On Tuesday, February 3, 2015 at approximately 7:24 p.m., Roselle Park Police Department (RPPD) Detectives conducted a follow-up investigation in response to a victim from Newark reporting that he was allegedly scammed by a male who posted for sale a “New Unlocked 128G Gold iPhone 6+” for sale on Craigslist.
According to the police report, the seller met the victim at the Roselle Park Train Station the previous night where the victim – traveling from Newark – paid $700 cash to the seller for what was advertised as a ‘Guaranteed To Work’ new iPhone and received a plastic sealed box that contained what was later revealed to be a counterfeit, non-working iPhone 6+ along with a non-working charger, cable, and headphones. The phone, accessories, box and even the packaging were very detailed replicas with a serial number and IMEI (International Mobile Equipment Identifier) number displayed on the box. Only upon plugging in the iPhone and trying to power it up, under close inspection and comparison to an authentic iPhone, was it apparently discovered that the phone was a counterfeit, manufactured for the purpose of scamming unassuming victims.
Detectives made contact with the seller through the same Craigslist advertisement that the victim used to purchase an iPhone from earlier. Upon positive identification, the male – identified as Patrick M. Roberson, age 47 from Roselle Park – was found to be in possession of two (2) more sealed boxes that purported to be iPhone 6+ units. The serial numbers and IMEI numbers were identical to the phone purchased by the victim the previous day. At police headquarters, Mr. Roberson reportedly admitted purchasing the three phones from a website based in China for $200.
Mr. Roberson was charged with 2C:20-4 (Theft by Deception) which is a crime of the third degree. He was released with Superior Court date of February 18, 2015.
Residents are warned against purchasing high-end items from unknown parties through the Internet. Most high demand items that are sold on the internet and purport to be new at well-below retail prices are usually counterfeit, frauds, or may be a set-up for a more serious crimes. People should be especially cautious from sites or sellers that demand CASH ONLY or require personal meetings in order to exchange high amounts of cash. Any seller that is not easily traceable or does not allow an acceptable form of a traceable payment method is likely a fraud.
These were the tell-tale signs that Mr. Roberson utilized were indicative of a possible scam:
- Cash only payment.
- High demand/high value item at below retail prices.
- No texting.
- Phone calls only (usually an indication of a burner phone number or temporary google voice number) also indicates the seller does not want documentation of their claims of authenticity.
- Will only meet in person for exchange of cash, usually at locations that they can mix-in with a crowd or escape after the exchange quickly.
- Not a registered seller with visible reviews on a common sales site (i.e. ebay, Amazon)
This advisory is for public awareness and to deter future victimization. A search of the Internet by RPPD detectives found numerous “dummy” iPhones sold for under $20 that claim to look authentic but clearly state they are non-working. Most are sold by or shipped from China. Police also found many advertisements selling sealed box iPhones for well below retail. Consumers should be cautious and prevent becoming victims of these scams.
Police Chief Paul W. Morrison advises residents to contact police if they have been victimized with any similar scams at (908) 245-2300.