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  • Writer's pictureGary Gruber

Paybacks are a Bitch! (Part 2)

Before there was an internet, before there was a smart phone, there was still eBay. The year was 2000, and I was busy selling my photo gear – my career as a software architect was full-steam-ahead, and I needed some capital to finance the ever-changing needs of the computer geek inside me.

We were still a somewhat trusting world; perhaps not as simple as growing up in the 50’s, but 9/11 was a long year away, and the sea change that was about to smack us upside the head so violently wasn’t even someone’s errant bad dream yet.

As I have mentioned before, my day starts very early, usually around 4 am. Like most people in a sane world, I start my day with a cup of coffee. Anyone who says they don’t I would caution you to eyeball very carefully. Probably a commie or a pirate. As discretely as you can, check for a wooden leg…

This problem manifested itself because I began reading emails BEFORE I had my first cup. I’m not pretending to be the smartest guy in the world, but my mind has a terrible habit of collecting and storing data that most people would agree doesn’t even rise to the level of trivia.

1. René Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle claimed the Mississippi River basin for France in 1682

2. A 1963 Dodge Dart with a push button transmission has a Slant Six engine with a single barrel carburetor.

3. Automotive brake fluid makes an excellent ant killer.

Scammers were few and far between back then, and interestingly enough, most were located outside the boundaries of the continental United States. The email stated that my eBay account had been hacked and if I would just click this link…

My caffeine dependent brain was little more than a ball of fuzz at this hour before shooting up my first cup of Joe. Without thinking, I clicked the link and followed the directions. In the process I gave the scammers access to my checking account!

When I realized what had happened I went batshit crazy until 9 am when the bank opened so I could try to rectify the matter. Little did I know that the world was conspiring against me that day and was determined to cast me into a pit so deep and so wide that I might never bid on an overpriced thingamajig on eBay again.

The bank’s reaction to my plight: “How do we know you are who you say you are?”

My response: “Here’s my driver’s license!”

And they said: “How do we know this is a real license?”

Friends, it’s at this point in the story that I would urge you to stop and read (or re-read) Franz Kafka’s immortal tale of harrowing transformation “Metamorphosis” before continuing with my tale of woe.

The insanity at the bank only lasted another couple of years (10 minutes), until I could prove to them I was who I said I was. They closed my account to freeze the funds and opened another one for me immediately. I lost $50 in the process, a test withdrawal made by the scammer to ensure they had unfettered access to my money.

But now that the story takes a turn for justice and revenge. I worked my way through the local police to the FBI, trying to be a good citizen and reporting this misadventure.

Curiously, the FBI put me in contact with the Attorney General of Texas, who was placed in charge of dealing with the perp, since several citizens down there had also been hit.

The lady from the office who helped me was a wonderfully amenable person and together we back traced the IP address of the scammer (the sophisticated tools used by internet crooks today to hide their location were not available back then) -- to Bulgaria. I was kept up to date as the UK’s MI6 provided international tracking of the exact location of the creep who was perpetrating this fraud.

They got him. They convicted him. He spent 7 years behind bars in a Bulgarian prison. For my part, it was $50 well spent. Happy endings like this almost never occur today (except maybe in an LA massage parlor). Too many of these cockroaches inhabit the planet, too many people are tricked into losing a whole lot more than fifty dollars.

Paybacks are a Bitch…

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