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Wednesday, December 30, 2015

We Take It Because We Want It

Found this story in this morning's paper:
Tigard police seize 470 iPhones related to gift card fraud
Tigard police seized 470 iPhones as part of their investigation into organized retail fraud. (Tigard Police Dept.)
Tigard police detectives seized 470 iPhones worth $292,000 as part of an investigation into organized retail theft at Washington Square Mall and Bridgeport Village.Earlier this month investigators watched as a man used a large stack of gift cards to purchase iPhones at the Washington Square Apple Store. They followed the man to a rental car full of Apple shopping bags, Tigard police spokesman Jim Wolf said.
The man, along with another suspect, were stopped by police after leaving the mall parking lot. In addition to hundreds of iPhones, detectives seized hundreds of apparently fraudulent gift cards and receipts totaling $585,000.
Investigators also found that numerous iPhones had been dropped off at a nearby FedEx store where they were set to be shipped to Hong Kong.
Wolf said no arrests have been made in the case, which is ongoing, but investigators think the the gift cards are linked to counterfeit credit cards from Southern California.
-- Stuart Tomlinson, reporter for The Oregonian
Police seized a bunch of stuff, but didn't arrest anybody? WTF? This sounds a whole lot like what happens more and more these days. Police seize stuff just because they think it's suspicious. This nonsense got started with the War-On-Drugs [tm], but seems to be creeping out into anything that might net the cops some money.
    Okay, I have to admit it does sound suspicious that these guys had a whole pile of gift cards to go with their whole pile of iPhones, it really does look like major credit card fraud. But then I read the bit about the phones being shipped to China, and several gears clicked into place. This isn't fraud, or simple theft, this a turf war being waged by Apple, and the cops are being drafted to act as thugs-for-hire.
    What's going on is that there is a small market for hi-end items in Red China, but being as China is so huge, even a small slice of that market it big. Luxury goods manufacturers are exporting their goods to China, and because demand is high, they are able to charge a premium price for their products. The premium they are charging is so high that when other people got wind of it, they realized that they could buy these same products at retail stores in the USA, ship these products to China, pay all the necessary fees and taxes and still make bundle of money.
    The manufacturers don't want anybody cutting into their turf, so they are trying to squash these little guys. And these two guys buying phones are definitely little guys. That's why they had 'gift cards', not cash or credit cards. Someone gave them those gift cards for the express purpose of buying iPhones.
    So it probably wasn't the FBI that tipped the local Tigard cops off to this 'criminal' operation, if was more likely some agency in charge of regulating trade, like the Department of Agriculture.

Previous post on the subject here. Sometime in the last year (decade?) there was a deal going on downtown where you could make $100 by standing in line to buy an iPhone. At the time there was a huge local demand for these stupid plastic boxes, so I don't know whether this was just someone catering to local people who didn't want to stand in line or whether they were shipping them off to China.

Funny how Taiwan hardly ever makes the news anymore. 20 years ago Taiwan was in the paper weekly, if not daily. Now all we talk about is China, by which we mean Red China and nobody even mentions Taiwan. Don't want to piss off our Communist Overlords, I suppose.

Update two days later: I should have mentioned that Tigard is a suburb of Portland, Oregon.

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