How to avoid software bartering scams on Craigslist
September 13, 2007 3:55 PM   Subscribe

Can someone explain the "I will exchange for new, boxed software" scam on Craigslist to me?

I see posts on Craigslist all the time offering pretty good deals, usually for consumer electronics, in exchange for software (as I live in Seattle, it's usually Microsoft or Adobe software that people are looking for). Here's an example post looking to trade off a new Canon 40D for some "new, boxed MS or Adobe products". A 40D runs close to $2k, a copy of Photoshop is a few hundred bucks.

Following the old adage that if a deal looks to good to be true, it probably is, I have to ask: what's the scam here? I see this far too often for it to be coincidental (usually a few times a week) but I can't quite pin down the problem.
posted by jimray to Computers & Internet (18 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I would have to wonder if it wasn't a way to "launder" stolen goods for something that could be sold legitimately.
posted by Enron Hubbard at 4:00 PM on September 13, 2007

Hmm. I'm curious now, too. All a guess, but it could be:

1) You send the software, they never send the camera.


2) They tell you "We don't need the software anymore, but I'll sell you the camera for $1000-- you're saving $1000!" The mark is so excited about the good deal that they paypal/western union the money and get nothing in return.
posted by sharkfu at 4:06 PM on September 13, 2007

Best answer: It is to exploit Microsoft or Adobe employee's company discount on their own software.

Where the software retails for X, it may have a discounted price Y for employees that is a fraction of X. The value of the bartered item would be somewhere between X and Y.

This is against company policy at Microsoft (selling discounted software for personal gain), and I imagine Adobe has a similar policy as well.
posted by Diddly at 4:21 PM on September 13, 2007

Yes, so we're not talking about one copy of Photoshop here.
posted by smackfu at 4:25 PM on September 13, 2007

Do we necessarily know it's a scam? Money laundering is illegal, but it could still involve a transaction where they send you the $stolenProduct and you send them the $otherStuff.
posted by tehloki at 4:33 PM on September 13, 2007

Wait...unless I'm reading the ad wrong...the "scammer" is offering to trade the *camera* in return for some software. *And* he's got a receipt. Maybe it's not a scam?
posted by edjusted at 4:38 PM on September 13, 2007

microsoft (or companies hired by them) often pays software testers in software, which they sell or trade.
posted by enaira at 4:41 PM on September 13, 2007

The camera is likely real and functional. The only "scam" is on Microsoft or Adobe corp.

If it was discovered that the employee was abusing the discount software privileges, they would most likely be fired. This has happened before.
posted by Diddly at 4:41 PM on September 13, 2007

I don't understand your logic, Diddly. He's looking to trade for the software that he doesn't have.
posted by mkultra at 5:06 PM on September 13, 2007

Best answer: He's going to sell the software. Microsoft employees get substantial discounts on Microsoft software. He's offering to help unscrupulous employees launder their cheap software.

I'm totally guessing here, but I imagine he's going to want >> $2K (msrp) of software for which the employee paid << $2K. Which reminds me, new version of office, yeah office for Christmas for everyone this year! I can't wait to see my 11-year-old nephew's eyes light up.
posted by Wood at 5:21 PM on September 13, 2007

Wait, I'm confused. How would recieving software you don't have from someone not an employee of MS or Adobe be exploiting their discount? The ad-maker is GIVING a camera and RECIEVING software, not selling the software for personal gain. Or did I miss something?
posted by nervestaple at 6:14 PM on September 13, 2007

Wait, I think I've got it, he's advertising hoping the employees read it -- is that it?
posted by nervestaple at 6:15 PM on September 13, 2007

Best answer: (Yes, this ad is targeted at MS/Adobe employees, or people who recieved software as part of a usability test, etc)

We have Ad Guy (AG) and Microsoft Bob (MB).

MB buys 10 copies discounted Office Pro for $100 ea ($1000).

AG buys a 40D for $2000.

MB and AG swap goods.

MB just bought a $2000 camera for $1000. A profit of $1000.

AG sells the copies of Office on ebay for $300 each ($3000). Subtract his initial investment of the camera, and now he has also made $1000 in profit.

Both AG and MB are profiting from the deal.

Microsoft Corp is losing money, because the 10 ebay users that wanted Office could've bought from a legit retailer instead, giving the profit to MS (and the retailer) instead of AG.
posted by Diddly at 6:27 PM on September 13, 2007 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Diddly seems to be right on here. MS and Adobe are getting scammed, in a sense, and any of their employees who would go through with this are putting their jobs at risk. Thanks!
posted by jimray at 6:51 PM on September 13, 2007

Do Microsoft and Adobe actually permit employees to buy ten discounted copies at a time? If so, I don't have a lot of sympathy for the companies.
posted by srt19170 at 7:04 PM on September 13, 2007

I went to the UW, Seattle and have actually done this before. Microsoft offers "points" for testing software. After earning a certain number of points you are allowed to select a piece of software.

Almost everyone I knew at UW did this at one point or another.

The entire rundown of meeting the guy always seemed a bit shady. You'd call a guy, meet at a gas station parking lot and in return for the software you'd get a couple hundred bucks. I never asked what he did with the software. I'm assuming he just resold it. My friends and I always used the same person but there were several people who were willing to buy software.

No one I knew was ever "ripped off."
posted by ASM at 7:25 PM on September 13, 2007

Response by poster: srt19170 - MS employees (dunno about Adobe) get a yearly "allowance," usually a few thousand bucks, that of software that they're allowed to purchase. Technically, you can buy as many copies of Vista as you want (for personal and immediate family use) as long as you don't exceed that cap.

Also, there's a big old sticker along with your employee ID emblazoned on the box, such that if a copy of Word you've paid $20 ends up on eBay, you're fired.
posted by jimray at 7:42 PM on September 13, 2007

Mod note: a few comments removed, please don't turn this into a discussion of Microsoft's software policies
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 12:00 PM on September 14, 2007

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