Scams and Candybar Phones

BBC Magazine has a mini-bestiary of modern-day quasi-technology scams — all of which are new to me — that its readers have recently run into. I’m particulary fond of this one:

Mobile scam – My friend was walking down the street one night when one man asked him if he wanted to buy mobile phones and then opened up a carrier bag with about 15 phones. My friend went to the ATM to withdraw 200 pounds. When walking home with the bag he opens it up to find a bunch of Mars bars instead of phones. The bag had been switched.
Darren Senerat, Kent


  1. Funny, same thing happened to me 7 years ago when I first moved to SanFrancisco! I was walking downtown, when a guy offered me a “thinkpad” in packaging from a local computer store. I asked to see it, but it was “just off a truck” and I had to take it for $300 or move on. Long story short, we went to the atm, I took out half the money, gave it to him, he ran off. Opened it to discover old phone books. To be fair about it, I considered it a cheap lesson about city living and not letting the “infectious greed” overtake my common sense. No, I haven’t used my real name here.

  2. Thanks John. Fascinating. As you say, a lesson, but interesting to see it’s not a U.K.-only scam.

  3. No particular offense, John, but I think the lesson learned should have been that buying obviously stolen goods is wrong (and notably illegal). Don’t get me wrong, I think the “seller” in the article, and your story is a scumbag, but trying to purchased fenced goods gets you in trouble with the law for a reason.

  4. I’m beginning to wonder whether this type of scam is linked to economic cycles. Someone tried to con me also about seven years ago with what has to be one of the stranger variants of this scam. I was walking past the National Gallery on Trafalgar Square in London and a guy comes up asking me if I want to buy some speakers. “Nah mate, not rubbish. They’re top quality, professional jobs etc etc.”
    I can’t remember which brand he said they were but they were in the famous rather than obscure audiophile category.
    “I’ve got ’em in the van just down there if you want to have a look at ’em.” He pointed down towards the side street by St Martin’s Church. I told him I wasn’t interested and he came back with the rejoinder: “They’re not nicked; they’re left over from a big studio refit job we’ve been doing.” Of course, studio managers often over-order speakers which they give away to their contractors. I politely declined – I was a bit too surprised to tell him to use them as suppositories.
    The continuing problem I have with this variant is: why offload speakers to pedestrians in a place like London? Sure, I’m going to hump a huge box of what would surely turn out to be several bricks home on a bus. I later found quite a few people got the question that particular summer. I can only assume the Beeb’s scam no.11 didn’t work too well on London shopkeepers and the con artists decided to try their luck on random pedestrians.

  5. this same thing happened to a cat i know. but instead of mars bars the bag contained spaghetti.