If there’s a sucker born every minute, that person is probably hoping to find a crazy-cheap deal on an iPad or iPhone in the newspaper.
The San Francisco Examiner published an article about Apple’s flap with local government over their withdrawal from the Electronic Product Environmental Assessment (EPEAT) rating system with a half-page ad selling discount iPads right below it. An ad that was way, way too good to be true.
The ad beckons with large image of a white iPad and an iPhone, bordered by a claim in uncertain English that starts:
“Brand New Apple iPad 3 64GB wifi 4G..$700 We have in stock, the availability of the New/Latest phones ranging from?”
On offer are some dubious-sounding deals including the “iPad 3 64GB 4G” for $700 and the “iPhone 4G 16GB” for $350.
Customers who want to grab these deals are invited to contact the “Mobile Phone Limited” company through a Hotmail account, a phone number with a
London area code UK mobile phone, or via Yahoo messenger chat.
The same scammy-sounding ad, also in today’s edition of what was once a flagship Hearst Corp. title, has appeared in at least two other U.S. editions – Boston and Philadelphia – of freebie paper Metro recently, according to our search.
Cult of Mac wrote to the Hotmail address which was answered almost immediately by someone called iPhone John, who offered us the “apple ipad 3 32GB wifi 4gb” assuring us that is is “Original and Brand new in Box with 1 year warranty…” And a special offer, buy three, get one free for the just $650. If the ad itself and the contact information didn’t set off a few warning bells, the payment by Western Union also requested in the email should set off a few.
Neal O’Farrell, executive director of the nonprofit Identity Theft Council, took a look at the ad and the email Cult of Mac received from the Hotmail address. O’Farrell says it’s probably the work of a 419 scammer, in which people are asked to advance money in exchange for goods or huge bank payouts. O’Farrell added that the Yahoo handle “moseschurch21” is behind a variety of scams, from sketchy car sales to bogus jobs.
Editorial and advertising are supposed to be separate – like church and state – but such a large ad placed under an article with staff reporting about Apple should’ve drawn notice.
“The media are often consenting accomplices in these scams because they either accept and display ads that are obviously suspicious or simply don’t vet the advertising at all,” O’Farrell said. “Scammers are counting on media outlets to turn a blind eye until victims protest. By then it’s too late.”
We’ve reached out to the Examiner about their advertising policy, more to come.