Letter: J. Edgar Hoover, RIP
December 16, 2014
This past week, I was shopping for a vehicle on Craigslist. I found a couple vehicles I was interested in and contacted the people to get more information. I received polite and courteous replies quickly from these people, both with the same plight: Their husbands had recently died, they were struggling to pay their mortgages and wanted to sell their husbands' vehicles quickly. I was impressed that these two ladies structured their replies in the exact same manner.
Being little old ladies with recently deceased husbands, they were, of course, wary of the Internet and wanted to ensure that I would not take their vehicles without paying, which is why they (both) said they had established personal accounts with eBay so that they could guarantee everyone's safety.
We feel sorry for these poor old ladies, losing their husbands and stuck with their mortgages. They quickly sent me links to their vehicles on (supposedly) eBay. I am sure it was an honest mistake that the link in the email said it was eBay, but actually went to an Italian hosting site that looks exactly like eBay. I found myself just one page away from turning my funds over to some burly dude with a cigar in his face. A classic fish tale.
The cherry on top is dealing with the FBI. When you report a crime of this type to the FBI, they direct you to a one page reporting interface that looks the same as it did eight years ago, and the reply: We receive thousands of these complaints a week, we cannot address every one of them. They make you swear, under penalty of perjury, that you aren't faking it, and threaten you with fines and imprisonment.
Eight years ago, I had a similar experience with some similar unsavory types, and managed to get Interpol involved, and they were able to shut down an evildoer website. The FBI, on the other hand, said it wasn't worth their time to close the bank account I identified for them as they will just set up another. I wonder why the banks are so diligent when I open an account, and so sloppy with the bad guys.
We read and listen to the news that the National Security Agency can eavesdrop on every call in many countries simultaneously. We see a husband and wife, coincidentally ordering a backpack and pressure cooker, being swarmed by SWAT while they are still online. We have this perception that the U.S. government can track anyone, anywhere, down in an instant. It takes a couple of minutes to identify a bogus listing on Craigslist.
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My advice to the general public: Buyers beware, the bad guys are good at what they do. My advice to the federal government: consider applying some of our tax dollars to tracking down these scofflaws. Being portrayed as omnipotent law enforcement agents, and then acting like The Three Stooges in real life, is unacceptable.