All, recently dodged a bullet with a scam artist (thankfully). I wanted to share the details of this story with you guys and hope that nobody else actually gets taken advantage of. While these scam artists aren't perfect, they are getting better, be careful.
Found an ad on craigslist not in my hometown but near where my parents live. I sometimes check there in case there is something along the way that I can pickup!
I found the ad below:
I emailed the ad and got the following back.
RULE 1 attention : we report many defects but others can be visible on the pictures , so please check the photos , your eye can see better than ours!!!
RULE 2 attention : our pinballs aren't revised ! Many pinballs are 20/30 years old and can have errors on test report , any bulbs ,lamps,rubber or coils which are missing or need changing !!
RULE 3 attention : we recommend the purchase only to competent people!!
BRAND PRODUCT CONDITIONS Q.TY PRICE PICS
BALLY-WILLIAMS Addam Family Perfect . 2 each $ 3,700.00
BALLY-WILLIAMS BLACK ROSE good general shape , but not start blows the fuse of alimentator box , any stupidity . 1 $ 2,000.00 174915 AA
BALLY-WILLIAMS CYCLONE good condition , good playfield , good cabinet , good boards , only if connect the display its are in short circuit , burns . 1 $ 1,400.00 193721 Z
BALLY-WILLIAMS COMET playfield with wear , for the rest good 1 $ 1200.00 102808 Z
BALLY-WILLIAMS CREATURE F.T.B.L. working 100% , good shape , just a little bit sign of wear but invisible for the rest perfect . Hologram not start , probably a stupidity . 1 $ 3,200.00 095907 V
BALLY-WILLIAMS DOCTOR WHO WORKING , complete , wear on playfield , very good cabinet . Mechanism of miniplayfield all dismounted , to check . 1 $ 1,100.00 173014 z2
BALLY-WILLIAMS DR DUDE complete ,working , not start 1/2 display , wear . Good cabinet 1 $ 1500.00 192714 Z
BALLY-WILLIAMS FISH TALES topper ok , good cabinet and colors, just two decals a little bit ruined . 1 $ 2,500.00 104834 AA
BALLY-WILLIAMS FLINTSTONES ok , good, complete , only dinosaur not original ! . Working . 1 $2,000.00 183108
BALLY-WILLIAM INDIANA JONES perfect 1 $ 4,000.00 105952 AA
BALLY-WILLIAMS GETAWAY OK , just missing the gear launchball 1 $ 1,500.00
BALLY-WILLIAMS JACKBOT ok 1 $ 1,800.00
BALLY-WILLIAMS NO FEAR good cabinet , complete , working ,but wear in the middle and down playfield . 1 $ 1,600.00
BALLY-WILLIAMS ROAD SHOW wear in two point , for the rest ok good working 1 $ 2,200.00
BALLY-WILLIAMS SCARED STIFF just little usually wear on "terrifyng " write . For the rest ok very good condition 1 $ 4,200.00
BALLY-WILLIAMS TAXI OK 1 $ 1,500.00
BALLY-WILLIAMS THEATRE OF MAGIC good condition , working 100% , cabinet ok , just mylar on playfield need to remove . 1 $ 4,000.00
BALLY-WILLIAM WHITE WATER ok (good condition) $ 2,600
BALLY-WILLIAMS WORLD CUP 94 GOOD , JUST MYLAR RUINED , CABINET , LEGS AND BAR CHROME AS NEW , COIN DOOR PAINT PERFECT . BELONGED TO A PRIVATE COLLECTION !! 1 $ 1,800.00
STERN CSI good , just any scratch only on one side of the cabinet 1 $ 2,800.00 103215 Z
STERN HIGH ROLLER CASINO ok 1 $ 1,800.00 103526 P
STERN LORD OF THE RING perfect 1 $ 4,200.00 181055 Z
STERN TWILIGHT PERFECT 1 $4,000
STERN MONOPOLY OK LED 1 $ 1,900.00 092753 Z2
STERN PIRATES OF CARRIBEAN GOOD, working , only defected display with lines . 1 $ 3,500.00 172245 V
STERN SHREK OK just two letter decals ruined but not wear to wood 1 $ 4,200.00 094407 Z2
STERN SPIDERMAN just magnete black ring little ruined and a little wear , any scratch on cabinet , for the rest working 100% 1 $ 4,000.00 174140 Z2
STERN WORLD POKER TOUR perfect 1 € 2000.00 104118 AA
STERN X-MEN ok very good condition , perfect playfield, two magnete area perfect , cabinet perfect . Manuals . Just if wants find a defect have the belt of the Wolverine was attached with superglue 1 $ 4,000.00 165759 z2
SEGA FRANKENSTEIN perfect working 100% 1 $ 2,000.00 102325 AA
DATAEAST LETHAL WEAPON 3 with wear on bullets, display not start but probably any stupidity to the board . To check . 1 $ 1,000.00 093158 Z2
DATAEAST STAR WARS good shape , working 100% , just any scratch on left side of cabinet . Little strip of wear . 1 $ 2,300.00 100620 V
GOTTLIEB SHAQ ATTAQ good condition , working , display little exaust . Playfield very good 1 $ 1000.00 183848 M
GOTTLIEB STREET FIGHTER II very good condition , just little bit wear 1 $ 1,000.00 104605 AA
Please reply and confirm to us which of the pins you will want to purchase.
I wrote him back saying I wanted to talk to him on the phone.. He calls me (his number is 213-761-1930, a Los Angeles area code) Here is where it gets "professional" scammer level.
