#1 - Avoid Online Classifieds Scams

Staying safe on Craigslist and other online classifieds markets websites is currently our most active topic. This is important to a large number of consumers all accross the U.S. Please feel free to share these tips with your customers or members.

Avoid Online Classifieds Scams

  1. Stay local. Craigslist and other online classifieds markets are designed to be local, which is why the site is divided into regional and city-specific listings. Never do business with anyone in another state or country, or anyone who makes a lot of excuses about why they can’t meet you in person. Scammers frequently lie about being missionaries, being in the military, taking care of a sick elderly relative or working for a multinational corporation to “explain” why they’re abroad. Don’t believe their stories. Craigslist states on their support page that if you only deal locally with people you can meet in person, you’ll avoid 99% of scams.
  2. Avoid gift cards, wire transfers, cashiers's check, money orders as payment methods. Also avoid P2P payments such as Zelle, Venmo, and others unless you know the seller and can trust them. It’s a huge red flag if someone wants to send or receive payment through the mail or via mobile apps. Anyone who suggests a wire transfer (like Western Union or MoneyGram), a cashier’s check or a money order is most likely trying to scam you.

    Never conduct business with someone who wants to use P2P payments, gift cards, cashier’s checks, money orders or wire transfer services such as Western Union. This is a sign that they’re most likely trying to scam you. When you conduct a transaction using one of these methods, you’re not protected if things go south. If you’re buying an item that proves to be defective (or even nonexistent), you won’t be able to get your money back after it’s sent.

    Also, if you accept a cashier’s check or money order as payment for a sale and it doesn’t clear, you will be held liable to pay your bank the full amount — plus any bank fees. Even worse, you may even face legal problems.

    Cash is the only secure currency for online marketplace transactions. If you’re dealing with a large amount of money and the buyer or seller isn’t comfortable handling so much cash in a public place, meet at a bank or credit union and make the transaction inside the building. The money can be withdrawn and then deposited right there in the bank.

  3. Be cautious when using online escrow. Be cautious when the buyer or seller wants to use an online escrow service. Many scammers use fake escrow sites that may look like the real thing. Watch out for red flags such as poor spelling and domain spoofing. Never send financial information online unless the website displays a secure “https://” URL.
  4. Don't commit without seeing goods in person. You might end up with an item that’s broken, not as described, or doesn’t exist at all. If you’re selling, be very cautious of a buyer who is eager to purchase your items sight-unseen. This is a big flag, especially if you’re selling something really valuable.

    One common Craigslist scam involves a “buyer” who sends you a money order or cashier’s check, which is much higher than the agreed-upon price because they “made a mistake.” The scammer asks you to deposit it and send them the price difference via Western Union. After you’ve wired the money, the bank discovers it’s a counterfeit check and you’re responsible for paying it. By then, your own money is long gone.

  5. Don't fall for job scams. If you’re looking for a job on Craigslist, you should be very careful about anyone who’s willing to hire you without an interview. Even if you’re applying for jobs that involve telecommuting, research the company just to be safe. Make sure they have a physical location near you and visit their offices before you provide any private information for a credit/background check.

    Never accept a job on Craigslist or similar online classifieds markets for secret shopping, international shipping management, foreign financial transfers, survey-taking, anything that requires you to pay money, or anything that simply involves “working from home” without going into greater detail. These types of “jobs” are almost always a scam.

  6. Use a counterfeit pen detection pen. A counterfeit detection pen will allow you to find out if someone is trying to pay you in phony bills. These pens use a special iodine ink that changes color when applied to wood-based paper (real money is printed on fiber-based paper used exclusively by the government). You can find counterfeit detection pens at most office supply stores, or online, for around $5.
  7. Most online marketplace do not certify listings. Sites like Craigslist have no verification or screening process for transactions. If anyone claims to be “certified” or “guaranteed” by Craigslist, they’re almost certainly trying to scam you. Scammers frequently lie to get you to trust them. There is no such thing as “Craigslist buyer protection,” “Craigslist seller certification” or “Craigslist payment services.” Avoid anyone who uses these phrases or similar language on any web site.
  8. Research the buyer or seller. Search for their name, email address, business or any other personal information they’ve provided. If this person has ever scammed anyone (or attempted to scam anyone) using the same information, it’s probably been reported online. Just remember that scammers often use many different aliases.
  9. Don't give out personal information. When you sell online, don’t include any personal information (name, address, phone number) in your public listing. No one needs to know anything about you unless they’re buying whatever you’re selling. Then, after you’ve agreed to the transaction, it’s unlikely that you’ll need to share more than your phone number.

    For extra protection, create a free disposable phone number using Google Voice: https://voice.google.com. When conducting business on Craigslist, there are some circumstances where you may need to give out your phone number. Sign up for Gmail and get a free Google Voice number, which you can use to forward calls to your cell phone or land line. You’ll be able to give this secondary number to someone you meet online without revealing your primary contact info. Then, if something goes wrong, you’ll be able to block them or just drop the Google number. It’s an easy way to protect your privacy and your existing phone lines.

