Five Pounds of Flax

Every culture has a burrito.

Powerbook scams on eBay

Wednesday, June 25, 2003posted by Michael Rothwell @ 1:01 AM

I've been lurking on eBay, trying to find a deal on a G4 PowerBook. I placed a few bids and didn't win, and I'm watching a lot of items. I've started getting "really good" offers for PowerBooks via email from my new friends in need hailing from, apparently, Europe.

How good? How about a New in box 17" G4 PowerBook UPGRADED ... for only $999? And both upgraded *and* new in the box! Wow!

The sales pitches generally arrive as a "Question from eBay Member", and go something like this (excerpted from real email):

Dear Sir or Madam,

Please excuse me for this unexpected message but I noticed that you bid on a Apple G4 and I would like to make you an better offert. My name is [European sounding name] and I am General Manager on "Online Retailer Co." from [European City]. In my free time, as a hobby, I sell diferent goods on Ebay. Please check my feedback to see that the offer is very serious. In this momment I am able to PRESELL few 17-inch Apple Titanium PowerBook G4 1.0GHZ - Brand New With 1 Year Warranty in unopened box and with all accessories. As selling price I sugest US$1,399.99 (Shipping and Insurance included). If money received within 3 business days, you get 10% OFF and FREE SHIPPING.

... or like this ...

Hello, my name is [scammer's name], I am from [European City], and I hope that I won't waste your precious time with my offer. I saw that you are interested in buying a [copy/paste eBay auction title here] and that you also placed a bid for this item. I'm contacting you to let you know that i have a brand new, 100% identical item whith the one you are interested of, for only [insert price of around $1000]. I prefer western union for payment. Contact me at [email address, but a different one than on the eBay account] quickly!

I sometimes get an "honest guy needing help" version:

I can offer you this product at a special price of [price near $1k], shipping charges included, only if you want to close the deal as quickly as possible, cause I'm having some financial problems and I need the money very fast.

That's the "not trying very hard" version. There's also a more eleborate version that has some sob or charity angle. Here's an example from an actual email message I got today:

My name is [scammer's name],I am located in [European City] and I am the legal representative of a non-profit organization that protects and fights for the rights of the third age,especially the retired ones. The reason I am contacting you is that we have recently received a donation of five notebooks.Taking into account the fact that wewould rather use desktops than notebooks,we decided to sell these notebooks(Apple G4).As they are a donation,we are not thinking about selling them for a very high price and makeprofit of this action.

"Third age?" Huh? Good luck with that.

Some offers indicate that it "comes with 1 year International warranty certificate," or something along those lines.

They all make the pitch that I should trust them because of their outstanding eBay feedback. Again, from an actual email:

To eliminate any kind of problems concerning you trusting me, please check my feedback. My user name is: [scammer's eBay ID]

Please go to to see my ebay record. I'm looking forward to hearing from you.

Looking closer at my new European friends' feedback on eBay, it looks like they sell a lot of rinky-dink items. The one who sent me the email above appears to have bought hundreds of small-dollar items, like "women's shorts" from sellers that I can only assume are the same person as the buyer.

/me thinks to self:

"Hmmm, she's gotten a lot of good feedback buying $6 used shorts, tennis balls, and surplus tampons. I guess I *really should* trust a merchant of her quality, and wire $1k over to some place in [European City]. I'll have a hot new 17" powerbook in no time!"

If I did it, and actually received a PowerBook in the mail, I think it would be hot, and I'm not talking high-wattage CPUs here.

The offers universally, to date, indicate that I should send the money by Western Union. I usually reply with questions like, "What are the specs? What guarantee do I have of getting
the item? Do you accept credit cards? Is there an escrow option?" I get back some boilerplate about how the seller is tired of scammers and bid-dodgers on eBay, and preferrs W.U. because it's "safe and reliable."

So sayeth my new European friends:

For both of us to be promptly and safely you have to send me the money by WESTERN UNION - wire transfer services - and you have to communicate me by email the MTCN number (Money Control Transfer Number) that you'll receive from WESTERN UNION when you deposit the money. After i verify that the transfer is ok i`ll send you the item immediately (even tomorrow )


As you can see on my feedback eBay i'm a good seller. It's just that i'm tired to list items and see scamers bid on them with no intention to buy.

I think I'll wait for a seller with a U.S. address that is willing to conduct the transaction through eBay -- only because "I'm tired to get emails and see scammers offer stolen good with no intention to ship."

Getting the external IP address from a Netscreen firewall using SNMP

Tuesday, June 24, 2003posted by Michael Rothwell @ 10:40 PM

If you have a Netscreen firewall, and want to use DynDNS to advertise your external IP address, you have to first get the IP address you've been assigned by your ISP.

I wrote the following little script, suitable for placement into /etc/cron.daily to do the job for me. There's probably a more elegant way to get the IP address -- perhaps by using some kind of straightforward snmpget command, rather than doing a walk, but hey, this works.


NS5IP=`snmpwalk -v 1 -c FBM ipAdEntAddr | head -1 | cut -d" " -f4`
PREVIP=`tail -1 /var/log/ipaddresses | cut -d" " -f1`
echo -n "$NS5IP " >> /var/log/ipaddresses
date +"%Y-%M-%d %T" >> /var/log/ipaddresses

if [ $NS5IP != $PREVIP ]; then
echo NEW
tail -1 /var/log/ipaddresses | mail -s "IP Change" my@email.address
/usr/local/bin/dyndnsupdate [options here] $NS5IP
echo OLD

echo $NS5IP
echo $PREVIP