Scammed on Craigslist and Glowforge helped (the scammer)

#1

tl;dr: Glowforge will disable a serial number, but still allow you to add it to your account and assume it’s good. DO NOT BUY A GLOWFORGE FROM ANYONE OTHER THAN GLOWFORGE. And consider not buying a Glowforge, signed; the owner of a very expensive paperweight.

Full story: I’ve been hunting craigslist for a good deal on a used Glowforge. One came up about 2 hours away from home for a “New Glowforge PRO” at only $3k. I thought oh my gosh, that’s too good to be true! (Hint: it was.)

So I start looking around, I know Glowforge is a cloud driven thing, and that stolen units are blacklisted, etc. So I read their FAQ about how to validate a unit: Start it up, add it to your account, etc.

I explain to the seller that I’m going to need to plug it in, test it, and they agreed. I emailed support and asked “is there a way to verify for certain?” And they said “reply with the serial number and we’ll look it up.”

So I meet them at a Starbucks, first thing I do is email the serial number to support and then very awkwardly unpack a brand new in box Glowforge Pro. I used my wifi hotspot and laptop to get it online, logged into my account, completed setup of the Glowforge and got my “Congratulations” “Your Glowforge Pro is up and running, and you’re ready for your very first prints.”

So I hand over $3k and very happily head home.

About 15 minutes from home, I get a reply from support: “I’ve been able to track down the unit and look up details. Unfortunately, this unit was reported as lost or stolen to us. The replacement unit we sent out received the software and warranty for this unit. This unit was permanently disabled when it was reported as lost or stolen.”

So, that sucks. I’m the owner of a brand new, completely disabled paperweight. Police report is filed, for whatever fat lot of good that will do.

In case Glowforge is reading: DO NOT ALLOW SOMEONE TO ADD A STOLEN PRINTER TO THEIR ACCOUNT AND PRETEND IT’S OKAY.

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#2

That really sucks. I hope they catch whomever is responsible for the theft of your money.

Wouldn’t it have been prudent to verify the serial number before taking possession of the unit though?

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#3

Yeah, my assumption was that following the FAQ about buying a used unit would protect me. If the unit checks the blacklist before every print, but not when adding the printer, that seems pretty dumb and ripe for abuse.

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#4

The “Yay, you’re ready to go!” email was the thing that made me think: “Yay, you’re ready to go!”

Hindsight is 20/20.

I’m posting for two reasons: to serve as a warning for people who would be similarly scammed, and to let Glowforge know that they should check the blacklist as a function of the sign-up process, not only as a function of the printing process.

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#5

Thanks for sharing your experience. Especially, considering I have an extra machine, albeit not a Pro. I may now have to do something extra special when the time comes to sell it.

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#6

I’m really sorry this happened to you.

I basically never buy things used because I’m one of the least trusting people on earth, but I never even thought about machines being disabled as lost or stolen.

Hold onto the machine if you’ve got the space. I’m sure one day in the not-so-distant future, someone will have a hack for controlling it offline.

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#7

Hopefully, Glowforge has a way of addressing this for future potential buyers, but also for working with you for a way to make this “not a paperweight.”

I’d suggest a follow-up with the GF team to see if there is something that can be done (especially witht the police report) to look into this. If Lost, it was probably handled through the company’s insurance. If Stolen, there may be a way to work with whomever it was stolen from (or their insurance carrier). Might not be at no additional cost to you, but I would hope that the GF team might be able to work something out.

Good luck.

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#8

Oh, and I meant to say that I hope GF is able to help you with the police inquiry as they will know who reported it lost/stolen in the first place and that may lead to the scammer (if it’s not the same person).

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#9

Man, that blows. Thanks for sharing your experience so that others can be warned. :neutral_face:

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#10

Gosh, that is such a bummer! I would not have expected that behavior either, and hopefully your experience leads to some change back at HQ. I also hope you get some kind of relief from this situation.

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#11

Yikes! I was ;looking at it from the other side that it would be useless to steal it as the thief would be getting a brick, but given the current circumstances I would try to 1. Get a good history of your machine from them that it might help track down when it went Rogue and how. If stolen from an individual they might like it back enough to compensate you. If someone bought it and said they did not receive it, and then sold it to you, you will have a line on your scammer. 2 perhaps you can make arrangements with the company to unlock it for a price after proving your situation. You will end up paying more than a new machine in the end but perhaps less than buying a new machine at this point. 3. Perhaps you could part it out to folks whose machines are out of warranty as such as broken glass, or a fire in the crumb tray would make a need for parts not related to the computer activity.
In any case that is a bummer to lose that much, but at least you might salvage something more than the wisdom you gained at such an expense, and thank-you for sharing that wisdom with the rest of us.

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#12

That actually brings up a very interesting point. What is the component (or components) that “define” the unit?

For TiVo (DVRs) the unit is identified by a serial number that is embedded in a chip soldered to the motherboard.

Given the more modular nature of the Glowforge, is there a single board that contains the serial number, and is that “servicable”? (or swappable)?

If so, then it would also be good to understand what Glowforge’s policy is for out of warranty / third party repairs and replacement of parts.

For example, if someone had a unit that died / was damaged / etc out of warranty, but the “serial number” component was still funcional, could that component be transferred to a “deactivated” unit? And if so, what would the implications be? (especially from a calibration standpoint, etc).

Just a few thoughts to ponder.

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#13

I’m so sorry this happened to you. Glowforge needs to put something in the software to catch a stolen unit faster (right away at first connection). I really don’t know how it works legally but it seems to be a police matter now and I would think you would not be allowed to keep stolen merchandise. If possible please keep us updated on the outcome.

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#14

If one had a Pro that was bricked and a Plus that was not and you swapped out the front door, would that make the unit a Semi-pro?

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#15

The problem here is you could test the unit in public at say a Starbucks to use the prior example. everything checks out. Then on the way home the seller tells glowforge, hey this isn’t my glowforge any more it was lost/stolen, instead of I sold it please transfer the ownership to xxx@yyy.zzzz.

And you’re out the money for a useless device.

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#16

I would hope that, at least with a bill of sale, or some sort of receipt (Which I would always insist on for a purchase of this value), Glowforge would re-instate the functionality of the unit, if the seller was the person who reported it “lost / stolen” (per the bill of sale / receipt / etc.)

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#17

With a Serial number and nearly a GPS trace as far as having a real address, it is safer than your car because your car does not (usually) report where it is and what it is doing. As the Internet gets more into everything , it is becoming easier to steal your identity than your stuff.

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#18

I would think about trying to track down the individual who sold it to you, perhaps Craigslist could supply the police with contact information that was used when the ad was posted?
Sorry man, Good Luck!

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#19

But what advantage would a seller get out of doing something like that?

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#20

none but neither since they got their money do they care. personally I tend to believe it would be done out of negligence, laziness, or incompetence of oh this button looks to be the first option to drop ownership of my glowforge so someone else might be able to take it. but I haven’t been through the process to find out how transfer or relinquishment of ownership would work.

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