Yesterday, Jay shared with us his experience with eBay fraud and his attempts to work with law enforcement, Today, he takes matters (legally) into his own hands and… well, you’ll just have to read the story…

Now in between these phone calls I had been pursuing the email address the seller used. The address was a hotmail account. I figured if it’s a hotmail account then they must be using a web browser to read it. I crafted an email linking in a 1×1 transparent gif image hosted on my web server. Sure enough, within a day I had a log entry from a dial-up IP address in Georgia. I really wanted to find out who this person was so I crafted another one, this time with logging information maxed. I also tried to include tantalizing messages, “The good and bad thing about the internet is that people never really know who they are dealing with.” and “Yum, AOL users are my favorite” after one of the connections was through an AOL proxy. That last one must’ve hit their pride because I got a response bashing AOL and my lame attempts. Throughout this time I continued to keep in touch with John in D.C. Once I had identified that most of the IP addresses centered on the same town in Georgia. He remembered that some of the purchases on his credit card were shipped to an address in Georgia. Sure enough the address was the same area as my IP addresses. I didn’t want to give up on our justice system so I called the local police in Georgia. In spite of my efforts to educate them on computers, the internet and EBay, they thought I was insane. There was no amount of haggling, pleading or demanding that would get the long arm of the law to that address based on me calling. Of course I kept my baiting emails going. I had sent seven unique image emails and by chance I had a window open watching the logs when the seventh popped up. I poked and prodded the host on that IP… windows PC, this time with an EarthLink branded browser dialed up through UU-Net (backbone provider, commonly resold). With my scans running, I got on the phone to UU-Net support, told them the person connected *right now* on *this IP* had committed internet fraud. Of course they couldn’t tell me anything, but they put the record into a ticket and gave me the ticket number. They said they would release it if they had a subpoena. I called the Georgia police back with this information and they still thought I was crazy. I had gotten the address John had from the purchases in Georgia. Google told us it was a secluded family home outside of town nestled in the woods. I converted the address to a phone number and John called. Turned out there was a teenager at the address whose father was very interested in our tales. The father was able to correlate the appearance of items with John’s fraud activity and yes, the father did use EarthLink. Should I have known better? Absolutely. Could I have done things differently? Sure. But I learned several valuable lessons as a result. The biggest lesson was that there was no big brother out there for me, there wasn’t an internet beat cop willing to help. They just don’t exist for small time crime. In the end my friend ended up getting his money back since they never cashed the cashier’s check (I think they waited 6 months) and the police in Georgia still thought I was nuts.


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