Lazy thief seeks obliging victim; click OK to continue

Because I solicit donations via PayPal, I receive a certain amount of PayPal-related... noise.

Usually, it's someone who wants to join what they believe to be the Internet-panhandling jet-set, and wants to know my secrets. My advice in this area often causes disappointment, as it boils down to "spend ten years making a well-liked Web site with a thousand or so pages".

Some people, though, have hit upon a refreshingly direct alternative to asking the Internet in general to send them money. They, instead, very specifically ask a particular person to send them a particular amount of money, by sending a PayPal Money Request to someone who's never even heard of them.

PayPal lets you do this very easily. Just click the Request Money tab, enter a target e-mail address (preferably someone who's already got a PayPal account), and the amount you're asking for. The size of that amount is only limited by your audacity.

I just got such a request, from one "Nadz bali",, for fifty British pounds. So "Nadz" is fairly audacious.

There've been several others. "Max swan", (hmmm...) tried it on for thirty quid on the 20th of April, and for three hundred pounds on the nineteenth. Someone I won't name because there's a 0.01% chance he might actually have been sincere asked for $US75 on the 16th of December last year, adding a Note that said "I need to get food for my family for christmas. Please help. God Bless". "Alon Gubkin",, asked for a mere five bucks at the end of October 2007. And on and on it goes. The US-currency record was "rea",, who tried for $US500 on the seventh of May last year.

These attempts aren't frequent - they've only been happening to me at all since the start of 2007, and there've been only nine attempts to date. And it's very easy to just click the "Cancel" button and go about your day. So this is definitely one of the more inoffensive Internet scams. It's hardly a scam at all, really; it doesn't even rise to the level of walking up to someone in the street and saying "Could I have fifty quid, please?", because the PayPal version does not suggest that a mugging may be about to take place.

At base, this scheme is just an extension of the old scam where you send businesses invoices for things you never supplied to them, and hope they're unorganised enough that they pay up. The PayPal version would actually be conceptually exactly the same as that scam - except the people who try it, at least in my experience, almost never put anything in the "Subject" line of their money request.

Nope; they almost always just send me a bald, naked request for cash, and I click the "no" button, and then we both go about our days.

If only all human bad behaviour could be reduced to such simplicity.

6 Responses to “Lazy thief seeks obliging victim; click OK to continue”

  1. Chazzozz Says:

    Wow...I feel like I've clicked into a time warp or something. The very first link in this blog post (the one from 'My advice' in the second paragraph) points to a letters column on Dan's Data from perhaps a couple of years ago (I dunno, you never leave the 'Originally posted...' date up there any more). To refresh my memory, I clicked on the link to re-read the letter in question. Much to my surprise, the very next letter in the self-same column was about none other than...Firepower!

    And here I was willing to believe that you'd come good on your promise to post about Lego or something. It was just a flimsy scam to slip in more about Firepower, wasn't it? A scam, I say! A scam!


  2. Daniel Rutter Says:

    Yeah, that letters column really had something for everyone :-).

    I don't know why I decided to make my letters columns date-less, with only the almost-useless "last modified" date, but I'm actually going back through them and manually putting dates on 'em. Should have done it in the first place; no-one to blame but myself.

    (I've skipped forward in my date-adding now, and covered columns number 170 to 180. The one with the original Firepower mention was from October 2006.)

    [Update: I've now grovelled through all of the old letters columns, and put a publication date on every one. A few only have the month and year, because I'm not exactly sure which day I put 'em up, but that'll do.]

  3. Jonadab Says:

    > Because I solicit donations via PayPal,
    > I receive a certain amount of PayPal-related noise.

    I think everyone with a publicly-available email address receives PayPal-related noise. My mail filters at home and at work both have special categories for Paypal-related junkmail, and I've never even had a Paypal account. In fact, I think the Paypal-related messages outnumber the 419 scams, though of course they've got nothing on vaigre[sic].

  4. Matt-S Says:

    So if I sent you a paypal request but put in the subject line something like 10x 35mm neodymium rare-earth magnets. I might stand a chance?

  5. Itsacon Says:

    That's why I have a LOT of different aliases on my mail account. Each spam mail that reaches my inbox can thus be traced back to the cause of the leak. Kill the alias, spam gone.

    Works suprisingly well so far...

  6. Daniel Rutter Says:

    So if I sent you a paypal request but put in the subject line something like 10x 35mm neodymium rare-earth magnets. I might stand a chance?

    Only if I remember buying them from you :-).

    (These late comments presumably sparked by these tweets.)

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