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Fraudulent activities in online trading have been around ever since the Internet became available to everyone. A "stomping ground" for fraudsters is naturally also the world's largest auction house eBay. While in the beginning, the fraudulent intentions shifted to electrical appliances and plagiarisms of many noble brands, now the trade with cult wines and noble champagnes is increasingly affected. Mostly, it is not about fakes but about the sale of wines that are not in the seller's possession at all. Of course, measured by the number of wines offered, there are some "black sheep" involved, which also exist outside the online trade. Ebay is trying hard to identify and block fraudulent sellers, but this is bordering on Sisyphean work. Up to now, the biggest fraud case with noble crescents has not been solved. Even German and Austrian officials are investigating various cult wine fraudsters. Yet, the supplier of a true cult wine rarity is unidentified until today. Connections from the Ukraine to Venezuela are uncovered again and again for such activities (intention to defraud). Here is the biggest and most interesting case of the year 2007

Interested in 5 double magnums Masseto 2001?

On 22.06.2007 a seller with eBay member name "asbelabah" (103 positive ratings) posted 5 bottles of Masseto 2001 in rare double magnum format. The article number was 160130543733. Apart from the very questionable rating overview, every wine lover should be aware that this wine is not available at a bargain price, certainly not in this bottle size and then also five times. Tenuta Ornellaia is very careful with the distribution of these large bottles. Moreover, the eBay rating should set alarm bells ringing with every prospective buyer. 103 positive reviews, but only 2 in the last 3 years. And not even as a seller. But first things first.

Cash on delivery?

In the description of the item, the payment terms also included the option of cash on collection. I entered - suspecting the fraud - the fictitious amount of 50,000.00 and auctioned the item after 3 days for 1,911.01 per bottle. The email I received as the winner of the auction was also with fraudulent intent. Only the original account holder's information was correct. Actually dilletant and stupid. Original owner's address was @web.com. The manipulated email address was h@yahoo.com. Sender was a Mr. Anton Schwaber (name changed/original known to the editors), but the money was supposed to be transferred to another person. Here is the original email:

Hello Werner Feldner,

a nice day and congratulations on winning the auction.
Please transfer the amount of EUR 9588 including shipping costs (insured shipping)
Insured shipping)
to the account listed below.

Valentina Cuhnenko
BANK CODE:30020900
IBAN: DE22 3002 0900 2907 5903 93

Please add the FULL item number and the Ebay name to the transfer. If you buy more than one item, two item numbers and the Ebay name are sufficient. If these details are missing, an assignment of your transfer is more difficult and there may be delays.
Shipping is exclusively by Deutsche Post (DHL).
Please note the duration of a bank transfer (online = 1-2 days, bank transfer
3-4 working days). Please inform me as soon as you have transferred the amount.

The umlauts were probably not available on an English keyboard. The text was probably pre-written and the recipient name and account details were inserted afterwards. This is indicated by the different font. I replied that I would like to take the item "cash on collection". Thereupon no answer came. But the next day a surprise.

Cheekiness wins?

On 27.06. the article was set again. Again 5 bottles, again 3 days time. Item number: 160132337710. Now I informed an acquaintance and asked him to bid on this item and follow up, which he did. He got the 5 double magnums even cheaper and also wanted to take advantage of the cash on collection point. He received the same email and also no answer to his request. Now it became too much for the fraudster and - unbelievable - he stopped the offer on 02.07. for the third time. Item number: 160133779569, but with one change. The point cash on collection was deleted and it was only possible to pay by bank transfer. Again there were enough bidders for this item, but significantly less than in the first two auctions. In the meantime, after much research, I managed to contact the original owner of the account. He was completely surprised and assured me that he had not done anything with eBay for almost a year. Of course, he couldn't access his hacked account and alerted eBay. I, too, reported the items to eBay. But anyone who bids on eBay often knows how long it takes for an illegal auction to be removed.

It comes still thicker!

Those who have been shaking their heads in disbelief will now be even more amazed. What was to follow is almost worthy of a cabaret - and of course highly criminal. On 05.07. you could find the Masseto 2001 offer again. After the first unsuccessful attempts, the seller now went completely crazy and offered 15 (yes, right! fifteen) bottles of these double magnums. Despite a negative review with "CAUTION FRAUD! CRACKED ACCOUNT!" (congratulations - an Austrian member responded!) there were again bidders who seemingly blindly placed their bids. The fact that eBay did not block this account the first time is incomprehensible to me, but quite common.

The first victims

It came - as not to be expected otherwise - to the first victims. By the way, the picture which was used for the offer came from an Austrian eBay member. To use foreign, copied pictures without permission of the originator is nothing unusual on eBay, but very annoying. Not only annoying, but downright angry, a Zurich businessman came forward as the deceived party. As the losing bidder, he had transferred a large amount of money and never heard from the seller again. The money is, I assure you, lost forever and he will never see the goods. By means of eBay buyer protection the defrauded person receives a ridiculous compensation of about 200...- Also a Dutch buyer contacted me and did not want to believe that it was about fraud. How many aggrieved parties there are, is beyond my knowledge and will probably be found out. Unfortunately, Ebay does not allow any evaluations of buyers if the Ebay account has been cancelled or the member is no longer registered. There were also rows and rows of scam listings in the fall. Even wine traders* fell into the trap of the crooks. This time, despite the lost money, there was enough time for some scammers to post negative reviews, because eBay blocked the scammer's account very late. The name of the now-defunct member is "blausteffi789". The list of scams could go on and on with Mouton and Lafite Rotschild, Le Pin, Latour, etc., but that is beyond the scope of this report.

Helpful tips for buying wine on eBay can be found here.

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