You Can't Scam an Idiot

January 18 2006, 7:16 PM

I think scamming people out of their money is a terrible thing to do, and if there is a hell, there is certainly a special place there for those folks who make a living cheating other people out of their money. But at what point do we just say, You're an idiot to the victims of some of these crimes and leave it at that? See, it's hard for me to feel too sorry for this guy below. From 9News.com:

A local radio talk show host thought he was getting a deal on eBay for Broncos tickets, but got ripped off instead. Rich Stevens, a member of the Alice 105-FM morning crew, said it seemed like a legitimate e-Bay auction. He bid $600 for five Broncos tickets. "I got the confirmation email, which looked like any other eBay confirmation email, telling me that I won the five tickets and here's how I need to pay," said Stevens. Stevens then wired the money he owed via Western Union. He thought he was buying the tickets from a company called Square Trade. But when he realized there was a problem, and called them, "they said sounds like (you've) been part of a scam." Stevens said it appears that money he wired went to someone in London, England. And he never got the tickets. "I guess I got the Broncos fever and wasn't thinking like a normal person," he reflects. He said none of his phone calls to e-Bay were returned, but he learned that the online auctioneer recommends only using the Pay Pal online payment service when buying an item. Stevens isn't the only person who has reported Broncos ticket scams on e-Bay... ...Going through an established ticket broker is the safest way to go at this point. And be wary of any great deals. On Monday, tickets for Sunday's game were selling anywhere between $350 for the highest seats in the stadium on up to $1,350 for some good first-level seats.

Look, it sucks that this guy lost $600 to a scam artist, but putting the blame on the crook here is kind of like blaming the sidewalk when you step in a pile of dog crap -- you're the one who stepped in it. There are two giant, flashing warning lights here that Stevens just completely ignored:

  1. You found five tickets for sale for $600, and you won the bid at that price? That's $120 apiece. As the story points out, the lowest going price for the worst ticket in the stadium is $350. It didn't at all seem weird to you that somebody was selling tickets 200 percent below market value?
  2. You WIRED money to somebody in London, England? How the hell did somebody in London, England get five tickets to a Broncos game? This didn't seem strange to you?

I feel bad for people who buy counterfeit tickets, because that could happen to anybody and there's really no way to know unless you happen to know what the tickets are supposed to look like. But in the absence of using common sense, it's hard for me to feel to bad for someone who gets ripped off by just falling head-first into a clearly marked trap. This story reminds me of one of my favorite scams, and I rarely feel sorry for people who get caught in it. You might have even gotten an e-mail about this: somebody contacts you to say that you won the Canadian lottery, and to collect the money you just need to send a check for the taxes. For this story to be at all plausible to you, three things would have needed to happen first:

  1. You probably need to have visited Canada at some point
  2. You probably needed to have, you know, PLAYED the Canadian lottery
  3. You probably needed to have given somebody at the Canadian Lottery offices your e-mail address

If no combination of the above three things has happened to you...how in the hell could you have won the Canadian lottery? Maybe I'm just a completely insensitive boob, but can we at least make it a little difficult for a scam artist to get work?

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