Exposing a Two-Bit Scammer
Update 12-9-09: This story continues to get a lot of hits (it has been accessed 18,291 times since someone linked to it at Reddit two weeks ago), and I am aware that with the updates it has gotten really, really long. But people keep e-mailing me and asking for updates. Therefore, I am taking out the updates and putting them in a separate story: Updates on the Diablo Scammer
Below is the initial story (with a few updates inserted into the story).
My regular readers can ignore this, as it has nothing to do with energy or the environment.
This post is about a small-time scammer who tried to rip me off – and who has been ripping others off for years. After I didn’t roll over for him, he resorted to sending me numerous threats and harassing e-mails, going so far as to threaten harm to my elementary school aged son. I wasn’t about to let him get away with this. (The whole issue is about him scamming people and wasting their time, not about possibly losing a trivial amount of money).
What kind of low-life loser resorts to such tactics? I can tell you exactly what kind of loser. I even know his name, despite his attempts to hide behind numerous aliases. I will explain all, primarily to keep other people from having to deal with this person.
After I started investigating, I found that he has been scamming people for a long time. As one person aptly put it in this thread (where the scammer is explaining that he has learned his lesson and “realized scamming finally wasn’t the best thing to do“):
“You are almost comical in how naive and assured in how you are entitled to everything that’s not yours.“ Yep, that is how I would describe him.
As I will document here, there are many reports on his scams. By writing this, people who are trying to figure out if he is running a scam should run across this in their Google search results – and they will know to steer clear. Something like this is what I had in mind, which are actual Google search results following the publication of this essay:
There you see his Google ad over to the right (Diablo 2 Cd-Key for $4.99), and this essay is the first one in search results. The other two shown also link to this essay. The good news is that this essay has gotten quite a bit of traffic since I posted it (and now even more since he is trying to run a fresh scam over at Reddit; my guess is the fresh scam is so he can start using PayPal again after being booted), even though I buried it on the 2nd page of my blog and locked the comments. So maybe I have saved some people from the annoyance and attempted petty theft that I am about to describe.
This all started on 10-26-09, but I am back-dating this post so it doesn’t show up on the first page (but still high enough that the Google spiders will find it).
Here is the story. I like to play computer games with my kids. One of the games we play is called Diablo II, and to play together online we need two licensed copies of the game on two computers. I especially like to play with them when I am traveling, as we can play together even as I am sitting in a hotel room in a remote location. Since I already have the software, all I needed was another license. (Actually two, as there is also an expansion pack).
Recently I was traveling and I was going to be in a hotel room for three nights, and so I wanted to play some games with the kids. I did a Google search for Diablo II Game Keys, and up popped a Google ad for this site: http://www.diablo-keys.com/. Go there, and here is a snapshot of part of their ad:
Note the language of the ad. “The keys are fresh from the box – unmuted, unbanned and only in use by you.” The bottom portion of the ad reads “If you have any problem with any of the keys, we will replace them free of charge, forever. All orders are shipped INSTANYLY [sic] upon purchase.”
There were other comparable ads, but this was the best price, so I bought two licenses (keys). I almost bought multiple sets – and would have later on – except for what happened after I bought the keys. Right after I got them, I tried them out and found out that they had already been registered. In other words, they were not “fresh from the box”, and were in fact worthless since I could not use them for playing the game. This was very annoying, because I told my son I would play with him as soon as I got the keys. Scratch that plan.
But I gave the merchant the benefit of the doubt, and simply reported that the keys didn’t work:
For both of the keys below, I received this message when I tried to authenticate and add them to my Battlenet Account:
The authentication key you entered has already been claimed.
Each authentication key can only be redeemed once. Please refer to your games section of the home page to review the keys attached to this Battle.net account. If you’re sure you have not previously claimed this key, please double-check the spelling and enter it now.
The response I got was pretty lame, and immediately aroused my suspicions:
We are glad to hear from you. We fully investigate and reply to each e-mail submitted to us. Whatever your concern is, expect the best customer support ever!
Your request will be answered within 24 hours. We will be glad to fix any problem you, valued customer, could get. To ensure the best customer service, please do not submit multiple e-mails unless you have new information to submit, or if we haven’t replied for 24 hours (this usually means our response has been blocked by your junk filter).
