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A Win for the Good Guys—Tracking Down an Internet Scam Artist

by David Pike (09/10/12).

The Internet offers a wealth of opportunity to expand your reach as a seller of antiques. It also offers a perfect storm of ingredients for buyers looking to separate you from those antiques for less than you want.

Late last year I stumbled into just such a person. He is from Poland. He ordered a Japanese mask from me online and used an e-mail address that was connected to a university in England. The approved Internet payment service address was for a University in Germany. This didn’t seem unusual to me, as I am based in Japan and 95 percent my sales come from outside Japan and of those 50 percent or more are from Europe. I did some checking on the buyer’s name and found someone with the same name who works as an investment banker in the same city in Germany, so I felt comfortable sending the item out, insured, with the ability to track the shipment.

I received an e-mail 43 days later from the buyer saying the item hadn’t been delivered and what did I want to do about it. He was asking me to hurry with my answer since, there were only two days left to file a claim with the payment service. After a few e-mails back and forth, with the buyer getting ruder with each missive, I refunded his money. My policy is to keep stress levels down to a manageable level and one of the ways I do that is to keep a “don’t sell to” list. I added this person’s name to the list and moved on. I did bother to do a little more checking on the buyer’s account, though, and found about five sellers that were marked as his favorites. I contacted them to let them know I had had a bad time with the buyer and so please be warned in case it was a serial scam. In response, I received notes from three of them saying they, too, had had the same thing happen and in all cases had refunded the money like me. I also got a stern warning from the site administration that I was treading on thin ice and could be suspended for telling other sellers to be on guard about a buyer.

I then knew something was up, so wrote a long blog post about the buyer and left it at that. Some two months later I got a comment on my blog from a seller who uses a large Internet-based auction site. He had had the same thing happen from the same person on three different sales and had done some checking on the buyer and run across my blog post. He did some further checking and found the buyer had done the same thing with more than 10 other sellers on the auction site.

This seller had lost more monetarily in his sales than I had, and also took deep offense that this buyer had this scheme going on wherein a relatively small purchase would be made, he would claim non-delivery and demand a refund. Most sellers for items under a certain amount won’t bother fighting it. The auction site I dealt with this person through and Internet payment service were either very unresponsive or threatening toward the sellers in the case of this buyer.

“The buyer was arrested recently by the London city police and has been kicked out of his university.”

This second seller took matters into his own hands and spent some time doing detective work. I was very impressed with his ability to tease information out of the Internet on this buyer. I think a lot of people get lazy when they have perfected a scheme, and so had this particular buyer. He had forgotten to make private some angles of both his Facebook and MySpace pages, which led the second seller to discover his actual identity and address, which also enable him to contact the universities the buyer was attending. This, and some more detective work, led us both to find a video on YouTube where the buyer was actually wearing the white face makeup he had stolen from the second seller and a mask he had stolen from a different seller on the large auction site.

The buyer was arrested recently by the London city police and has been kicked out of his university.

The Internet offers a large market for sellers, but it also affords a kind of anonymity a few bad apples can put to their use. Luckily, there are steps you take to protect your business. If you suspect someone is trying to steal from you I suggest the following:

• Look at their account if you are on a site that offers such features. Put into your own “Favorites” the items they have “favorite.” This will help in case the person makes private or deletes the sellers they have pulled the scam on. In the case of the buyer I dealt with, he did in fact make private his “Favorites,” but I had already bookmarked them, so was able to contact those sellers individually, even though they had been deleted from the account;

• You can find a lot through doing searches on the person’s name. Also, search the suffix of their e-mail addresses. In the case of this buyer, a university e-mail address was used, which enabled me to find out they attended that specific university in London. The mailing address was also for a university in Germany. The second buyer that was instrumental in getting the bad guy arrested used Google Street View to see that the buyer had had the package mailed to a dormitory room;

• Take screen shots of any evidence you find. In the case of this buyer, he blocked from view his Facebook sites once he became suspicious that he had been discovered. It was too late, as screen shots of the person wearing the stolen goods had already been saved. These were later forwarded to the London police and were used as evidence in his arrest.

• Be creative in searching for information. This buyer was found after the second seller searched for the university and then searched those people closest to the image he had constructed of the buyer. This led him to a couple of people that had “friends” with the same name as the buyer. Through this method, he was able to take screen shots of the buyer’s account and to find out he had attended a rave in Germany. This lead to the discovery of the video. Ten tedious minutes spent viewing the video led to the five-second spot where our friend appeared in all his glory wearing the stolen goods.

• It is important to remember that most sites people use to sell on the Internet will side with the buyer in a dispute. You, as a seller, must be aware that you are responsible for the package getting to the buyer, full stop. No excuses will help you if someone claims non delivery.

• The same goes with insuring a package. If the buyer refuses to file a claim, you will be responsible for refunding the purchase price, including shipping.

David Pike is a Worthologist who specializes in items from Japan, including porcelain.

