P-P-P-Powerbook!

P-P-P-Powerbook!

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Updated Aug 08, 2013 at 04:47PM EDT by Brad.  

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Overview

P-P-P-Powerbook refers to a replica of an Apple Powerbook laptop handcrafted by Something Awful member Jeff Harris to prank an eBay buyer who tried to scam him using a bogus escrow service.

Background

In Spring 2004, Seattle resident Jeff Harris[1] put a 19-day old G4 Powerbook laptop computer up for sale on the auction site eBay. Several days into the auction, he received a message[2] from an interested party offering the “Buy It Now” price of $2100 for the computer as long as he would be able to pay Harris through an escrow service, a popular way to scam[3] eBay users out of both their item and money at the time.

Hello I am very interested in your unit. I would like to know your best price to buy it now and if you ship international. I am in London UK right now. I would also want to know the condition of the unit. Please let me know I am very interested. Thank you in advance

Thank you,
msalamon


The email’s spelling and grammar errors, combined with the escrow links, led Harris to believe that this was a scam. He wanted to take advantage of the situation and scam the scammer back. On April 3rd, 2004[4], Harris created a discussion thread on the Something Awful forums asking for help on the best way to respond to the scammer’s email.

Notable Developments

In that thread, several forum members[5] pointed out that the URL to the VeriSign part of the escrow site was a Javascript pop up made to look legitimate. Upon confirming that it is a scam, Harris responded to the scammer’s original e-mail stating that he had joined the escrow service. In turn, the buyer replied to Harris with a fake confirmation number and a shipping address in London, United Kingdom. Once the address was acquired, Harris then asked other forum members what his next course of action should be. On April 27th, 2004, EricFate[6] submitted the following suggestion:

Send a three ring binder with a hand drawn keyboard taped to the inside of the bottom flap, and a hand drawn screen taped to the inside of the top flap. Crayon preferred.

The P-P-P-Powerbook

Harris decided to take EricFate’s suggestion and posted pictures of a laptop replica which he dubbed “P-P-P-Powerbook!”:




Delivery

The next day, Something Awful user Pipski[7] went to the address Harris posted, which turned out to be a combination barber shop and Internet cafe. Several people posting in the thread decided to stalk out the package’s FedEx tracking number, waiting for the arrival of the scammer. The morning the package was due to be delivered, Something Awful user Starbucks went to the cafe to check the computers’ histories[8] for keyloggers. When FedEx finally arrived[9], the package could not be delivered since the phone number the scammer provided was fake. The scammer eventually had to go to the local FedEx office to pick up the P-P-P-Powerbook.

Aftermath

Once the package arrived, Harris emailed the scammer saying that he was having connection problems with the escrow site, but was happy that the package arrived because he “thought [he] had lost [his] powerbook for good in some kind of scam.” The scammer, who now realized he was being scammed himself, proceeded to DDoS Harris’ website, P-p-p-powerbook.com[10], and emailed Harris a W32.Beagle virus[11], a worm that mass-emails itself to people in the affected’s address book. No further updates were made to the site or the discussion thread on Something Awful. After the prank was completed, the story was shared on MetaFilter[12], Slashdot[13], Engadget[14], and BoingBoing[15] in May 2004.

Search Interest

Google’s search interest for P-P-P-Powerbook and MyNameIsJeff both peaked in May 2004, the same month the prank began hitting news sources.



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