A Beckett collector has written to me to point out that many bogus book signatures and inscriptions, including those of Nabokov, appear to emanate from Australia. And that some sellers use Julian Jebb (a British arts journalist who died in 1984) as the provenance source of the books.
The collector wrote:
[The sellers] are based in NSW, Australia and their eBay ID history looks like this:
therepository Jan-03-17 – Present
jebboroam May-15-15 – Jan-03-17
worthingness Mar-12-15 – May-15-15
keramikoz Jan-21-11 – Mar-12-15
Several things should be pointed out: therepository mentioned above is still active; it has a 100% positive feedback since 2011, probably because buyers still aren’t aware that they may have been taken in; 17 of the varied 17 books therepository has listed on eBay today claim to be signed; but, the seller never explicitly says they were “signed by” the authors.
My correspondent collector also wrote:
I have been advised that if anyone is taken in by this fraud, and the seller is based in Australia, that they report it to the local fraud office – depending where the item was sent from.
New South Wales: http://www.fairtrading.nsw.gov.au/biz_res/ftweb/General_complaint/?type=general
Fraud reporting forms for other territories can be found online. Apparently eBay will only take action against these sellers if this is escalated through legal channels.
An additional eBay seller is socrates349.
On the other hand socrates349 seems to have a fairly clean looking eBay account, lots of feedback with none of it bad and their ID has not been changed since 2003 (and that would appear to be because they used their email as their seller ID). I would suspect they are downstream of the scam and are likely unaware of it’s workings – as you pointed out many other dealers have been taken in by these books and the Shuttleworth provenance can be now seen beyond eBay.
I think given the long history of these forged books coming from Australia, I’ve come across quite a few mentions online, it’s likely the person behind it is known to the Police or at least local book dealers as they potentially have tried various avenues to offload their creations.
Last of all, New England Book Auctions (again) is offering an inscribed and signed 1973 British first edition of Strong Opinions (on Sept. 26, sale number 465, lot 169) with a “UACC Member certification provided”. I haven’t seen the book or its inscription yet and can’t judge its authenticity. In any case, UACC (Universal Autograph Collectors Club) membership certification means nothing. Anyone can become a member for $29. And that anyone can say that a particular signature is the real thing. We’ll see.