Some of the games I wanted were already spoken for, bummer.. He says he is in Los Angeles, but his games come from France, the guy speaks fluent French, and I even exchanged a few pleasantries with him in French. Cool, I've heard about containers from italy, etc.
So I cherry picked a few others I thought I would want, and asked for detailed pictures.. playfields, etc.
I got an 5 emails back from Richard Keynes ([email protected]) outside of craigslist since I gave him my email and he sends several high resolution pictures of the games, exactly as I asked for, I even did a google image search and the pictures were "unique" at least to google.. Meaning, it hadn't seen them posted anywhere else. Good news right? Scammers usually steal images from silly places.. like ipdb, or ebay. I've attached all these pictures in the hopes that if they show up somewhere else, at least people can see they are tied to these scammers.
I noticed that the coin doors were marked w/ "Fr" the denomination for French Franc's
We finally whittle it down to 5 games that I think are worth pulling the trigger on. I've done my research against the games I want, I know what he's asking what they are worth.. When I ask him how much he wants, he totals up the number and says 17,700 (which is the right amount, he's playing the role of a real business man here..)
We do the negotiation dance, and he is pretty firm on pricing making me really work to squeeze this deal out of him, and finally after a "convincing" negotiation I've got him down to 13,500 for these 5 games. But, I tell him before I send money I'd like to talk to someone that he's done business with before.
He sends me the email of someone not far from me (about an hour+) that he conveniently has sold games to recently. Here is the snippet of our dialogue.
I was given your email by Richard Keynes, a pinball supplier from Los Angeles. I'm placing a large order with him and asked him for a reference. He mentioned you have purchased a few machines from him in the past. Could you spare a few minutes for a phone call to let me know about your experience? I would sincerely appreciate it. Thanks in advance.
Hi Mr. (lastname),
just got your email, I'm on vacation in Mexico with family. maybe gonna give you a ring tomorrow if needed. I got 3 machines from him, he is a serious guy. I hope to buy 1 more in February.
Then a 2nd email:
my mobile 571-316-1381 (571 is the same area code as me, pretty smart)
gonna call tomorrow, got your mail late.
So I call the next day and talk with him, an American sounding fellow with perhaps a slight accent but he lives in Woodbridge (town near me) and invites me to come see his games.. these are his first games, he is really happy with what he bought, etc.
I'm still a little leary of the whole situation, after all, $13,500 is a lot of money but these 5 games for that is dirt CHEAP (that's the bait). I ask my new friend Richard if he would mind sending me a picture of the machines but this time with a piece of paper with my name written on it next to the machines. He informed me that the machines are already wrapped for shipping (it's been a few days now) but he would oblige, no problem.
I thought.. you know, I'm going to create a fake e-mail account and send him another note on craigslist, and ask him if he still has that CFTBL. If he's a scammer, he'll write back and tell me he does right? Nope, THAT machine is spoken for. At this point, I'm feeling like this is the real deal!
I was at work for this part of the deal, and otherwise distracted with a normal busy day.. and this I believe is how they are usually successful. I quickly glanced at the photo on my phone.. and that note... has my name, and the shipping address on it, and attached to a bunch of wrapped pinball machines! Ok, this guy is serious!
So.. after mulling this over w/ my buddy who is going in on this deal with me.. we work out a plan and he initiates a wire transfer to the guys bank..
Account Name .....B.R.F SA
Progressive Bank / 6510 henderson ave shrevport
Account number: (Removed in case it's someone's for real)
Routing : 111102596
At this point I'm thinking, OK cool, It's a US based account. It is kinda weird though that it's in Louisiana, but maybe we misunderstood him when he said he's in LA.. he's actually in Shreveport, LA?
He also said that a van was leaving tonight to take some of the other games to NY, and that if the wire transfer went through they could get on the same van, and we'd get the games faster. Great right?
We actually get to the point where the wire transfer goes through, the whole way home from work I'm jawwing it up with my buddy absolutely stoked about what is coming in the mail in the very near future! Excitedly I get home and look at the pictures our friend "Richard" sent in more detail. Wait a second.. that looks photoshopped? (I deleted my address on here)
I also notice that our friend "Richard" now has a new google profile picture, he's a sharp dressed professional man! Just trying to get his pinball flipping business started right?
A quick google search for this picture.. (In Chrome, right click "search google for this image") I find that this picture, is actually of a well known professor! http://engineering.ok.ubc.ca/faculty/lbichler.html Poor guy, roped into this and he didn't even know..
Frantically I call the receiving bank and ask them.. "Hey, if you guys got the money already I need you to Freeze the account or something because I think I just got ripped off.." I gave them the account number, and they told me that no wire had gone through yet "phew"
My buddy calls his bank to see if they can stop the wire transfer, I'm sweating bullets hoping it's not too late.. $13,500!! that would suck.
The longest 4 minutes of my life passes by while I wait for my friend to let me know the deal.. and quickly I get a call back and he says..
"Dude, it's cool.. it never went out the door.."
Holy hell, what a bullet dodging.
Now.. I see very similar ads popping up in my neck of the woods, on the DC craigslist (example below). So, I figured I needed to take the story here so that hopefully I save someone some real pain.
I hope that you guys found this informative, and slightly entertaining (but hopefully not too entertaining at my expense!) I feel so embarrassed and foolish, but hope this transparent post helps someone else out in the future.
TL:DR Craigslist pinball scammers suck, but they didn't get us this time.