Stolen violin or spam/phishing message?

December 2, 2008 at 06:02 AM ·

Has anyone else received this unsolicited email message:



Bologna 1924


Reward for who will be able to provide

useful information for recovering this

handsome instrument in perfect state:

+39 051 262046

Replies (25)

December 2, 2008 at 02:40 PM ·

I don't know about anything else--but the photographer has GOT to learn a few things about making color-accurate images of violins....jeeeebus, Even the purple winding of the dominants is blue/black. 

December 2, 2008 at 06:40 PM ·

Just a public service announcement from if you ever get a message that says "A message" and it appears to be SPAM, please report that to me immediately, and send me the offending message so I can ban the member who sent it. Also, know that no one who e-mails you through has your e-mail address unless you write back to the sender.

Members who use their membership privileges to SPAM or harass others aren't members for long.

December 3, 2008 at 05:07 AM ·

Very bizarre, I just got a bunch of these. Definitely not from,either!

December 3, 2008 at 07:28 AM ·

It is not SPAM,

unfortunately this magnificent instrument is truly missing and information needs to be capillary. It is a matter of international relevance and your help is needed also, if possible. Thank you!


December 3, 2008 at 01:06 PM ·

so it is good spam? :)

i would hate to knock on your door in the middle of the night unannounced, or wave your down on the highway,,,just to relate to you my concerns which are genuine and true:)


December 3, 2008 at 04:00 PM ·

Al, I agree.

Roberto, spam is spam. It doesn't magically become not-spam simply because you feel the content is acceptable. I don't want any unsolicited mass mailings in my mailbox no matter what. There are other ways to publish genuine information. For example, it would have been easy to submit a thread on and maestronet.

If you run a mail server for 50.000 users in a colocation facility where you get charged like 5 USD per Megabyte of traffic, when it costs you real money to pay for spam, then perhaps you will understand that spam is never acceptable, no exceptions.

December 3, 2008 at 10:25 PM ·

Thank you, Benjamin, for your precious pointings out :)

Anyhow the question was: "Stolen violin OR spam/phishing message?"

Since I think I knew the answer I simply wrote: "It's not SPAM",

meaning that the first was the right answer to the posed question (= "Stolen Violin"). And definitely not phishing (criminally fraudolent).

The definition of SPAM is

1) unsolicited bulk Email (UBE) or 2) unsolicited commercial email (UCE): the practice of sending unwanted e-mail messages, frequently with commercial content, in large quantities to an indiscriminate set of recipients.

This particular unsolicited email is not commercial, so probably is UBE (?), but certainly not "indiscriminate" because it alerts a specialized set of recipients and probably was not sent in large quantities.

To avoid useful or useless unwanted mails during this era there is only one (weak) defense: keeping almost secret your email address. Since this is almost impossible on the internet the other way is to change it often. Otherwise there is the way to communicate only through a web interface and an hidden recipient, but even in that case you may happen to receive something really unwanted.

I have the same problem and despite quite a number of multilevel filters I'm always receiving unwanted communications. Nevertheless I always welcome stolen instruments information and I forward them to my selected contacts when I feel it necessary, because to contrast this cryme we don't have many other possibilities once the theft was already committed and for a musician or simply the owner of a precious instrument  the received damage is much higher than the disturb of pressing a delete key.

Buying a stolen violin is also a cryme even after years, and when I am alerted I always keep the pictures or the URL record for the future. 

I personally consider it a service for my profession, even when not solicited.

Your hints, ideas and addresses can be precious to recover this violin, Benjamin, why you don't give a reply to that message? Maybe it's not like the other kind of deaf SPAM :) 

December 4, 2008 at 12:10 AM ·

Spam is as unwelcome as the phone call from the charity who claims it is ok to call me even though I point out that I am on the "do not call list"



December 4, 2008 at 02:02 PM ·

Just to play devil's advocate-- I didn't mind getting his real message, even if he was "spamming" the violin community. It's a refreshing change from the endless empty ads from spambots for pharmaceuticals, or the Nigerian banking schemes. We've been shopping for violins and there's a chance, however infinitesimal, that  we might be able to help him. I'm just curious how he got the email addresses. 

On another note, on my screen, the colors were correct. 

