I stuck an ad up on Gumtree offering a laptop I’m not using all that much and within a few hours I had a response. Easy money!
Daniel Lewis (firstname.lastname@example.org) wrote me and said: “Thinking about what to have for a special gift to my colleage till i found your item, would Like to know if still available for sale.”
So I wrote back and told Daniel (since we’re on first name terms now) that it was a cracking laptop and so on. His next response was lengthy and telling.
“Thanks for your returning my mail, As i have mentioned, i will be glad if truly you can be sincere with me, i am getting this item for special gift to my colleage which i need the item to get ther befor the 26th of sept and its should be sent to Walthamtow via Royal Mail International Singed For, Although i’ m suppose to take the item there myself but its will look more special having it direct and cause of my absent in town now, going for a complete project in Paris, you know what that means, i need a well seal packed for it,
More so i like to know the present condition of the item also, i will really appreciate if you can kindly post the item asap, which i will be offering you the sum of £70 for postage and packaging of the items to Walthamstow…
I would be glad and sincerely wish deal together through PayPal Online Auction, cause i believe its safe for both of us and so if you re really interesting in selling out the item to me, kindly get back to me with your Pay Pal Email and your Full Name when registering for the pay pal together with the cost of the item and the postage fee, cause i wouldn’t want any mistake in this transaction.
I await your quick response and don’t forget to send me along your phone # as well.”
Now I was 99% sure this is a scam. And here are the reasons why.
1. His email address (email@example.com)
Daniel Lewis is a perfectly acceptable name for anyone (unless you do something stupid like add a “Day” in to the middle). But it seems a bit strange that you would choose to completely misspell your name in your email address just because daniellewis@ was not available.
2. Grammar and other nonsense
Ever hear of 419 scams? Well they come from Nigeria and are characterized by rather stilted English. In Daniel’s message above the use of phrases like “I will be glad if truly you can be sincere with me” and “I would be glad and sincerely wish deal together…” reek of 419ness.
The circumstances that he gives for not being able to do the deal in person (which is the point of Gumtree) are contrived: he’s in Paris and his colleage (sic) is in Walthamstow. He also seems completely unmoved by the fact that he is giving a gift to his friend that is advertised as second hand.
Then there is the ridiculous offer of paying £70 to ship the item – probably about 3 times what it would cost. He could buy a new one for what he is willing to pay. I’m sure if I had priced the laptop at one billion dollars he’d still be offering to wire me the cash.
Finally there is the “deadline” of the 26th of September which I guess means he’d pressure a naive person in to sending the item before the PayPal payment (which he would have no intention of sending, naturally) was made.
Funny thing is my family are from Walthamstow so it would have been quite funny to get the address and then have them turn up there to beat the shit out of whoever was collecting it.
3. Identity theft
He wants my email, my full name and my phone number. He doesn’t need all this information to complete a PayPal payment. Never tell anyone anything online unless you are able to beat the shit out of them immediately afterwards.
None of it added up but I needed to dig a little more. So I went down in to his email and found that he sent it from the IP address 188.8.131.52. A quick visit to http://www.ip2location.com revealed…
It didn’t end there. A few minutes later another message came, this time from firstname.lastname@example.org who was even more direct: “is still available for sale…can you get back to me with your paypal email to make the payment for you now”
Less to go on here but a willingness to pay straight away? No questions? No meeting?
I asked IP2Location what was going on…
Use common sense online, work off the assumption that everyone is a thieving cockface and you’ll be just fine.
22/09/09 Edit: The Netherlandic IP above is actually valid and relates to the company themselves who run the website (they forward the mails on behalf of the “buyers”). I have since had two more spams including one from the Southwest Tennessee Community College – he wanted me to send it to his friend in Nigeria. Unfortunately he could not collect it himself because he’s on his way to Asia…ahhhh. Cockface.)