December 13, 2002
Caught: Mac Addicts to the Rescue

Here’s an anthill of a different type. Jason E. Smith of New Orleans, a proud Mac user, found himself taken by an eBay scam: a con artist in Chicago relieved him of a $3000 PowerBook by paying with a counterfeit cashier’s check. Frustrated by his dealings with local and Federal law enforcement, who basically told him to forget about ever seeing his laptop or his money, he turned to an unorthodox alternative: he tapped into a nationwide network of Mac enthusiasts to help him track down the scammer. He found other users who had been taken in by the same con artist, ran information from their cases and his own through an online P.I. service another user pointed him to, and that launched him on the trail that led to the bad guy’s getting nabbed with more than $10,000 worth of counterfeit checks ready to go out to his next batch of victims.

What’s interesting about this is the way this purpose-driven community coalesced and acted so quickly and effectively: he was scammed on November 19th, and the cops had the guy in hand by December 11! As society fragments into ever more closely-connected and narrowly-focused entities, one can’t help but wonder if we’ll see this kind of almost tribal behavior emerge more and more.

Oh, and one final irony: the scammer’s name, if you can believe this, was Melvin Christmas! As Mr. Smith puts it, “I couldn’t believe it. A Chicago resident named Melvin Christmas had just ruined my Christmas. I was expecting William Faulkner to come popping out of the pantry at any moment and laugh at me.” Thanks to Slashdot for the pointer.

Posted by Jason Lefkowitz at December 13, 2002
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Ant's Eye View is edited by Jason Lefkowitz, a consultant and Web developer in Alexandria, Virginia. Got a question, comment, or concern? Let me hear it!

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