As a good little gadget-fiend, I occasionally buy and sell equipment - whether that be camera equipment or other electronic dooh-dahs - online. Frequently, I'll use eBay - and as a result, I've seen all the tricks in the book: people have tried to defraud me in dozens of different ways and (unfortunately) have been successful a couple of times, too.
Anyway, I recently came across a brand new one that was a little sinister, because I could easily see someone falling for it, so I figured I'd like to share it you, my fellow photo-gadget-fiends.
In this case, the fraud started after I already sold an old iPhone. I then received an eBay message with the following:
"I lost my I phone in a cab on Friday July 14th and I clearly recognized it from the pictures you posted. I wanted to inform you that I saw the police this morning to file a record and printed your ad. Apple recognized the series number with my name and all the identification I also informed E bay about your case. We could try to solve this out the easy way if you restitute the phone to me or let the police get in touch with you for this fraud. I am looking forward for your answer to get the contact information from the person who bought the phone you sold - which can now be described as stolen and resold as the police qualified it. Cheers. "
Of course, there's several warning signals here:
a) It seems unlikely that someone could recognise an individual iPhone between the hundreds (actually, I just checked - On eBay UK alone, there's currently 1,328 iPhone 3Gs phones listed) of phones available on ebay
b) You don't file a record with the police. You report a crime.
c) Apple doesn't get involved in recognizing a 'series number'. Even if they did, it would be a 'serial number'. And even if that they got involved with that, phones are identified by their IMEI number.
d) "Restitute" a phone? I'm guessing I'm talking to a Frenchman here, confusing 'Restituer' (French for 'return') with, er, 'return'.
e) Police wouldn't qualify this as theft. Handling stolen goods, perhaps. Certainly not fraud, as my easily-confused friend stated here. Unless he was referring to his own attempt to defraud me, of course.
Finally, the most crushing pieces of evidence in my defence:
f) I've had the phone from new
g) He says he's lost the phone on the 14th, but my eBay auction started on the 5th of July. Whoops.
Anyway - it wouldn't surprise me if people try to pull scams like this when you try to sell camera gear on-line as well, so it's always a good idea to keep your eyes open for stuff that doesn't sound right.
So, of course, I've launched a lovely little fraud investigation myself: After all, it's a little bit ironic to get defrauded by someone who is claiming I'm guilty of fraud.
Staying safe when buying (or selling) online
If you're getting an iffy-sounding e-mail, put a phrase from it into Google. Chances are that it's a known scam. Also: eBay's own anti-scam reviews and guides are worth a read.
Stay safe and happy shopping!