Second chance scammers and the meaning of 'Va va voom'

Reg readers to the rescue

Letters It has been a big news week for eBay. It turned five, asked for a new trial over some patents, CEO Meg Whitman toppled Carly Fiorina from the top of the most powerful women in IT list, and fell victim to a new scam attack. Naturally, you had most to say about the scam:

This is NOT a new scam! This has been going on for _years_!

Read the newsgroup through Google and look up ebay scams. The pinball community is often the hardest and first hit with new scams since the items are normally traded for thousands of dollars.

Other common scams: Alternate seller contacting you through ebay (before bidding is over) saying they have an identical item for farrr less, spammers setting up fake auctions where all bidders must be "pre-approved" (send them an email to be approved, you're not, but now you get TONS of spam), item listed as residing somewhere in the US but when you either ask to inspect it, the item has suddenly "moved" to Germany or the Netherlands or some other far far away place, etc.

The one that I got recently that I kind of liked was a was to "hack" into paypal. That was a neat phishing scam (although its effectiveness I somewhat doubt), since it was written by a native English speaker and looked somewhat complicated. Of course, it was all bunk and designed to distract people from the fact that they were sending their paypal username and password via email to a hotmail box. Oops. :)


I was nearly hit by a variation of this scheme whereby a new user has contacted me through the site's facility with an approach to settle an auction privately for an unusually high price.

At first this seemed like a good idea until I did a little digging and realised that the shipping address is abroad, the user has no history and the account was only set up a couple of days previously. This may not seem strange, but the same person contacted me about multiple eBay auctions I had running and they used different eBay accounts - set up with exactly the same details (and the same contact email address - the give away!). The only link between the auctions was the fact they were mobile phones...


Just thought you might like to know your article was very well timed. I received an email from an ebay user today asking why they had been given a second chance offer for something I just sold, but from a slightly different username than mine. I sent him a link to your article....the guy was about to pay out over £500!


It's more than that - at one point (several years ago, to be sure), eBay would allow you to see/request e-mail addresses for any arbitrary username. Couple that with the recent uptick in fraudulent messages from non-existent eBay sellers that somehow include a 1-pixel GIF beacon - I think someone out there is quietly compiling a database of eBay username and addresses.

I wouldn't be surprised if this fraud started not with a message sent through eBay's authorized contact form, but by a well-crafted spoof of an official eBay e-mail, sent directly to the recipient. Doesn't bode well, if that's the case...


You didn't think we'd let a letters bag go by without your thoughts on Mr. Ballmer's comments in Portugal, did you? For shame...

You quote Ballmer: "India and China produce more computing graduates than almost anywhere else."

I can't stop LOL. I teach English to Chinese Comp Sci students at what is considered a top regional university over here. Out of 30 students in the special low-entry-bar class for rich kids (I hate these, but they make up the bulk of my assigned classes -- regular classes with real students are quite a bit better), I could point out possibly two who are actually interested in computers. The rest have been pushed into it by their parents who want their child to be "rich like Bill Gates".

They have no interest in computers and hence little ability beyond punching in Textbook Java and C++ and the only thing they know about the global computer industry is that Bill Gates is the richest man in the world and he owns Microsoft. I'm not kidding -- that really is it. I tried to build an entire Oral English unit around discussing current tech-industry issues (history, future directions, open- v's closed-source -- pros and cons of both models in different situations, computer security -- SPAM, viruses, spyware, and so on) and it fell flat on account of I actually expected them to spend an hour a week doing research on the internet (I even gave them the keywords to plug into the search engine) and learn something. They don't know and they made it quite clear that they don't care.

Who are Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak? They don't know. Linus Torvalds? Richard Stallman? Don't know, don't care. Who is Larry Ellison? Never heard of him (this is a several months after he did a major -- and heavily-press-covered -- tour of China). Keep in mind these are Comp.Sci. majors -- I wouldn't expect a lay-person to recognise all those names, though a good number of lay people -- even here in China -- would at least get the Larry Ellison one.

Funniest of all, they had absolutely no idea who Steve Ballmer is (I enlightened them with the MonkeyBoyDevelopers music video).

I had to refuse to assess the class as in 18 weeks they had learnt absolutely nothing. I even had the departmental director sit in on a few of my classes to check if it was my teaching, but he could only shrug and say-without-explicitly-stating-it "what do you expect, this course is just here to make us money and to fill the government-set quota on Comp-sci graduates for this year."

