I was on Ebay searching for a macbook pro when I saw all these items really cheap from China. The problem is, I’m not sure if they are real of just a con. Can you have a look and help me? To find one, just go on ebay.co.uk and search for macbook. Usually they are in a big group together and they have around $50 shipping.
Actually, I don’t need to look on eBay to tell you the answer, and I bet you already know that answer yourself too. It’s summarized by a favorite acronym in the instant messenger and text message space: TANSTAAFL (There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch).
In this context, you have to ask yourself how someone in China, of all places, would get ahold of brand new Apple hardware and then decide that their best avenue for selling it is the free and loose world of eBay?
“Ah, but Dave, they have a great feedback rating of 136, all positive, including comments from people who have bought MacBooks from them and been very pleased with the transaction. How do you explain that?”
So let’s talk about something called shilling circles. This isn’t new to eBay, but the basic idea is pretty interesting and quite manipulative of the trust inherent in auctions and community feedback systems. Remember those early 1900’s shows from great “mentalists” who could accurately predict everything in someone’s wallet? Well, that wasn’t too hard because the person with the wallet was part of their team, part of the show, or, often, part of the con.
Take that idea to an auction and you get a room full of people, a few of whom are actually part of the hustle: they eager bid against each other for a given item, bidding the auction item far above its logical value, and hope to sucker some innocent third party into the bidding who then wins, paying far more for an item than it’s worth.
On eBay that’s called a “shilling circle”, among other things, and it’s when a group of people sign up for eBay accounts and give each other very good ratings. That might be from $0.01 buy-it-now transactions for a few months between them all, or they might even legitimately sell products on eBay to get to the point where their account is ready for The Big Hustle. Remember also that I can buy a ballpoint pen from you for $1 then leave in my feedback “Love the computer, great transaction. Recommended A++” hoodwinking the next person into believing I bought a computer from you with good results.
Then, with a good feedback rating, they list a few dozen multi-thousand dollar items, insist on Paypal or some other untraceable payment system, and if they can close on 75% of them, they can clean up with $20,000-$50,000 in a week. Then the account is shut down, the user vanishes, and no-one ever gets a product.
So, you still sure you want to save 20% and buy what you hope will be a brand new Apple MacBook computer from someone you don’t know in China?
As always, be careful out there.