The CardGraderAI Scammer Is Back, With A New Grift?

The CardGraderAI Scammer Is Back, With A New Grift?

I take no joy in this post, but I feel obligated to share it because it poses a potentially pernicious problem (sorry/not sorry about the alliteration) for hobby Twitter accounts.

Backstory, without going back and refreshing my memory on my original video about this back in January: a man named Michael Thomas (allegedly) appeared on Twitter, giving away cards and autographs, and claiming to have built an artificial intelligence model that “pre-graded” sports cards. He had people test it out by sending him jpegs (usually terrible) of just the front of cards, and then he would provide an AI-written output explaining the grade the card received.

The problems were numerous. Someone dug up his background as a photographer / SEO (search engine optimization) expert, where he allegedly took thousands of dollars from clients and never provided the contracted services. There’s more to it, but you get the gist.

Then it was revealed that his profile picture was AI-generated. And he had an allegedly fake charity called Autographs 4 Charity with allegedly fake autographs. And on and on. I did my video I linked above and he reached out to me privately, telling me it was very fair and acknowledging his mistakes in rolling out his company. He denied that he was scamming anyone. And then he deleted his account, then opened it again and said he was done with cards, and then reopened his AI model and started taking “beta” customers for it, was outed by someone again, claimed he sold the AI model to a massive grading company, and disappeared again. Then reappeared under a new account.

Now he has allegedly appeared again, this time as a woman. Saturday morning I received a private message from Mario Alejandro, one of the accounts that helped out this scam in the first place, telling me he thought Michael was back, and sent me the account. I spent five minutes scanning the posts and it was clear: this person named Kristen Hale was our old friend Michael. The same interests, same way of talking, spoke a lot about AI, insulted random people for their religion and politics, and claimed to be an expert on a hobby-related item. This time it was handwriting and apparently autograph authentication.

An account called StalkingPMS (??) provided some investigative work and then some more and more, and Mario outed the alleged grift to a large audience, and it blew up.

I’m not going to go through all the evidence, but it’s ample. And while Michael / Kristen has ignored the posts directly, they have responded to at least one tweet accusing them of continuing the scam under a new account, saying the same thing Michael repeatedly said, which was basically, “What scam? How am I scamming? I’m not taking money from anyone!”

Yet.

“Con man” is short for “confidence man,” meaning someone builds up confidence in potential customers, and then steals their money (or some other valuable). A “long con” means it can take weeks or months before they cash in. They might even provide goods and services reliably for a while. Imagine someone on Twitter buying and selling smaller cards, building up confidence and a reputation, and then building up enough vouches to be able to “buy” or “sell” an expensive card without actually paying or delivering. You wouldn’t fall for it from a new account, but you might for an active account that regularly participates in this type of activity. It happens more than you realize.

Or it could be something so innocent that they are trying to farm engagement to collect revenue from Twitter’s influencer payout program, like one user suggested.

But my suspicion is that he wants people to send him autographs for authentication, and there’s some sort of scam involved there. I’m not clever enough to think of a good scam, so I can’t envision it. Maybe you can. Let me know.

Be careful out there, friends. Be skeptical. Protect yourself.

At least this time he’s acknowledging that AI isn’t ready for autograph authentication:

On a side note, Darren Rovell announced his big hobby media company, saying it will provide great investigative journalism. And then he retweeted Kristen’s autograph analysis:

Subscriber Giveaway!

I’m giving away this card to a subscriber at the end of April!

Free card to a subscriber!

All you need to do is be subscribed to this newsletter when I draw an email address at the end of the month. I’ll announce the winner in the April 29th newsletter, and will also email the winner.

Why would I give this valuable card away? I want to grow my subscriber base ahead of a large project I’m working on now and planning to roll out this spring.

More to come on that in a month or so.

YouTube Comment Of The Week

What are the chances?

Did anyone here trade for Matt’s Bryce Harper card?

If You’re Selling A Vintage Sports Card Collection (Sponsored Segment)

Last year, I tried buying collections and turning a profit on it and found it to be too time-consuming for my busy schedule. Plus I hate shipping cards and dealing with customer service issues.

Just Collect, led by Leighton Sheldon, does it full-time and they’re one of the top buyers of vintage cards and collections in the country. Fill out their free appraisal form or email Leighton directly at [email protected] for a quote.

Upcoming Videos

I have a fun video coming soon about the Sports Card Nonsense Facebook group.

A non-sports story about a wild find that was put up for sale on eBay without the owner knowing the value. I’ve spoken with the seller and think it’s interesting.

An overview of a vintage collection I was dying to buy from Facebook Marketplace, but it sold the same day it posted.

Channel Highlights From the Past Week

Weird week that started with my longest power outage in our 16+ years in our house, thanks to a wild snow / ice / wind storm.

I did a unique Attic Find Friday about a guy who found a one-of-a-kind Addie Joss autograph. I do a video like that, about a non-card topic of a semi-obscure player, despite knowing it has a low ceiling of views. I do it because it’s an interesting topic to me and I know I’ll enjoy it. And if I’m not enjoying doing this, then why do it?

I think it’s worth sharing this comment, because I get questions like this occasionally and I want to share my response too:

Later on, after thinking about it more, I wondered if he was referring to the AFF where I literally called it “Attic Find FRAUD-day,” because the guy refused to send his card off for authentication because it was clearly a fake.

Important Clarification About Kraft Mac & Cheese

On Saturday’s mail day video, I opined about the deliciousness of Kraft mac & cheese. An important detail I left out is that it absolutely must be spirals.

Nothing but the best

My Pickup Of The Week

Sneak preview of an upcoming video:

😮‍💨

When I teased this on Twitter, @nyctaper (Dan) asked if the card was of a Celtics player. I said yes, of course, because Maravich ended his career with the Celtics. I also knew it would lead Dan down the wrong path in his attempt to guess.

Subscriber Pickup Of The Week

Jakestoe, a longtime subscriber and commenter on my channel, sent me this one:

My Pick up of the week was this Julio Rodriguez rookie. Ty Wilson from Chasing Cardboard lives near me and held a card show in Post Falls, Idaho last weekend. I've been eyeing this one on Ebay for a while and once I saw it at his table, I had to make a deal. He gave me a great deal at $100 and I bought some other cards out of the bargain boxes including these two signed Robin Yount and Pete Rose cards at $3 each.

To nominate your card for next week, reply to this email and include why it should be included and a photo. Please don’t be offended if I don’t reply.

Hockey alert! Vintage wax wrapper sells for $16k (Hobby News Daily)

The White Sox were offered Babe Ruth (Sports Collectors Daily)

ShopGoodwill had this amazing photo album with 1953 Jackies and Mantles, among other items

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