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Powerbook fiddle ends in humiliation

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An eBay user, assisted by dozens of fellow surfers, has turned the tables on a scammer who tried to rip him off in an online auction.

The saga began last month when Jeff Harris ran an auction on eBay auction to sell a new G4 Powerbook for a friend. He was approached by a UK resident, calling himself Gianluca Sessarego, who offered to pay the $2,100 requested for the machine as well as shipping costs through an escrow service. Jeff quickly realised the site was a fairly obvious fake. Rather than telling the "buyer" to take a running jump, Jeff decided to play him along while at the same time complaining about his actions to eBay.

eBay established that the account used by "Gianluca" had been hijacked and offered a listing fee refund. Meanwhile, Jeff's plan to scam the scammer was taking shape.

Knowing the buyer would have to pay UK import tax, Jeff - helped by people on discussion boards - hit on the plan of sending the buyer a mocked-up Powerbook made of cardboard and sticky-backed plastic. This Blue Peter-style invention was dubbed the P-P-P-PowerbookBook. Jeff successfully rattled the tin to bring in $100 in donations to cover shipping costs.

The ringer, which was delayed for over a week in customs, was eventually delivered to a London barber's shop by FedEx after the hapless scammer (who gave Jeff a dud phone number) paid import tax. London correspondents to the mailing list had fun monitoring the shop using digital cameras but they failed to capture the delivery.

No matter - the scammer paid the tax for a worthless piece of jumk and the people who ran him a merry dance had a good time in the process. The full saga is detailed here. ®

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