December 4, 2008 at 03:29 PM ·

to me, these day and age, if  an email from an unknown or non-disclosed sender is on my screen,  i delete it.  if i miss something authentic, that is the risk i will take.  even with that in mind, they still play me sucker.

as online marketing gets more competitive, more creative activities will display themselves:)

recently i bought something from a golf online vendor.  apparently, they gave my email/address to an online magazine outfit as i found out later when a golf magazine arrived, with a note that said, i will be sent 12 issues of the mag unless i cancel it on certain website.  problem is, on the website, there is no button for cancellation.  

about 2 years ago, i bought something online and everything went ok.  one year ago, my wife asked me to look at our credit card:  how come there was this 20 dollar charge from someplace and when we looked over other statements, the same charge was there,,,for close to one year, that is, 12 times,,,so i started digging backwards and eventually found out this:  when i was buying from that online store, during check out, there apparently was a screen of boxes to check off.  turned out that if  i  did not want additional services provided by a third party for something really stupid,,i had  to check the box, not leaving it alone as it was usually designed/displayed.  so i probably did not pay attention to this gimmick and ignored those boxes which was evidence that i wanted the "service". sweet.

then,  my kids always pled my wife to donate money to animal shelters this and that.  next thing you know,,,it just seems all the charities in the world think and know we are eager to help and mailings just pile in.   my only defence is to tear up those letters before the kids see them:)

seems that if your name, address and emails are out in public, bye bye,,,embrace the  losing battle... 

December 4, 2008 at 03:58 PM ·

Al, the best thing to do is use a prepaid credit card for online shopping and use custom email addresses, one per online activity. Use one address for friends and family, one for shopping, one for signing up to forums, mailing lists, newsletters etc. This way if you really get swamped on some address, it is easier to abandon it and get a new one for that particular activity. It is also easier to weed out junk as there is no chance you will ever get something really important on an address you only use to sign up for newsletters.

As for postal addresses, I always add some nonsense to my address, or I leave some important piece out. When mail arrives the address not being 100% correct is a giveaway that it was leaked from a place I didn't actually want to get mail from and I can take the appropriate action without even opening the envelope.

December 4, 2008 at 04:25 PM ·

I have received many forwarded messages from well-meaning friends, along the lines of "kidnapped child, please forward to everyone you know so the child can be found immediately!" or "unscrupulous individuals placing HIV-infected needles on movie theater seat cushions - please check before sitting down - forward to all your friends!". A simple online search on snopes or similar websites reveals that no such kidnapped child ever existed, or no actual reports of HIV-needles have appeared on reputable news outlets. They are just urban legends, and a waste of everyone's time.

Because of this, my response when receiving something from a person I don't know is to immediately delete the message in disgust. Since the sender is unknown to me, I would have to do research to find out if the message contains accurate information. If I spent time researching everything that came through my inbox, I would never get any work done. That is why unsolicited e-mails have such negative connotations, in my opinion.

December 4, 2008 at 04:51 PM ·

thank ben,,, i may have to start thinking and acting that way.  knowing me,,,i can envision i will mismatch my different emails with different passwords and lock myself in the basement in the process:)

but here is q on stolen violin,,,

A stole a violin and sold to B who knows it is stolen but buys it cheap.

B turns around and sells the violin online or in auction to C for a good amt of change .  after that, B disappers and even later, C is made aware that C has in possession of stolen goods.

where does the story go from there?  obviously the right thing to do is to return the violin to the original owner, but at C's expense?

December 4, 2008 at 06:19 PM ·

Al, unfortunately, that's the way it generally turns out.

A stolen violin is still owned by the person who it was stolen from, or their heirs, or by the insurance company that payed the theft claim, in most cases I've heard of.

Buy from people you trust, who look like they'll be around for a while in case ownership is ever disputed. In some cases, ownership history can be provided for a violin, but even that can be faked.

There have been some interesting ownership issues going on with art that was plundered during the World Wars, and eventually sold. I don't think anyone really knows yet the extent to which violins may have been involved.

December 5, 2008 at 01:51 AM ·

Al, maybe you want to consider getting a Mac, it manages all the different passwords for you in a secure manner by way of what is called a virtual keychain. You then only need to remember your login password, all other passwords are securely stored (encrypted) in the keychain and the system software will automatically offer to fill in all other passwords semi-automatically, all you have to do is confirm that you want the password to be supplied by the keychain, and supply your login password to do so. This works system wide, across all applications.

