When we bought Galapagos last year, we were left with a number of items that we hoped to sell on Craigslist. One such item is the old transmission. I don’t know if you have priced a marine transmission lately but they can be really expensive and frankly I would be happy for any amount of money to have it out of my garage.
So on to Craigslist it went. And stayed. And Stayed. I’ve had a few nibbles but usually it just isn’t the right part. But then Joe came along. Joe really wanted to buy my transmission. He wanted this transmission so badly, that he didn’t haggle, didn’t ask any questions about it and possibly doesn’t know what a transmission is. In short, Joe is running a classic scam in which he offers to buy something for well over its asking price or, in Joe’s case, inadvertently sends more than the asking price and then requests that you send the balance back to him.
I sometimes find these scams a pleasant diversion. I was interested in Joe’s deal because he initiated contact via instant messaging and he wanted to send me a Money Order. As in through the mail. That seemed rather quaint and also a federal offense that can be investigated by the U.S. Postal Inspectors. It is unlikely that Joe is in this country but I bet some of his associates are and I am hopeful they will be having a chat with the authorities soon.
To create the right conditions for a fruitful relationship with a scammer, I have created an alter ego, Merlin Gnatluster. Think of Merlin as that trusting and optimistic soul you wish could exist in the world without being preyed upon. He always wants to do the right thing and he is extremely helpful. He wants to get to know people at a level that is uncommon in the digital world. Also Merlin wants this transaction to succeed as much as Joe does but sometimes he just doesn’t have all the tools he needs.
Below is a transcript from Merlin’s conversation with Joe. It is long so feel free to skim. Be sure to check out the “Money Gram” Joe mailed to Merlin.
In order to present the conversation in a readable format reminiscent of a chat session, I have used some CSS that may not render perfectly in older browsers. I have tested it in the latest versions of Chrome, Mozilla and Internet Explorer and it looks great. Older browsers, especially Internet Explorer may not work well.
My comments on the proceedings are in italics. Notice that there is an inner scroll bar just for the conversation.
I would like to provide attribution for some of the technology that permitted me to capture and present the conversation above:
OXSDaily.com on how to pull SMS messaging from the Iphone using SQL-Lite: http://osxdaily.com/2010/07/08/read-iphone-sms-backup/
Nicholas Gallagher’s CSS work to build Speech Bubbles: http://nicolasgallagher.com/pure-css-speech-bubbles/