As again, thank you for your great customership and for your trust in Diablo-Keys, top Diablo 2 reseller !
At that point, I started wondering whether this person was trying to scam me. So I did some Google searches on Diablo Keys scam and some other related keywords. I found that I wasn’t the first to have a problem with this guy. Here is someone documenting that his keys didn’t work. And here is the abusive response from “Diablo-Keys, top Diablo 2 reseller:”
Now that’s what I call “the best customer support ever”! So the response from firstname.lastname@example.org, the same address responding to me, was to insult the customer who complained about getting ripped off.
I also noted that he had used PayPal, but when I bought my keys PayPal wasn’t the payment option. He was using a service called AlertPay.com. I think what that probably means is that PayPal dropped him after people complained about being ripped off. (Update: My hunch has been confirmed, as here is this loser whining that PayPal had dropped him):
Scammer: I would like to get in touch with a human as soon as possible. I feel I was misunderstood when explaining my situation to Paypal. I am ready to give every information to Paypal by phone or even in person.
I have been with Paypal for three years and had excellent standing all along. I have a lot of satisfied customers.
What basically happened is that when a buyer wants to exerce his 30-days moneyback guarantee or when he is not satisfied for any reason, I encourage him to open a dispute, which I promptly refund. However, technical glitches prevented me from doing so and disputes started to accumulate, until my suspension.
I eventually got the “due to the risk involved” speech. Now Paypal is all my life, I started my business from SCRATCHES with it. I am also literally crying now. If anyone could contact me to help at email@example.com I would greatly, greatly appreciate. [RR: This is a very different tone from the first link above, where he says he isn't going to pay PayPal for refunding $4,000 to customers who asked for their money back. So, how did that work out for you, scammer?]
Boo-hoo. That’s what happens when you rip people off. They complain, and you don’t get to keep doing it forever. And if PayPal is “all your life”, then your life is indeed as pathetic as I thought it was. Here he is whining about Ebay suspending him. Of course the life of a scammer is bound to be full of such incidents.
Further down I will show you an e-mail I got from that same address: firstname.lastname@example.org. He isn’t playing the poor victim in that one.
I ran across multiple other accounts of people being ripped off by this clown, so I knew then that I was going to have trouble. In response to the delaying tactic I got when I reported the invalid keys, I wrote:
Guys, I have a blog with a whole lot of viewers. Please don’t try to get funny with these keys. After my keys didn’t work, I looked into it, and I see that others have reported the same problem:
So I either need to get my money back, or two keys that work. Failure to do either one will result in me publicizing this and reporting fraudulent advertising to Google Ads.
That’s when it took a turn toward the comical. Based on the response, I knew that this scammer was simply trying to wear me down and hope I just wrote it off like a lot of other people have done. But now it was about the principle of not letting a scammer get away with it:
We understand this problem might be frustrating.We are proud to offer one of the best customer service on the market, at no additional cost. Your satisfaction is our priority. We will do everything we can to fully satisfy you.
Per our 100% working guarantee, all products are guaranteed to be 100% working. We would be more than happy to give you all the required technical support at no charge. Our experts are ready to assist you. If you require any instructions, we can send full guide, written in simple words.
That one was signed “Carl.” Once more I asked for either a refund or keys that worked – or I would take action:
I don’t need technical support, I just need keys that haven’t already been authenticated. The ones you sent me have already been claimed. So please send another pair or refund the money. Otherwise I will just contact the credit card company, dispute the charge, contact Google Ads, and then write a story about this on my blog (and then it will be one of the first things that pops up when someone Googles “Diablo keys.”)
Note that I have made multiple requests for replacement keys, and all I was getting was stalling tactics. So I nearly fell out of my chair laughing when I got the following typo-riddled response (these “attorneys” apparently don’t know how to use spell-check). This was supposedly from a Joseph Karlson (email@example.com) who claims to have a law firm at www.KarlsonandKarlson.com (located in Canada, but now proven to be a fraud; they are using pictures of executives from HP and Apple as their “attorneys,” and I have notified HP Update: As of 12-6-09, the site appears to be shut down).
from Joseph Karlson
to Robert Rapier
date Tue, Oct 27, 2009 at 6:20 PM
subject CEASE AND DESIST- Diablo-Keys.com
My name is Joseph Karlson and I represent Diablo-Keys.com
This notice is to inform you my client, Diablo-Keys.com, intends to press charges against your person for harassment, defamation, verbal abuse and fraud.
