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p-p-p-powerbook

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I normally feel sorry when the web swarms around something they want to make fun of but in this case it’s fully justified. If you’ve read about scammers who prey on eBay innocents, you’ll get a kick out of this meme.

A scammer tries to get someone to send him a $2000 PowerBook to the UK with a promise that funds put into a phony escrow account would be released upon delivery. Smelling something phishy, especially when a check on the registered domain of the escrow site doesn’t look legit, the seller goes along. These type of scams usually end up with the seller sending off a legitimate item only to never hear from the buyer again.

The scammer is usually overseas so there is no legal recourse. This happened to my neighbor where someone in South Africa saw his posting for his Volvo, offered to buy it and even sent a cashier’s check for the amount plus $3000 extra for shipping. Because it’s an overseas bank, it takes several days to clear so in the meantime, the scammer’s asking my neighbor to send the car off for delivery and also to wire the “shipper” $3000 real dollars. My neighbor had never heard of the bank which drew up the cashier’s check and grew suspicious. When he asked for further proof, they trail went cold. Of course the cashier’s check finally bounced.

In this case, the guy scams the scammer and writes the whole thing up complete with excerpts from his email conversations. He says the goods are enroute, stuffs a plastic three-ring binder with a bunch of keys from a busted up Windows keyboard pasted on the inside, marks the customs form as a $2000 notebook and sends it off.

But what really makes this a gem is the whole time this is going on, he is posting comments on a newsgroup asking for advice and basically getting egged on by the community. By marking the package as a $2000 computer, this forces the scammer to have to pay something like $200 in customs fees. Posters in London see the thread and check out the delivery address (a barbershop/internet cafe) and even go in for a haircut to stake the joint. The members of the bulliten board track the Fedex tracking number and someone even visits the shop at the time of delivery to try and get a snapshot of the fuming owner as he realizes he’s been had. The didn’t get the shot but they did go into the internet cafe and left “p-p-p-powerbook” on the screensavers.

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Hassles

Poor ol’ Cory at boingboing posts long and lengthy about the frustrations of getting a cell phone in the UK with “no credit.” Why can’t the credit agencies put their heads together to come up with a global rating system so that us trans-national workers can move freely about and immediately begin contributing to the local economy? I work with a bunch of ex-pats that have relocated from the UK and they all got shafted on their mortgages and car purchases because they essentially didn’t exist as far as the local banks were concerned.

I too had a funny experience when I tried to open up an account at Bank of America in Berkeley. I walked up to the teller with a wad of 10,000 yen notes that I had earned as English teacher and said that I wanted to open up an account using this as my initial deposit. The teller said that I couldn’t exchange foreign currency without an account. When I pointed out the flaw in their procedures and asked for an exception, she stuck to her guns and directed me to the Wells Fargo branch across the street. “I know they will exchange your currency even if you don’t have an account. Why don’t you go there, change your money and come back here? I’d be happy to help you then.” Needless to say, I never made the trip back to BofA and ended up banking with Wells Fargo for over 10 years.