's warning that saved Marianne Houkom. Ms. Houkom, 55, who lives in Newton, Kan., received an e-mail message from Mr. Seiden warning her that the espresso machine she was bidding on did not exist. She said she was horrified, and then relieved when someone outbid her."

    1. Email Ms. Houkom about having a fake item
    2. Outbid her by $.50
    3. Repeat 1-2 until winning bid is yours
    4. Have a victory espresso from your brand new espresso machine

  • My ebay story (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Cyberllama (113628) on Saturday March 20, 2004 @06:56PM (#8623317)
    I sell Diablo 2 items on ebay. It's good money for very little work. Unfortunately, there's been a recent outbreak of fraud by users who buy items using stolen ebay accounts and pay with stolen paypal accounts. The items are virtual, so they recieve them almost instantly -- when the user reports their account stolen a few weeks later, the sellers have the payments retracted and get stuck with the bill.

    These aren't just little kids trying to get items for free. There's a definate pattern here. People, who I imagine don't even play Diablo 2, have taken towards buying D2 items with stolen paypal accounts and on some legitimate account (which actually belongs to them) they resell the items. Thus they end up with money in their paypal accounts which is very cleverly laundered from stolen paypal accounts in a manner which is almost untracable. So all those people phising for paypal accounts have found a way to keep the money without having any sort of records connecting their money with the account they stole.

    The only weakness of this plan is that, of course, is that the accoutn which does the actual reselling of the stolen items must be a real account. I have taken a couple hours of my time to track down the legitimate account of a person who ripped me off for roughly 150 dollars, and tried to bring this person to eBay's attention, but they don't care. After all, he's a seller generating seller fees for them -- they're not gonna do anything unless I somehow give them ironclad proof.

    You would think would an overwhealming level of circumstancial evidence (he started selling the just a few hours after the first items were purchased using a stolen account, he sells the same items in the same quantities as were stolen by the two accounts I know to have been stolen by the same person, he even recieved his first seller feedback from one of the stolen accounts for his cheapest item) would be enough to convince ebay to even consider some sort of investigation. But they won't even respond to my emails anymore (and I'm a powerseller, supposed to be entitled to "priority support").

    Let's face it, ebay is complicit in the fraud committed by these individuals. They do not act strongly to stop them. They do not actively monitor for fraud (if I can search completed listings and tell you who's a fraudulent buyer and who's not, then certainly ebay could).

    So then it's not really suprising that ebay users would take to doing ebay's job for them -- someone has to do it. There's no real alternative to ebay at this point (yahoo auctions is a sad, sad shell of ebay) and people depend on ebay to make a living.

    Heck, the thought of buying something from the legitimate account of the person who stole 150 dollars from me just so I could request the phone number from ebay and do a reverse look-up had crossed my mind. But even if I did get his home address, what would I do with it then? Show up on his doorstep with a baseball bat?

    I'm at a loss for ideas. Now with all my auctions I'm forced to screen my buyers very carefully. Calling long distance to verify that the people using the ebay account are in fact the real users, checking bidding histories for suspicious patterns.

    I want to treat my customers like customers, not like criminals. But I see no real alternative as long as eBay continues to drop the ball on halting fraud.
  • by Concerned Onlooker (473481) on Saturday March 20, 2004 @07:11PM (#8623392) Homepage Journal
    ...is the email claiming to come from eBay stating that your account has been suspended pending the update of your personal information, and a link to a web page is provided. Of course, the link goes to some web server with a .tw tld and it looks exactly like the eBay sign in page.

    I put in a bogus name and password and it passed me right on to the next page where they ask for all your info, including a credit card. I plugged in more bogus info and it responds with yet enother page that looks exactly like eBay's that says congrats you've updated your info. I wonder how many people fall for this?

    I also wonder if it would be technically illegal to use curl to submit a few thousand million POST requests with bogus info to that scam page?

  • Not Just Ebay! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Grimster (127581) on Saturday March 20, 2004 @07:16PM (#8623414) Homepage
    I was looking around for an Apple notebook, Ebay/Yahoo/Amazon etc, was looking at the $2999 17" Apple notebook at Amazon and noticed the "X new & used from $1720" I was like "hmm $1720 that's a pretty good price" and I checked it out, the guy who was selling it said his grandmother got him one for Xmas as a going to college present but he'd already gotten one through a school program, etc etc, so it seemed legitimate enough to this point. So I asked how did he want payment, and he wanted to use an "escrow server because it's safer for us both" (uh huh....) well he gave me the URL for the escrow and I whois'd it, the domain was less than a week old (???) Verisign logos, etc yet the certificate was an instant-ssl free certificte (???x2).

    Definite scam, emailed Amazon and the hosting provider, site was pulled, Amazon never replied, I forgot all about it, about a month later I get ANOTHER email from this guy, different Amazon account, same URL, new host... the cycle continues...

    Apparently Amazon did nuke his account, and his web host pulled the fake escrow site, DNS update, new Amazon account, and he's back up and running.