On October 28th, 2009, despite various answers that your cd-keys would be replaced, you have chosen to keep harassing, threatening and insulting my client’s customer support agent. As you are surely aware, such a behavior is not only unethical, but illegal.
For this reason, I now seek reparation on behalf of my customer. We are legally required to inform you that we plan to press charges on October 30th, 2009, unless you complete the following points:
* A complete apology letter for your rude behavior and abuse towards my client’s employees.
* A statement of retraction of everything submitted, posted or writen against my customer.
* A $5,000 compensation for the time and efforts deployed in this case.
If you fail to fulfill the following points by October 30th, 2009, charges will be pressed against you directly in state courts. You will then have to defend yourself directly in court.
Diablo-Keys.com intends to fully pursue you for any damage, interest, claim and compensation caused by this situation. You have fourty-eight (48) hours to complete the above points. By law, you are now considered to have been served the required preliminary notice.
For any further information do not hesitate to communicate with me.
So, not satisfied with simply ripping people off, now he is trying scare tactics that might work on a 12-year-old kid by demanding $5,000. But the typo-ridden rant above (just like the typo-filled website of this “attorney”) simply made me laugh.
So after I stopped laughing, I responded to his lame extortion attempt. I also decided that instead of making a “statement of retraction of everything submitted”, I would do the opposite and publish all correspondence:
You are either the stupidest lawyer on the planet, or a fraud like your client to think you can “serve” someone over the Internet and across national borders.
Let me tell you what is going to happen. Your client is committing Internet fraud. He is fraudulently advertising keys to a game. He is guaranteeing that they work, and money back if not satisfied. He is selling keys that have already been sold and used, and therefore do not work.
So here is the deal. I tried to buy these keys for my son’s birthday. I received a lame response from your client informing me that my satisfaction is his highest priority. I informed him that I merely wanted keys that work, and then I received the same message from him again, and now this from you. So here is what is going to happen.
Your client has 12 hours to either refund my money or provide keys that work. Failure to do so will result in the following:
1. I will file a claim with the credit card company, explaining the nature of the fraud. As I have observed already, others have documented this fraud from your client.
2. I will file a report with Google, with whom your client is advertising. This will stop your client from advertising with them, as they will not tolerate fraud.
3. I will file a report with AlertPay, which your client is using to receive money.
4. I will document this on my blog, which has very high traffic. Rest assured that when people Google “D2 Keys”, on the first page of the Google results they will see “Diablo-Keys.com is a Scam.” Google my name if you think I am exaggerating.
5. I will file a report with the Internet Crime Complaint Center (http://www.ic3.gov/default.aspx)
Now, the ball is in your court. You don’t have to respond with any further lame threats. Your client has never offered to replace the keys; he just keeps saying that my satisfaction is his highest priority. So if you are truly stupid enough to harass me over this, assure that you will be counter-sued for wasting my time – and I think you know you will lose.
12 hours to replace the keys. Any other response will result in Actions 1-5 above, no further response from me, and publication of all correspondence related to this (which will put a damper in your client’s scam). To be honest, I will probably do all of that anyway, but if I get keys that work I might be in a generous mood and forget this ever happened.
Following that, I did go ahead and file reports with the Internet crime division (he may only be scamming $5 at a time, but I hate low-life scammers), I filed a dispute with AlertPay, and I filed a complaint with Google Ads. No response the next morning from the scammer, so I sent my final communication:
You have had 8 hours. Four more hours and I also have a word with the FBI’s Internet crime division. I think they would be interested in the $5,000 extortion attempt below.
About to get on a plane. When I get off, if I don’t have 2 working keys, or a refund, don’t say you weren’t warned. And I don’t bluff.
This will be the last communication from me.