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7 Responses to “A Win for the Good Guys—Tracking Down an Internet Scam Artist”

  1. Larry Quirk says:

    I am somewhat confused as the author said that the package he sent was tracked and insured. Would the tracking have confirmed delivery? And wouldn’t the sender of the package (the seller) have the claim under the insurance that he bought? Perhaps the fact that it was an international transaction effected this but I would like to know these answers. AND the most aggravating thing is that the site did nothing to stem this obvious, proveable fraud and in fact berated the sellers who were uncovering it. So what do you pay all those fees for?

  2. David Pike says:

    Some tracking has signed confirmation. The package I sent didn’t. It was trackable in the sense that I got a confirmation that it was delivered. It was not insured as the value was not enough, i.e., I self insured. The other seller did insure it.
    Here is the catch. If the buyer refuses to file a claim then most large online payment systems will deduct the money from the sellers account.
    So. The fact that both were international sales doesn’t matter. What matters is both online selling venues and the money site side with the buyer in most cases.

  3. Perhaps I am a little thick. Was the “Self Insured” through a third party, or was it “Just You” guaranteeing that it would be covered? also, who would be the person the buyer had to make a claim through? That is the part I don’t get. If he told you, even the other fella that did insure, he was claiming not to have it. Could the man that did insure not have filed it missing?

    Perhaps because i’m in the USA and have to notify from my end if a buyer does not get the package, but it sounds like you know and have proof that it was delivered and that was not good enough proof that it was sent to the customer. Even insured for the other fella was not good enough proof. So what is the use of insuring at all?

    I am glad you all found him and he was apprehended. I am a small dealer and do not ship to other countries because of the very fact that you talk about here. Too many scam artists on the interned from other countries.

    I have been approached twice by buyers that did not ring true. One ordered from an oversees address and wanted it shipped to his brother in the US. I wrote back and told him my liability ended with the delivery to the brother and it would be addressed to the brother “In care of” for him. That was fine and all went well. Till just before the claim time ran out and I said. “OK! I will file the claim right away. Tell your brother to expect the US Postal Inspectors to contact him. He will be the center of the investigation.” I didn’t even have the time to make the claim before I got another email saying. Oh, I got alot of deliveries and must have overlooked that one. I found it when I looked again.

    The other one had contacted me and asked me to please make an exception for him. I agreed only to find out he had a different “ship to” address from the order address in a whole other Country. I canceled the order, as it is against my policy to allow the two different addresses for one order. Perhaps I was wrong, but then again…

  4. David Pike says:

    Hello Margaret,
    I will say a few things about the basic state of selling online and then about my experience with this guy.
    I have found out from this experience and one other involving my own hand made ceramics that if the buyer claims the item wasn’t delivered the only way to guarantee that you, as the seller, won’t lose is to have used a shipper that gets a signed confirmation that is viewable online. Here is the catch. I know in Japan and I have heard that in N. America there aren’t any shippers that do that.

    Let me say that again.
    Even if you ship signed delivery in most cases you have a high probability of losing in a dispute. You need to pay to have the signed receipt returned to you. Here is the catch with that. If the signature is by someone else other than the buyer you are held as responsible.
    This has no bearing on domestic or international sales, it has to do with the way online payment companies and online auction sites deal with the seller.

    Insurance.
    This is where I found out the hard way that if the person who claims damage won’t file a claim then large, Internet payment companies will refund your money to them. What happened with me is that I sent a bowl to the U.S. It arrived damaged. I asked the person to file a claim at the post office. He first said he would try and then told me he wouldn’t. No matter what I tried he wouldn’t file the claim. The large Internet payment company told him to return the item to me. He smashed it to small pieces, wrote it was worth 2,000$ on the customs form and put the insurance value at 0$. To understate it, he was not a nice person. When the bowl arrived here, even though it had been sent by me to him track-able and insured, my money was refunded to him.

    Important lesson.
    Basically you are not going to win if the person you sell something to isn’t going to play fair.
    In the case I talk about above what I mean when I say I self insure is I take the risk. If the item doesn’t arrive I refund the money. The other seller in the story did use proper insurance but the person who scammed both of us was filing claims through the large Internet based payment company which disregards insurance claims.

    What that means.
    Even though the package was delivered the large payment company will side with the buyer. The insurance claim won’t go through because it shows as delivered.

    Recently I sold an antique through a large auction site on the Internet. The sale was for about 7,000$. I immediately moved the money to Japan in case things got nasty. Things got nasty but not in the way I expected. The auction site restricted my account for suspicious activity and it remains so to this day. They have demanded documents. I live in Japan so the documents are in Japanese. The problem with that is they can’t read Japanese.
    Be aware of the obstacles you face online.

  5. Fred Karno says:

    When you write an article, can you please name names? It helps nobody to read vague references such as “a large auction site”. If what you write is true you are perfectly entitled to call a spade a spade.

