It’s awful, but it’s clever
We’ve all had those thoughts, those random brainstorms in the shower where we think about how we could get away with committing a crime. We don’t really want to do it, nor do we ever plan on doing it, but it’s this dark intellectual exercise where we just want to figure out if we could if somehow we had no morals. It’s like fantasizing about winning the lottery – we know we never will, but sometimes it’s fun to think about.
And if I’m going to be honest, I’m a little upset I didn’t dream up the scam that someone pulled on a couple high stakes online poker players recently in which he made away with $20,000. I’m not a terrible person, so I don’t have it in me to screw someone over, but man, the scam was clever. I also hope the person who did it gets caught and arrested.
The scam itself actually isn’t anything new. It’s called the “man in the middle” scheme.
Scammer interloped in the transaction
As related by one of the victims, Grazvydas, on Two Plus Two, it started when Grazvydas was in a Skype chat group for poker players looking to swap funds on online poker sites. Specifically, he had PokerStars and Americas Cardroom (ACR) funds to trade, a minimum of $20,000 on Natural8. Another player, James Romero, had $60,000 and wanted to trade for at least $5,000 in Bitcoin.
Unbeknownst to them, a scammer was lurking in the group. He created two Skype profiles to mimic both Grazvydas and Romero. Using those accounts, he contacted each of the two players, pretending he was the other, to arrange a funds swap.
For whatever reason, neither player verified that who they were talking to was the genuine article. Eventually, a deal was made for Grazvydas to send Romero $20,000 on ACR in exchange for $20,000 in bitcoin. Both players made the deal with the scammer, except they each thought they were really talking to the other.
Grazvydas sent the money first, shooting the $20,000 over to Romero’s actual ACR account. As part of the negotiations, the scammer, posing as Grazvydas, asked Romero which account the money should be sent to and thus was able to give that info to Grazvydas, posing as Romero. Confused yet?
At this point, everything looked fine to both poker players. Romero had received $20,000 in his ACR account, as expected. It was now time for him to send Grazvydas the bitcoin, but of course, it was not Grazvydas, but rather the impostor. Thus, Grazvydas never received anything. He just waited and waited.
In the meantime, the scammer made off with $20,000 in bitcoin.
Victims eventually settled with each other
Grazvydas eventually figured out what happened and brought it up in the Skype group. Romero showed absolutely zero sympathy, telling him that he should have done his due diligence and verified the identity of the person he was dealing with. Never mind that Romero – who touted himself as an experienced funds swapper – didn’t make sure he was dealing with the correct person, either. Romero was only in decent shape because he sent the bitcoin second.
For a while, and even after Grazvydas took the issue to the Two Plus Two forums, Romero refused to help out, essentially taking an aloof “buyer beware” attitude. But Grazvydas was persistent and many (though not all) in the poker community scolded Romero for his attitude, so Romero finally agreed to refund Grazvydas $10,000.