One more comical response from his make-believe attorney, who doesn’t seem to understand the difference between civil and criminal law. It was pretty obvious that this was written by someone impersonating a lawyer.
from Joseph Karlson
to Robert Rapier
date Wed, Oct 28, 2009 at 4:19 AM
subject Re: CEASE AND DESIST- Diablo-Keys.com
Thank you for your response. Any additional evidence is appreciated and only adds to our evidence.
By harassing, threatening and blackmailing my client, Diablo-Keys.com, you have committed fraud under federal law. Although we intend to prosecute you under state laws, this crime is a felony in most of the United States and punishable by up to three years in jail and/or $100,000. As you are without a doubt aware, verbal violence is not tolerated, and Diablo-Keys.com will not make an exception.
As your e-mail was very clear, we will begin legal procedures against Mr. Robert Rapier in the state of Hawaii. Karlson and Karlson is authorized to practice civil law in the United States.
I have recommended my customer to refund your order both to help procedures and to prove good faith in the case of Diablo-Keys.com, Inc Vs. Robert Rapier. For now, you have nothing to do. As required by US Law, every legal document will be served to you. For now, you have nothing to do, except maybe finding a suitable attorney.
Diablo-Keys.com had no choice but to prosecute you to protect its brand, image and quality service. While it is sad this matter couldn’t be settled off court, you have given us very little choice.
For any further information do not hesitate to communicate with me.
LOL! Oh my, Diablo-Keys is going to “prosecute me.” Oh no, I have to get an attorney. I might go to jail for three years! What a douche. Bring it on! Remember that unpleasant lesson from PayPal? I would be glad to give you another on our legal system. I should be so lucky as to meet them in court. The harassment and verbal abuse was coming from Diablo-Keys themselves – as I document below.
Then the scammer himself continued to e-mail me:
from Lawrence Irwin “firstname.lastname@example.org”
to Robert Rapier
date Wed, Oct 28, 2009 at 4:09 AM
subject Re: CEASE AND DESIST- Diablo-Keys.com
Thank you for the additional evidence. I know you mentionned this was the last communication, but please keep writing to us: every e-mail is more and more evidence and our lawyer LOVES it.
Our lawyer has been very strict: we are unable to make comment this situation. We will see each other in court.
So Lawrence Irwin (just one of many aliases this coward hides behind) at email@example.com, is “unable to make comment” on the “very strict” advice of his make-believe attorney. But stupid people rarely know when to shut up. So two minutes later, he sends this:
Yes, continuing the theme of illiteracy, “such it hard” is his answer. He must have gotten help with the spelling from his “attorney.” This is perhaps the stupidest person I have ever encountered on the Internet. So what kind of scumbag loser is this guy? Here are excerpts from one of the e-mails that I got from the address listed above in his pathetic PayPal whine – firstname.lastname@example.org. Remember that he “literally cried” when PayPal booted him:
Thank you for the post on you shitty blog. We at Diablo-Keys always enjoy a good laugh. Plus, we now have even more material proofs of harassement and libel.
You really have an ego problem. You seem to think the world rotate arounds you, so here are a few reminders:
1) You are a shit engineer working on shitty biofuels no one will ever use. When is the last time you used a car that ran on biofuel? Thought so.
What pisses me off is not the stupid bullshit you can write about us: it’s the fact that I know part of the taxes I pay return to you under subventions, to finance your useless research. I know that somewhere, some of the taxes are paid are used to pay your overpaid salary to work on some bullshit no one will ever use.
Do you begin to see why PayPal dropped him? Rip people off, and then on top of that start harassing them in barely coherent English. Not a very good business plan. There was in fact much more, including a threat to harm my son (all of which has been turned over to the police). That’s the kind of customer service you can expect from “Diablo-Keys.” The funny thing is the classic case of projection. I got e-mail after e-mail like this, and upon investigating this guy I found that his comments actually reflect his own pathetic life. In one e-mail (this time from email@example.com), he wrote:
HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA TEXAS A&M UNIVERSITY HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH No wonder you’re such a big faggot. I wish I had gone to a third-class university as well.
I can’t stop laughing at how stupid and pathetic you are. Do me a favor and post this next segment unedited so that the three person who will (maybe) read that can allege: And you say I AM the scammer?
Each day, you take up grants from government to pay for useless research. Each day, hard-working americans like myself serve to pay your $7 cappucino and stupid research.
