Thursday, February 7, 2008

Cyber-savvy town gets rich on eBay frauds

According to the Sunday Times, "HUNDREDS of people in the poor Romanian town of Dragasani have grown rich by conning eBay online auction customers with deals that seem too good to be true - and often are.
The scammers have even put the new town hall up for sale on eBay, the mayor admitted last week. “I mean, who would want it?” he asked.
Despite growing concern about online frauds, the European Union has poured £150,000 into computer training courses in Dragasani over the past three years in “special recognition” of its IT skills.
“I heard about another offer on eBay selling a MiG fighter jet. There was a photo and a very good price as the customer was only being asked to pay for the fuel to fly it. One guy paid $2,000!” the mayor, Gheorghe Iordache, exclaimed.
“The victims are mainly Americans because they are on the internet most often and they’re naive,” he added. “I’ve heard about local guys who have suddenly bought apartments in Bucharest, Germany, Holland, but haven’t a job. Others have BMWs, Mercedes, Porsches and they don’t work. So where do they get the money from?”
With few local jobs available in this industrial town in Romania’s Valcea wine-growing region, defrauding eBay customers has became a popular career path for many of Dragasani’s young people.
A classic scam is the “second chance auction”, in which fraudsters contact an eBay user who has just missed out on an item, offering them another chance to buy it outside eBay rules. The scammers persuade their victims to purchase the fictitious items using payment methods that do not allow them to recover the money.
Other frauds include hacking into eBay accounts and stealing an identity to make fake offers. Local police say thousands of victims have been defrauded by the scammers. The biggest case involved the sum of £150,000.
Mihai Popescu, 29, is serving a three-year jail sentence for his link to one such scam. He was lured into online fraud when he was unemployed.
Last week his parents protested that he had been made a scapegoat after playing a minor role in the crime, in which his identity card was used to pick up a cash payment from a victim. “He is only 5% guilty. He doesn’t even speak English,” said his father Stefan.
According to Virgil Spiridon, chief of the national cyber-crime unit, there were 752 arrests and 84 convictions last year, many of them in cases where Romanians posed as Britons.
A spokesman for eBay said it had “invested millions” in fighting fraud in Romania."

So if you purchase things online, then please be careful... They say so many Americans are "on the internet most often and they’re naive."


waliz said...

Americans who got cheated are naive or just plain stupid? they should know better...there are so many fraud cases around us everyday...!

Stan said...

The ROMANIAN PROBLEM is a complexity that Waliz is not likely to understand.

Romanian cleverness is legendary.

The first problem to be solved is how to provide Romanian law enforcement and prosecution with the resources and motivation to jail people. Of course, you would also need the support of the Romanian Press and that cannot happen without well paid public message campaigns.

Unfortunately, this will not happen. Internet crimes are not a priority among all the other problems here.

Therefore, the responsibility must be owned by Ebay. They know all about the problems associated with Romanians. Ebay must go back to their general ban on Romanian accounts (perhaps, making some exceptions to proven members) and pursue additional security measures against account and database hacking.

Every time, a Romanian wants to get an account on Ebay, they should get a clear message that it is the Romanians as a people who have demonstrated they are unworthy of Ebay's trust, good will and service.

There are good Romanians who are embarrassed by such events. But on the streets of the mentioned town, you can hear music and toasts to the American suckers... err... I mean, saviors.

Stan Faryna

The All Seeing Eye said...

Thanks for your comment, Waliz. There is a sucker born every day, especially one that is driven by greed.

The All Seeing Eye said...

Great comment, Stan! The rule is still true that if the deal is too good to be true, then it is probably not a good deal for the buyer.

La Toya said...

wake up ppl- fraud is a sin!
shameful and sad too...

The Unofficial Blog of Stan Faryna said...

The problem of sin (if you accept such a thing as sin) seems to be an inherent and inescapable challenge for humanity. Regardless of all the help we have been getting from Above (and more where that came from), a forecast for just one day in the world without sin would sound naive- if not completely absurd.

In other words, sin happens. A lot.

In my opinion, the condemnation of sinners does not solve human problems. It may give meaning to the way you view things, but that's about it. Worse, condemnation has often served as a pretext for tyranny, war, violence, discrimination, argument, and misunderstanding.

Ebay, Amazon, and other e-commerce leaders are well aware of the online fraud coming out of Europe, Russia, Africa and elsewhere. As businesses, they will have to do more to protect their customers- if they want to stay in business.

As our host points out, individuals too need to exercise a cautious prudence. If you can't bankroll a major law firm to make Ebay, Paypal, or Amazon responsible (and most can't) for your potential losses, think carefully about what you do online.

Regarding the Romanian Problem, you should realize that most of these online criminals are age 16 to 26 and consider themselves as self-styled Robin Hoods. They believe they rob the rich and give to the poor. It just happens that the "poor" beneficiaries of their robin-hooding are themselves. Online Fraud (like drug dealing in the US) seems to be the only chance they have to get ahead.

Of course, that's not quite true. But this is the same kind of problem with how kid can get to think in the inner city. I was a mentor and tutor at Manual Arts High School in South Central Los Angeles for some years and I dealt with the same kind of "think" on a daily basis.

You may not be able to imagine what poverty means here. Try to imagine for many people outside the big cities in Romania, if they want to eat chicken, they raise the chickens from chicks, they kill it with their own hands, they take the feathers out, and they cook it themselves. Most would go to KFC once a week if there was a KFC AND if they could afford it. And they can't afford it considering that the computer for their kid is likely to have cost them two or more monthly salaries.

Just some more context for you to consider.