A friend of mine, as part of his job, has to deal with complaints about online e-commerce scams. By far the most popular are stories of online camera merchants. The scam is always the same: offer a camera online for an incredibly cheap price. Then, after the sale is made, they call up and ask if you want to buy accessories. If you say no, they later say the camera is out of stock and never send it to you. Basically, the only way to get the camera at the low price is to add in all these over-priced accessories. This is, of course, a bait-and-switch tactic. So, earlier today, when I saw Thomas Hawk unfortunately become a victim to one of these scammers, I passed it along to my friend, noting that I was sure it was a story he'd appreciate. In this case, the seller was particularly obnoxious, threatening all sorts of retribution to Thomas for not buying the additional items, threatening to cancel the order and (most importantly) threatening to write about the experience online. The story is unfortunate, but what made it more interesting was later today, when Mat submitted the same story, while pointing out that the story was picked up in a big way on Digg, and various Digg users went into action, calling the store repeatedly (even setting up an automated system to do so). This is interesting for a few reasons. While the camera seller deserves to be outed publicly for the scam and it's hard to feel any sympathy at all for the scammer, at what point does the "Digg death penalty" go too far? Yes, it may make this or a few other scammers think twice about the fact that their names may get online and they may face something similar, but it seems likely that most won't think twice about it. At the same time, this sort of "mob justice" can also be misused in some dangerous ways as well. The story was getting out there (and Google will likely reflect that shortly if it hasn't already) and Thomas had alerted Eliot Spitzer's office about it -- did everyone need to bombard the company directly as well?
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