The number of graduates in ANY field in China is set by quota. The trouble a colleague in the physics department had in getting a student who was actively disrupting classes removed was astronomical. She wanted him out. The other students wanted him out, the department wanted him out. The university administration wanted to meet this year's quota for physics graduates.

So Stevey-baby's comments on "...China produc[ing] more computing graduates than almost anywhere else." are quite funny in a very depressing way: there are so many computing graduates because the Government has decreed that it be so. It has nothing to do with either ability or even interest.

Don't get me wrong, there are some really smart people over here, but no more per-capita than in any other country, and most of these smart ones aren't from rich enough families to be graduates in anything. The place is getting too much like the US these days. I'm out as soon as my present work contract is over.

Better withhold my identifying details if you print any of this. Obvious reasons.

Ballmer's a crack up! He should keep his mouth shut because nothing screams viable alternatives like claiming you'll respond with the might of the enire company should someone choose to do something different to what you offer.

I loved the comment, "it’s not compatible with Microsoft Office and it’s missing key applications like Outlook."

If Mr Ballmer is so interested in compatibilty, his company should start sharing a little more. Of course, that wouldn't be in their best interests, but it doesn't change the fact that Microsoft are the one's creating the ncompaitibilty and not Star Office (or

And while Outlook might be missing, I'm sure this is attractive to many organizations who don't need another security hole on there desktops. More importantaly, Star Office runs on some platforms that have alternatives to Outlook (like Evolution) so that may not be such a big issue anyway (and it might just be one more reason to give up MS for good.)

My favorite bit was, "He blamed the success of Linux in the public sector on influential academics, who favour it because universities are Unix environments, and policticians reacting to "noisy constituents - and those Linux people are noisy."

I'm one of the noisy ones. Of course, any ignorant fool can make these sort of negative comments about people who aren't using your product. Let me try and turn this comment around. You could say that Windows users don't have enough time to be noisy to their government about IT issues because they are too busy trying to recover from MS's latest patch, while desperately trying to update their virus definitions to the latest version."

No wonder they don't have any time to spruke MS?


Kodak announced nearly 900 job losses this week, 350 of them from the company's photographic film plant.

I find it had to feel sorry for the managers at Kodak. I applied straight out of uni (1997) to Kodak for a job working in digital photography research, only to be told that Kodak did not see digital photography as the way forward. I have always resented that rejection!

My wife now owns a very nice (presumably rebadged) Kodak digital camera and we no longer pay to get film developed (on Kodak paper using, Kodak machines and Kodak chemicals).

Woohoo! Yay the demise of consumer chemistry.


The BBC has asked for help developing an open source video codec. Naturally, we knew we could rely on Reg readers to step up and support Auntie's efforts:

They can have the VP4 source code from On2 for free.

If you would like to, please let them know


Douglas A. McIntyre

Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer On2 Technologies, Inc. 1560 Broadway New York, NY 10036

If anyone at the Beeb is reading this, perhaps you would pass the message along?

Some readers are a little less charitable:

John, Maybe the BBC should ask their freshly-outsourced IT department to help...? Or wasn't that level of flexibility in the contract :D


What I'm wondering is; If the BBC is so intent on avoiding patent issues, won't the entire process of checking code produced by third parties, as they seem to be asking for, bog down their production staff as much as having them work on it themselves?


The European Courts have been asked to rule on whether or not the UK's mobile operators are entitled to a VAT rebate on the money they paid for their 3G licenses.

Fortunately, there is no need to involve higher courts and all those horribly expensive lawyers. Once again, Reg readers have the solution:

"According to Paddy Behan, a VAT specialist at accountancy firm Grant Thornton, the meaning of the word telecommunications could decide the case. He told the FT: "If the operators' definition is accepted by the court, it is hard to see how they could lose.""

Easy, peasy, the court decides that that it is VATable, so C&E send the telecoms operator invoices for an additional 17.5%.

Cough it over, then you can attempt to reclaim as much as you like.

Unfortunately our government will be too concerned with pumping up the economy to make it look great for the general election, so an extra £3.5 billion going on the bottom line of our big telcos will look nice on the FTSE.


More, briefly, on the shocking survey results that no-one likes buggy software:

Since only 66 people bothered to reply, the rest must have been busy playing Solitaire/Minesweeper. Now that's a more interesting survey: how many IT managers prefer Solitaire to Minesweeper? You might get more than 66 replies. That'll tell you all you need to know.

Btw, can someone explain what an IT manager does (if anything)? Are they the ones in charge of producing buggy software?