    Kinda makes you want to go to Chuck E Cheese and play whack-a-mole, for all the good you do tracking these bastards down they just pop up out of another hole.
  • fraud (Score:5, Interesting)

    by austad (22163) on Saturday March 20, 2004 @07:28PM (#8623461) Homepage
    Recently, I was looking for a new stove for my kitchen remodel. Over the course of 2 weeks, I found 2 DCS 36" ranges. Typically around $5000. Both sellers had several hundred positive feedback. But their previous items were nothing like the stoves, little trinkets and crap. So I figured the accounts were hijacked.

    I emailed the sellers, and both of them offered to end the auction early and sell me the item for $3k, and include free shipping. This thing weighs 700 pounds, and one of them said UPS would ship it and hold it until they get the Western Union money transfer. I looked at the headers in the emails, and every one of them came from somewhere different. A portscan of the originating machine revealed that it was an open proxy, and they were using this to use yahoo mail and hotmail.

    Needless to say, I didn't send them any money. One of them wanted to use a specific escrow service. I looked at the domain info, and it had been registered only 4 days before. And they only took western union. Shady as hell.

    This is why I propose someone start a site called thugs4hire.com. If you get ripped off, you can send someone over from a network of thugs to beat the living crap out of the scammer.
  • Tips (Score:5, Informative)

    by RzUpAnmsCwrds (262647) on Saturday March 20, 2004 @07:31PM (#8623473)
    I have successfully purchased (and sold) many items on eBay. You can get awesome deals on some items, so long as you know what you are doing:

    - Check feedback. Not just the number, but the comments. Read the negative and neutral comments and judge whether it was the seller's fault ("you never shipped") or the buyer's fault ("my notebook didn't have an OS" when the auction said so) or neither ("broken item, seller replaced, OK").

    - Sanity check prices. A brand new Sony notebook on buy-it-now for $49 is a fraud. A used Dell CSx with a PIII 500, 20GB HDD, DVD/CD-RW, Windows 2000, good battery, and 256MB Memory for $350 is a stupid seller.

    - Remember, prices on auctions often start low and go high. SET A HARD LIMIT. DO NOT BID MORE. It is easy to get into a bidding war and end up paying way more than you wanted.

    - DO NOT PAY WITH A WIRE TRANSFER. PAY ONLY USING PAYPAL AND ONLY WITH A CREDIT CARD.

    - Ask bogus questions. If you are buying a notebook, ask if it has the "hyperspeed math co-processor". If you get a "yes" answer, it's a fraud.

    - Know what you are buying. If you have a question, ASK before you bid.

    - Compare with similar auctions. Check completed auctions. If something seems off, ask about it.

    - Know how much shipping is.

    - Make sure you aren't buying pirated software. If it includes Windows, make sure there is a COA (unless you plan on loading Linux).
  • by cherokee158 (701472) on Saturday March 20, 2004 @07:49PM (#8623545)
    Ebay, Paypal, spam...all of it can be traced to the one inherwent flaw of the internet that, ironically, people continue to outspokenly defend: the anonymity of the net.

    You cannot have a well-behaved global village without personal accountability for it's citizens.
  • by gklinger (571901) on Saturday March 20, 2004 @08:00PM (#8623588)
    What is to stop me from putting up a suspcious looking auction for a generic item, an Apple Powerbook for instance (I understand there are a lot of fraudulent auctions for Apple hardware) and then waiting for a vigilante to bid it to a ridiculous level, lets say $50,000. When the auction closes, I got out and buy a Powerbook like the one listed in the auction and demand my payment. As I understand things, bids on eBay are contracts and I should be able to sue that individual because they weren't bidding in good faith. I may not get a judgement for $50,000 but I'm sure I could get a few thousand for the hassle they caused me.

    I'm not suggesting anyone attempt this but I am curious if such a thing is possible.

  • my story (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Stanza (35421) on Saturday March 20, 2004 @10:01PM (#8624324) Homepage Journal
    I needed a textbook, Introduction to Electrodynamics [amazon.com], a book that costs $100. My entire family was making big noises about the high costs of textbooks and my roomate offered to buy it online for me. She's not the most technically literate but she has a credit card which gets her more ebay acess than me. She told me about half.com (an affiliate of ebay) and I gave her $50 and borrowed textbooks in the meantime.

    At some point, she said that she suspected an ex-friend of hers had sent her a CD-R that she was suspecting of less than honest intentions and she was afraid it would cover her computer with computer viruses. I popped it in my linux box, poked around... and was surprised to find that it contained the solutions manual to my textbook!

    I went back and looked at what she had bought. It was listed as "Introduction to Electrodynamics (Hardcover, 1998)" but under the notes it said "Notes: Solutions manual in CD format. Returns not accepted due to possibility of copying."

    We've emailed half.com but haven't found any response. We've left bad feedback but that doesn't seem to do anything. All our requests for returning are unheeded.

    I understand that he probably thinks (s)he's providing a valuable service offering bootleg copies of the solutions manual, but I found the damn offer misleading, and I don't even want the solutions manual! I want the book! And when no one responds to inquiries... Grr..

    --Stanza, who has been burned internet shopping everytime I've ever tried to buy anything online.

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