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Anatomy Of A Scam

Posted by on Dec 13, 2010

This post is actually shorter than it looks. What I’m about to share with you is an email that basically only had 3 brief conversations, but the last bit contains the scam of it all. I wasn’t initially sure until I saw the very last line of the email. Oh yeah, I’m going to post the guy’s email address as well, since I believe it’s fake. By the way, this was a response to a Craigslist posting I have out there locally indicating that I do minor computer repair:

I got 5 Acer Atom laptops that i want to repair, Its just a software problem, I need you to reformat everything for me. I got all the necessary softwares (original) with license keys. How much will this cost me and what time duration? I got external drives for them all. The programs that you need to install on them for me are OS, anti-virus and Micro-Soft Office.

Please write back.



I’ll do all 5 computers for you for $225. I can’t tell you how long it’ll take because I don’t know the specs of the computers; size of hard drive, processor speed, even operating system I’ll be wiping and adding back. That’s why I’m going to give you a flat fee instead of charging by time. If this is acceptable, let me know where we can meet after the holiday, since I’m presently out of town.

Thanks for the reply. I am okay with the price i have all the necessary software needed for the service installations…. I will instruct my secretary to prepare a check for you on your name and have it mailed to your address. Send me your full name, address and your phone number so to prepare the check. I have a reliable shipper that will bring the laptops and pick them up when you are done with them. I am looking forward to hear from you, so we can have payment and shipping asap. There is something you need to do for me when you get the check, you will get it cashed and get the shipping fee in the check because it will be included to the shipper in malaysia since the laptops are coming from there. Okay?

NB: Laptops will brought to you when you cash the check and have the balance on the check sent to my shipper and also when you are done fixing them, they will picked up from you

That’s it; that’s the entire email. I never responded. I thought about contacting the local authorities or the post office, then figured what was the point. Instead, I share it with y’all to help highlight the fact that there are scammers everywhere, putting out stuff like this that seems legit, yet when evaluated you just know something’s wrong with it.

If it even has a hint of phony, don’t do it!

Bey Berk Dollar Paperweight Silver Plated

HOLIDAY '10 COUPON- Save 10% with HOLLY10


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As my company manages an ecommerce portal, among other things, I have juicy stories as well.
This one time, this guy tried 35 credit cards within one hour time to pay for an order, our bank obviously contacted us when he finally was successful, and we asked the person to provide me with his ID to verify the order and the CC info.
Usually this ends here, since no one ever replies (obviously).
Well, he faxed in his ID card. All seemed regular, but I was 100% sure it was a scam.
End story: the ID was fake!
What did the guy “buy”? 400 dollars in perfumes. Go figure.
Final notice: the police, brought all the evidence we had (enough to do a lot, trust me), did absolutely nothing. Go go Italy.

December 13th, 2010 | 10:27 AM

It’s that very reason why I decided not to go the legal route, Gabriele. I figured they would probably say it wasn’t a big deal and I’d have wasted a lot of time dealing with it. So, it’s best just to put it out here and hopefully save someone else from being scammed.

December 13th, 2010 | 11:06 AM

I think the authorities should be worried when people are thinking like this. But they should be worried about an other thing also, like how they treat people that try to do something good.

For example, a couple of nights ago some bums were fighting and screaming loudly when I was trying to sleep. I didn’t want to intervene myself, so I called the police.
After the police came saw the bums full of blood(exaggeration, they had some blood dripping from their nose, cut lip and some other cuts) they gave me a ticket telling me that this isn’t a matter for calling the police 😐

December 13th, 2010 | 12:17 PM

Really? See Alex, it’s that type of non-caring attitude that makes many of us wonder why we have law enforcement in the first place. If they only want to handle “big” things, then tell the rest of us to arm and police ourselves and let us have at it. Of course that’s a bad idea, but you know what I mean.

December 13th, 2010 | 12:23 PM

Incredible isn’t it Mitch? You should have seen some of the scams that would come through via emailo to my limousine business back in the day, amazing.

December 13th, 2010 | 1:59 PM

It is amazing, John, and the thing is that so many people will fall for these things on the outside chance that they might be legit. I always figure to err on the side of caution instead.

December 13th, 2010 | 3:23 PM

Why are these scam emails always filled with really bad grammar? Are they doing it intentionally so you think they’re not that smart and you let down your guard? Or is it so they can deny they ever sent them, if necessary? (“I don’t know what you’re talking about. I have a Master’s degree in Literature. I would never write, ‘I got all the necessary softwares.'”) Or have they learned just enough English to try to rip people off?

December 13th, 2010 | 7:19 PM

Charles, I think they learn just enough to try to sound credible. This one I copied exactly how it came, so you can see the bad grammar and how badly it was written after awhile. I mean, come on; you have a secretary and you didn’t have her correct this for you? And you have a secretary but you don’t have her calling the local people to have them fix your computers? Moronic stuff they expect people to believe, but some do.

December 13th, 2010 | 8:21 PM

It’s amazing what some people will try to pull, isn’t it Mitch? Being a retailer, I’ve seen my share of this sort of stuff… oh, I could regale you with tales! But I won’t. Instead I’ll just share that I have seen a pattern on a lot of them; it starts by saying that they have enjoyed browsing my web site and looking at our quality products, then ask if we take credit cards, then ask if we ship to Africa/India/China. Sometimes some other country, but usually one of these three. The kicker comes when they ask me to get back to them quickly AND GIVE THEM MY WEB SITE URL. If they enjoyed looking through my site, wouldn’t they HAVE that? Sigh! Press “Delete” and move on.

