Sleazy Online Camera Sellers And The Digg Death Penalty

from the how-far-is-too-far? dept

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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  1. identicon
    stizz, 30 Nov 2005 @ 5:28pm

    of course!

    This is karmic retribution at its finest!
    I agree somewhat with your unsettlings about mob justice, but this is not the same as waiting outside the jailhouse with pitchforks and a hanging rope.
    When an online flashmob organizes enough to distribute vigilante justice upon someone, that someone overwhelmingly deserves it. Rarely can the mobs actions be overly detrimental to the target; no one gets strung up.
    The scammer was a parasite to the organism that is the internet. The internet, like any creature with a flea biting its ass, scratches the spot until the offending bloodsucker is inconvienienced enough to move elsewhere.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. identicon
    Michael, 30 Nov 2005 @ 5:31pm

    Re: of course!

    If this type of thing was being effectively dealt with by the authorities, there's be no need for retribution. However, as your story says, it's not. That's when the alternative justice system kicks in, and it has. Sorry, no tears from this corner.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. identicon
    Jared Anderson, 30 Nov 2005 @ 5:55pm

    Re: of course!

    Haa this is so cool,god dam scammers.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. identicon
    Matthew Cox, 30 Nov 2005 @ 5:59pm

    No Subject Given

    Reminds me of something I took part in awhile back, where a plethora of bloggers posted about a Canadian moving company who tried to scam a guy and hold his belongings until he gave them more money...everyone used the name of the company and linked to them several times in each post, so that Googling the company would pull up a ton of negative blogposts before you'd even get to the company's website.

    I dunno...the old maxim of "With great power comes great responsibility" seems to hold weight here, but the world isn't full of a bunch of Spider-Men

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. identicon
    MissingFrame, 30 Nov 2005 @ 6:58pm

    I think it's awesome!

    Not any different than the old days when word got around about the local drugstore cheating customers. Sure, there can be some abuses, but there are abuses with "legitimate" avenues as well.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. identicon
    Riley, 30 Nov 2005 @ 7:14pm


    Wow...That is scary. Lynch Mob 2.0

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. identicon
    houseofgeek, 30 Nov 2005 @ 7:46pm

    Paybacks are a bitch

    I see nothing wrong with the "Digg Death Penalty". The pondscum that pull these types of scams would do the smae thing and worse just to part us with our cash. Piss on them and their parade. That is what makes the internet so great. The ability to screw them before they screw us.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. identicon
    stephen pray, 30 Nov 2005 @ 7:58pm

    Re: Ummm

    we have very little power against the machine. and while i may win my petty little case in small claims court it will still be months or more before i get my justice. fuck them. lynch mob my ass. if we can rise up in indignation lets do it. i don't see the down side to getting even with a con man any way you can.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. identicon
    Riley, 30 Nov 2005 @ 9:55pm

    No Subject Given

    Scammers and con artists hide behind the idea that nobody will actually follow up on the fraud and bring them down. They commmit acts with low-or-no morals, and go so far as to cut off communication or make their "support" so inefficient that a buyer will just say screw it and take the loss as a hit on the chin. The frauds rely on the idea that they will either get their money, or worse case scenario, just be left alone without a sale. It's about time people got active to bring them down, before e-commerce's image gets damaged any further. You shouldn't have to be THAT careful if you just want to buy things online; it's taking away from the convenience. Screw scammers and the horses they rode in on.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. identicon
    Bob3000, 1 Dec 2005 @ 6:05am

    No Subject Given

    Slashdot has great comments and some good links to check out about this 'event'. Check out PriceRitePhoto's "storefront":

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11. identicon
    Clifford VanMeter, 1 Dec 2005 @ 9:07am

    ...did everyone need to bombard the company direct

    Short answer -- yes! For too long unscrupulous businesses have been using these kinds of tactics. This kind of "mob justice" is just what's needed to make them behave as good corporate citizens.
    The real shame is, I believe that while these guys might profit in the short term, in the long run they suffer. Problem is, most of the people who runs these kinds of cheesy, sleazy shops don't think in terms of growing a viable client-base. All they care about is this week's bottom line.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12. identicon
    Andrea, 1 Dec 2005 @ 7:11pm

    did everyone need to bombard the company directly

    Yes, and more should be handled this way. Long live The Digg Death Penalty! Scammers like this will kill ecommerce if allowed. State sponsored remedies do not work against them.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 1 Dec 2005 @ 10:10pm

    Re: did everyone need to bombard the company direc

    This is what makes the Internet great. Allowing sympathetic, empowered people to come together for a cause. I bet he thinks twice before trying to screw an online shopper again.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14. identicon
    Sensemaker, 2 Dec 2005 @ 9:09am

    Isn't the Diggnation engaging in a DOS attack?

    While the spammer may have gotten just desserts, isn't this kind of action playing into the hands of folks who would constrain the internet?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15. identicon
    thecaptain, 28 Apr 2006 @ 3:07am

    Mob Justice

    At first glance of the story I was with you Mike when you said that while its hard to sympathize with the con artist, mob justice wasn't right.

    Then I thought about it and read the comments. The system is broken.

    I think part of the problem is that mob justice as shown in the article is one of the few EFFECTIVE avenues left to us.

    The justice system is very slow and ineffective for small time scams or crimes, just ask anyone who's had a small breakin lately. I had one last summer, less than 5 thousand dollars in loss, AND I know who did it too (heck I saw him with some rather distinctive stolen articles) and what did the police tell me? "You have insurance don't ya?". I did and was well compensated but that's not the point.

    Its the same with these guys, months can go by in small claims court and while you COULD get summary judgement, you sure as hell won't collect anytime soon IF AT ALL.

    So what's left? Courts do nothing, neither can the police? Well there's mob justice, such as it is..and it seems effective.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 May 2007 @ 1:18pm

    Theres a VERY simple answer to this kind of evil scam company..make it not worth their while to steal anything!

    If they trick someone out of $100 for a camera, make them pay $10,000 (100x what they took) to charity and the $100 back(no incentive to sue to get rich, just to enact justice).

    Failing that the only other answer would be to have the perpetrator dragged out onto the streets and butchered over 30mins, live on pay-per-view as a deterrent! that once or twice and I guarentee there wouldn't be a single con-man willing to die to rip someone off for the price of a camera!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17. identicon
    Sharn, 23 Apr 2008 @ 4:58am

    fruadualent camera sites

    I've never heard of Digg before but I absolutely love them and what they do, I will make a huge donation and encourage everyone to do so. The FBI sure doesn't care at all.
    Yes scammers certainly do deserve this, no they cannot do enough to rid them of innocent prey.
    Mob justice? Sounds like you're defending guilty criminals, you must be one of them.
    Finally, someone getting what they deserve in the USA.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

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