AT LARGE: Pssst . . .

AT LARGE: Pssst . . .

A relative of mine is involved with the government, and has been part of a series of secret dealings. As a result of these dealings, there is a sum of roughly 60 million dollars lying in a bank account. The imperative is to remove this money.

I would like to offer you 30 per cent of the booty, in exchange for your bank account and credit card details, and of course your PIN. Of course, there may be some initial costs that you would be required to cover . . .

Apparently this type of fraud is the fourth largest industry, in revenue terms, in Zimbabwe. Makes you think, doesn't it?

I've started getting the letters in the form of badly spelt e-mails (I used to get them as badly typed letters), so I presume the perpetrators have discovered mass electronic distribution.

Another e-commerce boom that just keeps booming is auction sites. It seems that, despite the general public's reluctance to give credit card numbers to real businesses like Coles online in case they get ripped off, they're happy enough to send their money into the ether to someone they don't know, have never met, and know nothing about in exchange for a knick-knack on eBay.

It's a bizarre phenomenon, but it's one Dell has recognised and decided to cash in on. Dell's business model, you understand, is based on the principle that people are uncomfortable going into a shop that has an actual street address and dealing with someone face to face in order to buy a computer. It's the same principle used to great effect by the pornography industry.

Dell's problem is that people are reluctant to hand over their credit cards online unless you promise them 30 per cent of a shady government's business deal. Unable to adapt this model to the sale of computer equipment, Dell has gone for the next best thing: selling its wares on eBay.

No word yet on how the strategy is going, but I still think I can offer some advice to Dell to make it work better. For a start, don't make it so obvious that they're actually buying from Dell - if your customers wanted to buy from you, they'd buy from you. The way to make people feel they're getting a bargain is to set up a dummy seller with a name like "kismybutz1349" and give them lots of positive feedback from their "previous customers", like 50 or so posts in a row saying "AAA+ seller!!!!!". People love to see that stuff when they buy at an auction - makes it seem authentic.

Matthew JC. Powell considers eBay a form of gambling. Share your thoughts on

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