Are these the same IT managers that choose the wrong product for an insufficiently analyzed problem, then give unreasonably short datelines for implementing said product ?

Are these the same IT managers who waste significant resources on useless pet projects, then whine that their budget is not big enough ?

Software would be less buggy if developers were not ceaselessly badgered and pressured into churning out the latest high-priority app the day before it was asked. The test phase is always the first to be sacrificed, either in quality or in duration.

And it is often the IT manager himself who breezes through and starts getting impatient about implementing the thing before the next board meeting.


Well, Pascal, these were the IT managers with enough time to fill in a survey form...

Now on to more serious matters. The rise of the machines, and the emergence of more and more satanic cyber appliances. Soon, as they say, we will not be safe in our beds:

Hi Lester.

After reading your article "Man in satanic Renault terror ordeal" and several of the other "Rise of the Machines" testimonies, i remembered the following story about a more direct attack by a mobile phone. Since the original article was in Greek, i translated it for you as best as i could.

The mobile phone turned into a grenade

"A woman's mobile phone blew up like a grenade, while she was working in her office at the Municipality of Larisa. Fortunately, the explosion happened at a moment that she was not using it nor holding it, as it was at the inner pocket of her coat hanging near by. It was around 9 in the morning when a loud bang was heard at the office.

Frightened employees and citizens searched for the source of the noise, and with surprise, they realised that the woman's coat was on smoke, while she stood puzzled not being able to believe what have happened. The phenomenon, although very rare, is assumed to have occurred due to, the type of battery and especially on whether it is genuine or not, as well as the charger."

Well, it's an old story but it might be important since it's the first time (of what I've heard so far) that an attack was held on a state building. I'll leave the rest to you.

Keep up the good work.

Dimitris H.

There's something very wrong about that story. The goons over at Slashdot gave it a good going over the other night and it doesn't make a lot of sense.

The guy had footbrakes, a parking brake, a gear selector (and possibly a clutch) and he still couldn't stop his car. Give me break. (Pun?)

He either panicked and didn't think of any of the above, or he's just found a tasty way of getting through the traffic! I certainly don't think we're going to see plagues of unstoppable cars on our roads in the near future.

PS. As I write this a follow-up story has appeared on Slashdot saying that Renault have found nothing wrong with the vehicle. The plot thickens!


Re. your article about the rampaging Renault, whilst perhaps the best thing anyone can do to such Gallic rubbish is launch it off a cliff, the continual rise in the number of incident that are technology related should be investigated.

I experienced a similar fright in a Mercedes Benz that I was thinking of buying (Hey, the job was paying well), which used electronics for the throttle instead of a simple cable. It decided to stay about two-thirds open, which gives a tidy shove forward, and the only thing I could do was select neutral and try and turn off an engine which was fast trying to grenade itself. Mind you, the salesman attempting to sell the car to me had an expression you could only paint.......

Don't forget, we've had a Chinook helicopter fall out of the sky because of sh*te software (which our dear President's Government is happy to stay very quiet about), and the argument about the safety of Denis buses on our roads still rages (see Private Eye passim). I sound like a Luddite I know, but we are at times unrealistic about how far we let technology invade our lives, and the resulting injuries/loss of life are unforgivable.

We need to get a grip. Before somebody does something really stupid like make a wireless nuke button for Dubya. Now that is truly scary!


This story sounds a bit like the truck driver who claimed his brakes had failed and his throttle was stuck at 60mph as he hurtled down the M1 towards the North Circular. It was later found he'd made it all up.

On Yahoo! France, it's reported that far from being in denial, Renault are calling for an independent investigation, as they know it's the only way the car-buying public will be satisfied that the car is safe.

The "Rise of the Machines" angle is funny, but don't forget the story of the American woman who insisted to Audi that her car shot forward rapidly when (according to her) she slammed her foot on the brake...

User stupidity will probably one day bring the black box to cars.



ROFLMAO... wish my Renault Scenic could do 200kph.

Definately a case of VA VA VOOM !


Just give it to Thierry Henry , I'm sure he could handle its va va voom.

Anyway, it sure makes me want to buy one, I could avoid a few speeding tickets with that excuse !


A note for our non-UK readers: Renault runs a series of ads over here following Arsenal footballer Thierry Henry in his never ending quest to discover the French for Va Va Voom. This, we discover, is a mysterious quality evidently possessed by Muppets with drum kits, women in men's shirts and by the Renault cars in question.

That's all, folks. More next week. ®

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