Thursday, August 03, 2006

Something Phishy Here?

Having been stupid for the second time on eBay and bought a Japanese Xbox - my son came to me in a pique of enthusiasm explaining that there was an Xbox 360 available on eBay for only £100 and the auction had only 2 mins to go, well, £140 plus £20 p&p later I was the proud only of an Xbox 360 tied to the Japan region, a fact that became clear soon after the auction had completed when I rather belatedly read the details of what my son had me buy a few moments earlier. Some weeks later having decided to cut my losses, I went to a shop - yes these quaint establishments still exist - and got a second hand Xbox 360 for £165, this one both included a power supply [the other would have needed me to spend £60 on a power supply], would play UK games, and would allow the Xbox Live connection to work. So what to do with the Japanese one, well obviously it would have to go back onto eBay.
Imagine my delight when I discovered someone had bid £180 to purchase this marvellous device which was not including the additional postage of £19.99. This delight was somewhat tempered when I discovered that the bidder was in Australia. In any case, for the amount offered I was ready to ship the goodies half way round the world. I then went to read my email, and found an email from the buyer saying "I have made the Paypal payment in good faith, please advise when you have shipped the product, blah, blah" and also two other emails allegedly from Paypal, nicely decorated with Paypal logos and things saying that this person had registered a payment for me and that I simply needed to email a shipping tracking number to them and the payment would be granted. Fortunately I noticed that the email had come from an address and thought that this looked decidely dodgy. So I logged onto Paypal to find out if they had advice on how to check the validity of emails from Paypal. The advice was to forward suspicious mails to, so I did this and sure enough the mail was not from Paypal. Yet another dodgy dealer. Returning to eBay Clara_100 from Oz was no longer registered, and no feedback could be left. More of the submerged Iceberg!

Friday, July 14, 2006

Automated Humour?

I found it mildly amusing that having posted an article explaining how I was scammed by buying some golf clubs on-line, the google Adsense engine decided that it would be a good idea to automatically insert an ad for an on-line golf equipment vendor at the top of my site.

Secrets & Lies

I've just started reading Secrets & Lies by computer [or should I say systems] security guru Bruce Schneier. On p.14 he says "Less than one percent of eBay transactions - mediated long-distance deals between strangers - result in any sort of complaint". Well I am sure that is based on the reports that actually get entered into the eBay feedback mechanism. If my Iceberg theory is correct, then the total number of complaints is ten times that - the paper below explains why 90% of an iceberg is underwater - so that there is a 10% chance of something going wrong. Now this sounds like much less fun.

To see why 90% of an iceberg is underwater read iceberg paper

Friday, June 23, 2006

Ever been had?

I'm normally such an up together kind of guy. I can see most scams coming. Please pay small admin cost to allow us transfer vast riches from the Nigerian bank account of our recently deceased uncle to you. Please call us back on this outrageously expensive premium call line to allow us to explain at our leisure what you need to do to claim your free holiday in the Bahamas...

So what happens? I find a set of Callaway golf clubs on eBay. The seller has set up a little golf shop. The feedback is 100% positives. I win the auction. Then I send off a personal cheque for £250. Au revoir, or rather Adieu. That's the last I'll see of that, and I won't get to see the golf clubs either.

I wait patiently for a couple of weeks. Nothing has arrived in the post. I check on Ebay. The seller is no longer a member. I try to find contact details - of course knowing they were on the web I didn't bother to write them down - sorry squire, no longer a member, we can't give you details. Can I post my "Avoid this bastard like the plague" less than positive feedback, what response do I get. "No sorry this person is no longer registered with us, so you cannot post feedback". Then when I look at the details of feedback already registered, I find that there has been one bad bit of feedback, but that this has been withdrawn by mutual consent by both parties.

So the model works like this. Dodgy Dealer Inc sets up shop on Ebay. Develops a trail of positive feedback. In the case of price-slice-golf it seems they were shipping stolen golf kit in a timely manner. Dodgy dealer then decides that it is easier to avoid stealing the goods and just as effective to sell them an not ship at all. The first complainants to post negative feedback get negative feedback posted back against them. Concerned that this will affect their ratings on eBay they mutually agree to withdrawn their comments. Then by the time the torrent of complaints arrive, the seller has deregistered.

Through this scheme you only see the tip of the iceberg of complaints on eBay. By the way there is no place that I could find where feedback on eBay itself can be posted to the site. Am I the only one to have this experience. I think not.