  6. On Thursday, 2/13, Ebay awarded a dispute with John D Teneriello, Intellituit (his previous Ebay name) in our favor. Within 30 minutes, a JDT1 (same initials) had located our Etsy shop and purchased two small items. From the PayPal payment, the name was Jean Teneriello, same town of Port Saint Lucie, Florida where our Ebay disputed transaction came from. Two HOURS later, JDT left vile, negative feedback on our Etsy page. It quickly became obvious that this was in retaliation for the Ebay dispute. Within 30 minutes, the webmaster of our FB page for our brick/mortar store, Crafters Co-op called, saying a “Jill Tenino” had posted numerous threats, including “You will find your dog dead in one of your baskets” and “Phase 1 of 100 retaliations has begun.” There were also many vulgar, f word, etc. comments left on photos. Note the initials JT are the same as John Teneriello. When we moved to block this person, they had taken down their profile. Then, we started getting multiple phone calls at our business. A Craigslist ad had been placed in our name, with Adrianna Royal (only known to Ebay buyers), with our business address (same as mailing for our Ebay purchases) and phone number listed, offering “free gifts to all from now/until Xmas” and telling people to call anytime, day or night or just show up at the shop. I was also subscribed to >40 spam mail lists the same evening.

    It is obvious that John D Teneriello became a cyberstalker in response to the Ebay dispute being filed.

    In researching this man and the TERROR he has inflicted upon myself and my business partners, I contacted his so called “charity auctioneering” recipients. Nature World Wildlife Rescue and CFU Foundation have NEVER HEARD of this man or his company Intellituit (now changed as of the day after this cyberstalking) nor have they received a penny from him.

    Not only is he fraudulently listing fundraising on his Ebay store page, he has illegally cyberstalked/threatened me/my business. He put his Ebay store on vacation for a month, causing us fear that he is coming after us. WE ARE SCARED. I have called Ebay multiple times and PayPal but both of you have done NOTHING. His store/accounts are still up. The reason I have sent him messages with this information is because I didn’t have a way to put it into writing to you, until I just now found this page. Following are some of the cut and pasted comments he left on our FB page, again within an hour of the dispute ruling in our favor. Also, via PayPal you can see that he illegally has multiple PayPal accounts, and is using multiple names with the same initials and address to perpetuate his terror and fraud. He also has TWO EBAY accounts, one with much lower feedback than the other. The second account is: myiac2013. I am imploring you to take immediate action. It has been FOUR days and NOTHING has been done!!!

    Jill Timeteo posted on Crafters Co-op’s timeline
    “This business is a scam do not trust this person with anything she will try to rob you blind. Attn all followers enact retribution phase 1 of 100″

    Jill Timeteo commented on Crafters Co-op’s link.
    Jill wrote: “Knit my ass bitch”

    Jill Timeteo commented on Crafters Co-op’s status.
    Jill wrote: “You can put your dead dog in the basket”

    Jill Timeteo commented on Crafters Co-op’s photo.
    Jill wrote: “From the look of this customer he’s about to crap all over you witch”

    Jill Timeteo commented on Crafters Co-op’s Boutique Items album.
    Jill wrote: “Never met a more dishonest old lady”

    Jill Timeteo commented on Crafters Co-op’s photo.
    Jill wrote: “She has her thumb up the poor dog’s ass Finger lickin good”

    Jill Timeteo commented on Crafters Co-op’s photo.
    Jill wrote: “Pretty fiucking lame”

    Jill Timeteo commented on Crafters Co-op’s photo.
    Jill wrote: “I’ve seen road kill that’s prettier!”

    And, Etsy sale information, within 30 minutes of Ebay’s dispute resolution:

    Hi spinayarn,

    Congratulations on your Etsy sale of 1 item to J DT.
    Your order number is: 73447843

    Order details

    Payment method
    PayPal
    Payment Complete
    View the receipt

    Shipping Address
    JDT
    431 SW Monroe Dr
    Port Saint Lucie, FL 34986
    United States

    Etsy feedback from JDT1 (same initials as Ebay seller John D Teneriello), with same town in Florida as mailing address. Note feedback left same day as Ebay dispute resolution and only two hours after purchase…no way they could have been mailed across the country that fast!

    J DT (jdt1) says:
    Obviously cut from a piece of trash, how stupid was I to pay for this absolute crap
    Dec 13, 2012
    UpCycled Brooch Hat Pin Vintage Button, Lavender
    J DT (jdt1) says:
    Do not buy form this seller! What a piece of garbage, have seen better stuff in the trash at goodwill , I cant believe you call this craft I would never buy from this seller.
    Dec 13, 2012

    Yet, Etsy has not responded to our numerous emails and contacts.

  7. David Pike says:

    I am sorry to hear about your troubles. There are cyber crime units at most police stations. You should ask them if there is anything they can do.
    I wouldn’t expect any help from the sites you mention. They are very unresponsive.

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