Oh, and Charls hit it on the head; they obviously have a poor grasp of the English language. Just enough to get by.

December 13th, 2010 | 8:01 PM

Allan, it’s the same with the spam stuff. I mean, when’s the last time you used the phrase “weblog”? Idiots. lol

December 13th, 2010 | 8:22 PM

Wait a minute! Now I’m starting to think that I really didn’t win a million dollar “lottary” as stated in the official notification e-mail. Darn! I was really looking forward to becoming an eccentric hermit. oh, well! 😉

December 13th, 2010 | 9:41 PM

Yeah, I hate to be the one to burst your bubble, Jessica. But after all, if I couldn’t get that $20 million from that prince in Nairobi who needs to move money around and can if I’ll only send them $5,000; I mean, what a deal!

December 13th, 2010 | 10:06 PM

Hey, what’s going on here? The prince from Nairobi promised me the twenty million! It’s a good thing I won the Irish Sweepstakes last year — twice. And I never even bought a ticket.

December 14th, 2010 | 6:51 AM

Charles, if you ever collected on any of that money I’m coming up there! 😉

December 14th, 2010 | 9:51 AM

Hi Mitch

Scary stuff. Makes you wonder who you can trust these days?! Good you saw through them. Pity the police don’t do something about these things. But probably have ‘bigger fish to fry’ so to speak and think this is a trifling matter.

Some of the scams are so blatant but there are always people who fall for them. I press delete if I don’t know the person who is sending me an email so I probably miss a lot of these as don’t read anything that even looks like spam!

Patricia Perth Australia

December 14th, 2010 | 2:58 AM

Pat, I’m usually pretty good at figuring things out, but like this letter, initially it looked legit, then it quickly fell apart, as you see.

December 14th, 2010 | 9:45 AM

I was just talking to someone today who told me that a game I designed in 2007 is outdated because “Scammers are more sophisticated now. They wouldn’t have bad grammar like they did back then.” Apparently, your correspondent didn’t get the memo.

What irritates me about this type of scammer is the willingness to destroy – parasitically – the vehicle of their deception. I think Craigslist suffers as a result of being filled with questionable scams and by its inability to filter out bogus replies. I mean, if the person wasn’t from the local area, couldn’t Craigslist check the IP or something and refuse to forward it to you?

I’m not saying it’s all on Craigslist to make the service safer. As you said, too many people throw caution to the wind and go for the dollar signs. But, what if it HAD been a more sophisticated scam? Personally, I don’t see the profit in this particular scam but that is beside the point. It would require diligence on your part to sniff out the illegitimacy.

For example, let’s assume the scammer was adequately literate. Further, let’s assume that he chose to use FedEx – which make far more sense than some unnamed “reliable shipper.” He might have a better chance to scam someone who didn’t get the significance of the phone request – which seems totally irrelevant to issuing a check.

{whoa! Did I just figure out what this scam is? Is it one of those things where the burglary ring gets your info and calls to see if you’re out?}

I’m glad you didn’t fall for it!



December 14th, 2010 | 3:07 AM

Thanks Mitchell. My Spidey senses thought the response was really odd, yet I didn’t quite get it immediately. But once my mind hit it, I knew I was going to do something about it. Scammers haven’t had to get smarter yet, which is a shame. And I don’t blame Craigslist; after all, they’re a free service.

December 14th, 2010 | 9:49 AM

I hope more people will read this email. About 8 years ago, I was selling prestige watches on ebay. It was a good business and everything was going quite well until, one day I send a watch to the wrong person, this so called “Nigerian” scam. I am not in this business now, but I look everything under microscope.

December 14th, 2010 | 7:53 AM

Carl, we all have to be careful. I think that “do you ship to Africa” question is an immediate red flag, I hate to say.

December 14th, 2010 | 9:52 AM

I highlighted the text within this guy’s email, and googled it. Here I am. When in doubt about the validity of a job offer or product order, just insist on a scam-proof payment method. Never accept a check if there’s any doubt. Never work with anyone who mentions including extra money for you to forward to another vendor.

May 24th, 2012 | 3:03 PM

Good stuff John. These guys are everywhere, coming up with new schemes all the time to trick people out of their money. I’m one of the lucky ones in that my scam meter is set pretty high, but I can see how some people could get fooled into thinking their lucky day has come.

May 25th, 2012 | 10:18 AM

I responded:

That sounds great! Please send the check and laptops to the following address :

United States Secret Service,
Financial Crimes Division,
419 Task Force
950 H Street, NW
Washington, DC 20001-4518

Thanks again for your interest and I look forward to doing business with you! I will turn the laptops around ASAP and make sure your shipper is paid promptly.


July 16th, 2012 | 3:45 PM

LOL! I wish I’d thought of that Phil. That the folks locally decided it wasn’t a big deal was disappointing, but at least it gave me something to warn others about.

July 16th, 2012 | 8:08 PM

I certainly appreciate the warning. Yours was among the first few in a simple Google search for this scam (I always check when things look fishy). The original email and response I received were identical to what you originally posted. I find it funny that this guy hasn’t changed up his game even a little in over a year and a half.

July 16th, 2012 | 8:18 PM

Really Phil? Talk about people not being able to modify a script! lol Since I have helped at least one person avoid the scam it proves to me that the post was worth writing.

July 16th, 2012 | 10:40 PM