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Where there are people willing to spend money, you will also find those even more willing to trick them out of it; and as they say, a fool and his money are soon parted, whether it be over a shoddy knock-off or an out-and-out scam.

So we all remember the woman in the US of A in August 2011 who bought an iPad in a parking lot ... and it turned out to be made of wood. Ashley McDowell paid somewhere in the region of US$180 for this hunk o' junk after some gentlemen informed her that they had bought too many. While we feel for her — no one likes to be made a fool, after all — there are so many points at which this could have been averted.

  • You realise that if someone tries to sell you something in the parking lot at McDonald's, it's probably, at best, stolen

  • You figure out that if they're trying to sell that something at half the RRP, something dodgy is going on

  • It dawns on you that if they are overly ready to knock that already ruinous price down to whatever you have in your wallet, they have more to gain than you do.

If all of these steps pass you by, there is one final step: open the box on the spot. If you open it to find a block of wood, then, congratulations! You now know, 100 per cent for sure, that you are being scammed, and may politely request that the two gentlemen return your dollars.

Caption:Photo:Spartanburg Sheriff's Office
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Unfortunately, even with this cautionary tale ringing in their ears, iPad scamsters were still able to take advantage of the unwary. In November last year, Jalonta Freeman was met by a stranger in a petrol station parking lot who had an iPad to sell her, he said. The asking price for a 64GB 3G iPad? US$200. It was, in fact, too good a price to be true — the man hurried off, and Freeman opened her iPad to reveal... a mirror wrapped in iPad-printed paper.

Updated:Caption:Photo:Michelle Starr/CNET Australia
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It happens across the pond, too: an unnamed Yorkshire chap was taking an afternoon constitutional in November 2011 when an Irish fellow with a laptop bag asked him if he'd like to buy an iPad. He would very much like, he decided, and went to an ATM with the fellow to hand over £200 cash. Alas, it wasn't until after the Irishman had disappeared that our poor dupe thought to open the bag — only to find a sack of potatoes.

Updated:Caption:Photo:India — Koyambedu Market — Potatoes image by McKay Savage, CC BY 2.0
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Even buying an item in-store isn't a guarantee that you'll get what you pay for. In October 2012, Bobbi Linden went to a Texas Walmart to purchase an iPad for her daughter's 15th birthday. Upon getting the sealed box home and giving it to her daughter, they found it filled with notepads. Walmart, however, refused to help, claiming that Linden had put the notepads in the box herself and was running her own scam. It wasn't until getting in touch with local news station KHOU 11 that Walmart tracked the notepads to another customer's fraudulent return, and agreed to give Linden a brand new replacement iPad.

Updated:Caption:Photo:Michelle Starr/CNET Australia
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You may not be able to tell by just looking that your item is dodgy. Back in April 2011, an unknown shopper bought what appeared to be a Samsung 500GB external drive in China. When it didn't work the way it should, he took it to a repair shop in Russia to have the technicians bust it open — then burst out laughing. Inside was a single 125MB flash drive looping to overwrite previous files when it ran out of space.

Updated:Caption:Photo:Alex Yumashev
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But at least some effort was put into that last one. Look at what some poor chap got in China back in 2007, thinking he was paying for several jiggabits of thumb drive.
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Think that can only happen in China? Think again. This unique MacBook Pro was purchased in 2009 from a Best Buy in Texas. Customer Ryan was at first perplexed, then vexed, when the Best Buy manager told him to "take it up with Apple" … presumably, he was eventually able to at least reverse the credit card charges.

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Then there was the 14-year-old girl in Texas in 2007 who opened her iPod box to find ... rocks. So back to store she went with her mum, to be told that the two options were store credit or keep the rocks. Oh, and they were fresh out of iPods. They finally located an iPod at another location, drove there to purchase it (since the employees refused to check the box before purchase), opened it and… yep — rocks.

Updated:Caption:Photo:Gravel image by Emadrazo, CC 2.0
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It ain't just Apple products. When Jodi Wykle bought Guitar Hero for Nintendo DS as a gift for her son, she planned to play him a prank — her son didn't own a DS. But when she gave him the second gift, the prank was on both of them. Inside was some smooshed-up newspaper, a bunch of rocks and no Nintendo DS. After getting the runaround from Walmart, she finally got a refund after it was discovered that a previous customer had returned the same item before it was purchased by Wykle, and Walmart had forgotten to check the box.
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It could have been smellier, though. On Christmas day 2005, a boy from Hawaii opened an iPod box to find some sort of mystery meat — and no iPod. An investigation found that the culprit was one Walmart employee, who thought it would be absolutely hilarious (and profitable) to ruin Christmases by swapping out the actual product for rotting flesh. Yeek. Maybe we should start checking boxes in-store.

Updated:Caption:Photo:KHON2, Hawaii
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Ever had one of those "solar-powered" calculators that still mysteriously work even when there's no sun? It could be one of these numbers, pulled apart by Instructables forum member Rotten194 in 2009. The "solar panel" actually turned out to be a piece of thick cellophane not connected to anything at all, while the calculator was powered by a single button-cell battery. Mind you, at least it worked.

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We wouldn't go rushing off to spend money on the HiPhone quite yet, though. The iPed ought to serve as a cautionary tale to those who want the latest device, but want to circumvent the normal channels/actual brand. Although it looked a lot like the iPad, the iPed ended up being the unsavoury hanger-on that no one wanted to talk about; with its sluggish, miserable screen, frigid speed and sizzling running temperatures, you'd have been better off folding your money into a fancy origami party hat.

Updated:Caption:Photo:Derek Fung/CNET Australia
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