As for who legally owns property that has been stolen, the answer is rather straightforward: the original owner always remains the legal owner. This is so because if you do not have legal title to an item, then you cannot legally sell that item. The buyer who buys a stolen item only thinks that he is buying the item, legally he cannot possibly buy it because the seller does not have the right to sell the item in the first place. The only person who could legally sell the item is the real owner. Consequently the sale is null and void, legally speaking. This is standard both in common law and civil law jurisdictions.

December 5, 2008 at 02:26 AM ·

makes good sense, gents!

it is a good question why all these years i have shyed away from mac.   even though mac users are in the minority in numbers, i have yet to know one who complains about it.  hmmm.

December 5, 2008 at 04:42 AM ·

Roberto Regazzi's confirmation that this is a genuine announcement is good enough for me. Thank you, that's what I needed to know. Unlikely that this fine instrument will show up in Nebraska, USA, but we can watch eBay, and maybe other lists.

December 5, 2008 at 01:40 PM ·

to me, these day and age, if  an email from an unknown or non-disclosed sender is on my screen,  i delete it.  if i miss something authentic, that is the risk i will take.  even with that in mind, they still play me sucker. 

I guess it depends on the nature of your business. I have several times received legit email from unknown senders who look at first glance like spammers. If I'd deleted them unread then I'd have missed some important opportunities. 

As for charities selling our names and contact info-- that's an obnoxious practice that I find thoroughly annoying, but the alternative is not giving to charities at all. I'd rather have them email me than pester me on the phone or show up at my door. I have to admit feeling punished for acts of generosity. 


December 5, 2008 at 01:47 PM ·

In my case, this was NOT a spam message. I had previously purchased a pamphlet on Ansaldo Poggi from Mr. Regazzi, and I'd inquired about a Poggi violin. So I can see why I was on his email list. Since I've also purchased a couple of fake Poggi violins on eBay. (I'm a little smarter than that now, and planning to visit Bologna this summer to learn more about the real Poggi.) So I wondered if someone had picked up on that -- but it's not the case here.

The message didn't have a name, and I have been tricked before, but I can definitely say that Regazzi is an established violin maker and dealer with a good business reputation.

December 5, 2008 at 02:32 PM ·

Absolutely -- Mr. Fowler is right . Roberto Regazzi is well-known and highly respected. When I first saw this thread, I was interested because I'd received the email (as did my wife, who's not on, Maestronet or any other violin list) and wondered about its authenticity myself. When I saw that Mr. Regazzi had responded, I knew it was legit.

That being said, there were a few things about the email and the corresponding website that give it a "red flag" air. In particular, there's no information about where or when the instrument was stolen, even in a general way ("stolen in New York on x date"). It also gives phone numbers and emails to contact, but no contact name. These missing pieces of information can give people pause in today's world of phishing. Maybe that can be addressed on the site.

 As to whether or not it's spam, I come down firmly on the "not" side. This email doesn't want anything from any of us except information on the violin's whereabouts. It's more akin to an Amber Alert than an advertisement. If I were in the owner's shoes, I'd want to make sure it was sent to as many people as possible as well.

December 5, 2008 at 06:47 PM ·

I agree about the "red flag" air, Michael. It's not in the usual format for stolen instrument reports, nor from a source I could easily recognize. Had I received it, I probably wouldn't have paid any attention.

Roberto, I didn't see the email (maybe I deleted it?), so maybe the following has already been done. If something like this is sent to shops in the future, it would be great if it was sent from a source we recognize, and if the linked web site had content we recognize. Otherwise it's hard to know whether to take it seriously.

January 9, 2009 at 04:25 PM ·

Does this help?

Nucleo Carabinieri Tutela Patrimonio Culturale

7, V. Castiglione
Bologna, 40124

Apparently the phone number leads to a police department in Italy.

January 9, 2009 at 06:06 PM ·

So the story is not a bunch of bologna? But the email is SPAM?

January 9, 2009 at 06:23 PM ·

I guess the Italian police officers must not know about anti-spam policies.  Maybe we should be extra thoughtful and everyone in the world let them know right now, whether you received the email or not.  They wouldn't mind, since they didn't seem to mind bothering everyone in the world.

January 9, 2009 at 06:31 PM ·

I do find it interesting that this email only made it to violinists, and that it has only been posted on sites dealing with music.  I also am baffled as to how it missed me.  Does my "send a message to Rob Schnautz" button not show up on my profile page publicly?  I sure thought it did.

Maybe this is subliminal messaging.  I must not really be a violinist.... :(

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