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Posted by on Dec 13, 2013 in consumer products, media, scams | 1 comment

A Thousand Words

Peter Clatworthy of Nottingham, England, recently made a costly mistake. A blogger at the website of Atlanta Journal-Constitution, George Mathis, tells us all about it in this post:

[H]e saved his shillings or whatever they call money in jolly ol’ England these days and purchased a “Special Edition” Xbox One on eBay for $750.

It was special all right.

Instead of receiving a video game console, he received a crudely printed picture of a new Xbox…

Mr. Clatworthy is a 19 year old college student, and Mathis describes him as “the father of a 4-year-old boy and potential purchaser of eBay condoms in 2009.”

It’s fun to ridicule people, isn’t it, Mr. Mathis? You must think it’s unheard of for a 15 year old to father a child, and that someone who was dumb enough to do that would be dumb enough to do just about anything, right? And only someone that dumb, the dumbest of the dumb, could fall for this sort of scam?

If he’s going to be flinging these stones around, I hope George Mathis’s house isn’t made of glass. Maybe he’s never fallen for a trick ever, and none of the friends and family he considers intelligent never has. Perhaps he reads every line of the license agreement when he buys software and electronics. Good for him.

Most of the comment threads in stories about Mr. Clatworthy’s misfortune make mention of the fact that he’s a teen father, like it’s prima-facie evidence that he’s an idiot, which his falling for the scam auction only confirms. It must have been nice for these people to have had such wise and error-free teenage years. I’m jealous.

Clatworthy is only the most recent victim of the “photo only” or “picture only” scam, which was first used long ago. The earliest description of it my intern found is from 2002.

The most common vector for the scam is eBay, but it has been done on Craigslist as well.

It’s technically legal, though certainly immoral. The scammer generally includes highly detailed technical specifications of the purported item, then adds at the end, in a very tiny font, that it’s the picture that’s being bid on.

The scam is infamous enough by now (TV’s Judge Judy once accepted a case involving it, and angrily dispensed her advertiser-supported justice on the scammer) that few people fall for it anymore. It shouldn’t still work for the scammer in any case; eBay and Paypal automatically reverse these auctions. Mr. Clatworthy got most of his money back, so he didn’t suffer unduly.

But even when the careless or naïve fall for these dirty tricks, they don’t deserve scorn and ridicule. I’d hate to think we’ve become so cynical; it’s the scammers who should be ridiculed or shamed. They’re making the world a worse place to live in.

Mr. Clatworthy actually came out a little ahead after his ordeal: a game store local to him gave him a free Xbox to compensate him for his troubles.

I’m not crazy about this outcome. People shouldn’t be shamed for making dumb mistakes. But it teaches them the wrong lesson when they actually profit from them.

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  • kraut2

    “even when the careless or naïve fall for these dirty tricks, they don’t
    deserve scorn and ridicule”

    What about those who fall for the dirty tricks of religion?