Ok, this one is going to be a little long. And strange. And interesting.

We’ll get to the moral of the story first:

don’t trust anything that looks too good to be true

Ok, now that’s out of the way… I almost bought a new laptop. Check that… I apparently have bought a nonexistant laptop. Confused? So am I, but a things came into focus pretty quickly.

Now for those of you who are wondering, yes, I already have a new laptop. But I’m not sure if this is really the right one for me (all that will become more apparent when I publish the review I’ve been working on). Anyway, in a fit of temporary insanity, I went onto ebay looking for the other brand of tablet PC that I’ve been interested in: the Toshiba m200. My thought process was: if I can find one for cheap, I’ll buy it, test drive it and keep the laptop I like better.

I found one with great specs and a low price. Really great specs and real low price. Like a couple hundred dollars lower price. And I bought it.

Then, as soon as the auction was over, sanity kicked in. Like the type of sanity that says, “Wow, this laptop is really underpriced considering it’s got an 80gb hard drive and a gig of memory.” The same voice of reason that says “Hmmm, and I didn’t know that they made this model with a 1.8gHz processor.” And yes, the same voice of reason that says “That’s because it was never manufactured with a 1.8gHz processor.”

At that point, I started to notice a few things

  • The unit was undervalued by about $600 street
  • The seller selling it had no previous ebay record
  • In fact, the seller joined the day they put it on sale
  • The unit had impossible specs
  • The seller wants to be paid by direct deposit into a checking account

So my spider sense is going gangbusters at this point screaming “FRAUD!”

At the same time, my fundimental belief in people is saying “It isn’t necessarily a fraud. It could be she got some super secret special unit that she’s selling.”

Spider sense won out. I wanted to learn more abut the seller. I did a query on her (I say her becuase it was a female screen name) and learned a few things. “Mary_D.” (the name’s been abrievated to protect the innocent) hailed from Agawam, MA. And since her screen name was a full name I decided to make a white pages search for her. And sure enough, I came up with a “Mary D.” in Agawam, MA. So for a moment I thought this person might be legit.

But I decided to dig a little deeper and requested her full contact info from EBay. And that’s when I noticed that the White Pages phone number and the Ebay phone number were different. Not just a little different. Like 10 states different. “Mary_D.”‘s phone was apprently located in Iowa (thanks to an internet area code search). So I e-mailed the seller and stated that before I paid we’d need to talk live on the phone and that she should send me a phone number to contact her at. I also contacted ebay and told them that something fishy was going on.

I then took one further step and called the White Pages “Mary D.”, a very nice lady in Agawam, MA. This woman was an e-mail seller, but confirmed that she never sold a laptop to me (nor had she ever possessed that type of laptop). And it was at that moment that my suspicions (which really had gone way past suspicions by this time) were confirmed. Someone had spoofed Mary’s identity and tried to make a quick score on Ebay. She/he might have gotten away with it to if it wasn’t for that pesky dog and … oh wait, different story. They probably would have gotten away with it if they hadn’t posted the wrong specs for the unit. Or let it go for so cheap.

And I’m stupid for initally falling for it. I was so blinded by price that I missed a couple clear warning signs.

On the plus side, I did notice them (someone else might not have). Both Mary and I have contacted Ebay. And I sure as hell am not paying for that computer.

On a side note, it’s a strange thing to inform someone that they’re identity has been stolen. I’ve known people that this has happened to in the past. Everyone involved ends up feeling vulnerable and kinda dirty (in a weird way). Plus this type of conversation is just awkward (“Hi you don’t know me but someone using your name sold me a non existant laptop”).

So there you go. I’ve already given you the moral of all of this. As to whether or not I’m going to get the Toshiba to compare, I’m not sure. Either way, I’m not getting that model (or going to be blinded by this type of deal).