Here is a community college graduate from Montreal ragging on a Top 20 Engineering School. Classic projection, and constantly playing the victim: Those meanies at Ebay unfairly banned him, then PayPal unfairly banned him, and now to add insult to injury “his hard-earned money” is paying my salary.
That’s hilarious. My company isn’t operating under any government grants, and he is French Canadian, resides in Quebec, and thus is not paying U.S. taxes anyway. He is a leech on society, and it is people getting ripped off who are paying his salary. He probably wishes to be a productive member of society, but has no marketable skills. So he rips people off, and then projects his pathetic life upon those who complain about it. (Incidentally, I have no idea how many of these abusive responses he has attempted to send, because every time he sends one from a new alias I block the e-mail address. I must have blocked over ten so far).
One more funny thing happened that just demonstrated how pathetic this guy is. He spent part of one day just signing me up for spam mailing lists. LOL! Interestingly, some others who have dealt with this guy have spent a lot of time digging information up on him, and there is a history over his penchant for spam mailing lists:
Note that there is a link in there that says he once owned spamza.com. His business plan? Provide a place to sign people up for spam mailing lists. The site was eventually shut down. More on that story here.
The other link that dug into this guy’s background is this (as you can see, he has really made a lot of friends):
He has many aliases, but has screwed up enough times that I now know his actual identity. In closing, I just want to respond here to an e-mail that he sent me on 11-20-09. The following e-mail came from another (now-blocked) alias – firstname.lastname@example.org:
I just want to tell you that I did not forget about you, and that the procedures are ongoing, and that I have not forgotten about you. I am from Diablo-Keys.com. I have given you my word, and I will respect it.
I hope you enjoy being a loser. I have a little surprise for you soon. It happens that there are not that many Robert Rapier in Hawaii. Tell your son to be very careful when talking to strangers after school .
See you soon piece of shit,
Can you believe that this guy has such a pathetic life that he is still at this a month after he started it? The police took a special interest in that e-mail. Turns out that threatening to harm a child (2nd time) is something they take quite seriously. They referred to it as a “terror threat” and there is a case number assigned to it. I am now pursuing this to the point that the next time he sneezes, I will know it. This is a person who belongs in jail. So the cowardly scumbag is probably correct that we will see each other soon – just not the way he fantasizes about. In any case, I have to be in Montreal multiple times next year. I wonder if he would like to explain some of these e-mails to my face?
So if you happened upon this because you were trying to determine whether http://www.diablo-keys.com/ is a scam, now you know. The scam is operated by a delusional, low-life loser who thinks the world owes him something, and has already been kicked off of both Ebay and PayPal.
Here is how the scam goes:
1. He sells you a non-functioning product (but this means he is selling something that does not belong to him as someone else has already purchased the keys). You pay $5 because he claims they are new.
2. You report that the keys are invalid, and he promises to investigate.
3. He stalls and hopes you forget all about it.
4. If you are persistent, he has his make-believe attorney write a threatening letter.
5. If you continue to be persistent, he refunds your money, fires off a barrage of threatening e-mails while continue to hide behind his pseudonyms, and verbally harasses and threatens you while he has his make-believe attorney send another letter complaining about threats and harassment.
If you are coming here because you have gotten a pair of bad CD keys and are trying to get resolution, my recommendation is to file a fraud complaint and dispute the charge immediately. If the guy had any actual working keys, he would have sent them instead of ultimately refunding my money. After all, I made multiple requests for a replacement before finally disputing the charge (at which time my money was refunded).
If he was competent, the guy could have had an actual business like other people who sell working keys (see below). Instead he tries to scam people, and then scare them if they complain.
If you are looking for a legitimate site for Diablo keys, after this experience I went to http://www.mmo1st.com/ and got a pair of working keys for $7. No problem at all from them, unlike the scammer/con artist/fraud at Diablo-Keys.com who will charge you $5 and then proceed to harass and threaten you – and just generally waste your time. I have also heard that http://www.g2buy.com/ is a reputable outfit and sells only working keys.
Update: Several people have complained about http://www.mmo1st.com/, so my experience with them is not necessarily typical. Therefore, caution is advised.