    Never invite the buyer to your home unless it’s absolutely necessary. If they need to come to your home to pick up a large piece of furniture, for example, move the furniture to your front lawn or open garage and don’t let them inside. Make sure you’re not home alone and tell your neighbors you’re expecting a buyer.

  10. Trust your instincts. Always follow your instincts. If something seems like it's not right, or someone makes you uncomfortable for any reason, just walk away.
#2 - The dangers of misinformation & how to outsmart fake news

Our second most popular topic explains how sharing misinformation can lead to more than fraudulent web sites and malware. Please feel free to share these tips with your customers or members.

The dangers of misinformation & how to outsmart fake news

The amount of misinformation that is spread on the web is staggering.  It is spread mainly via Websites, Social Networks, and Email.  The Hot Topics for such misinformation are Politics, Government Policies, Religion and various Scams and Hoaxes.  Research reveals false rumors really do travel faster and further than the truth.  What is important to understand is that sharing misinformation can lead to fraudulent web sites and malware.

Social networking sites provide users with the capabilities to spread information quickly to other users without confirmation of its truth.  We tend to take written information as truth and assume it is accurate unless we know for certain that it is not.  If we read something about a subject which we are not very knowledgeable about, we assume that the author has the credentials to be posting that information.

Tips for analyzing news sources

  1. Avoid websites that end in "lo" ex: Newslo. These sites take pieces of accurate information and then packaging that information with other false or misleading "facts" (sometimes for the purposes of satire or comedy).
  2. Watch out for websites that end in ".com.co" as they are often fake versions of real news sources
  3. Watch out if known/reputable news sites are not also reporting on the story. Sometimes lack of coverage is the result of corporate media bias and other factors, but there should typically be more than one source reporting on a topic or event.
  4. Odd domain names generally equal odd and rarely truthful news.
  5. Lack of author attribution may, but not always, signify that the news story is suspect and requires verification.
  6. Some news organizations are also letting bloggers post under the banner of particular news brands; however, many of these posts do not go through the same editing process (ex: BuzzFeed Community Posts, Kinja blogs, Forbes blogs).
  7. Check the "About Us" tab on websites or look up the website on sites like Wikipedia for more information about the source.
  8. Bad web design and use of ALL CAPS can also be a sign that the source you're looking at should be verified and/or read in conjunction with other sources.
  9. If the story makes you really angry it's probably a good idea to keep reading about the topic via other sources to make sure the story you read wasn't purposefully trying to make you angry (with potentially misleading or false information) in order to generate shares and ad revenue.
  10. If the website you're reading encourages you to DOX (researching and broadcasting private or identifiable information about an individual or organization), it's unlikely to be a legitimate source of news.
  11. It's always best to read multiple sources of information to get a variety of viewpoints.

There is a role everyone should play in stopping the spread of rumors and hoaxes. Misinformation and misleading or incorrect figures when presented as facts and repeated frequently should be refuted before they become accepted as genuine and used to promote specific agendas or spread malware.

Malware from clickbait

The real trouble is that clickbait is often more than just a simple insult to our intelligence - it can lead to real trouble like malware and scams that can lead to identity theft or monetary loses. Often times clicking on a seemingly harmless article will lead you to nothing more than a useless pop-up for a fake video player or a fake survey, no article in sight. But if you click the link and download the player or fill in the survey, you'll wind up with a PC full of malware and viruses.

Malware Prevention Tips:

Be cautious: Approach sharing and opening posts from friends as cautiously as you would your emails. Social media can be a wonderful tool but it can be really dangerous as well and it's beyond important to keep that in perspective. Another good piece of advice is to never trust the links, especially those click bait ones.

Be careful closing pop-ups: Closing a POP-UP by clicking the X can inadvertently share the malicious code without your knowledge. This is why most people that shared it say they never clicked on anything suspicious.

Here are some options in closing a POP-UP:

  • Chrome on Windows or Mac: Shift + Esc, select the tab containing the pop-up, then click "End Process".
  • Windows: Press Ctrl + Shift + Esc, select the web browser, then click "End Task."
  • Mac: Command + Option + Esc, select your web browser, then click "Force Quit."
  • Android: Press the square button at the bottom right corner of the screen, then swipe all browser windows off the screen.
  • iPhone: Double-press the home button (if you're using iPhone 6s, 3D Touch press the left side of the screen), then swipe all instances of the browser off the screen.

Another option: Since the popup is controlled by JavaScript, the best option is to disable the execution of any scripts (by configuration or browser add-ons). This will impact how most websites look and feel, however you can always add sites to the exception list once you know they are safe.

The dangers of misinformation

We tend to take written information as truth and assume it is accurate unless we know for certain that it is not. If we read something about a subject which we are not very knowledgeable about, we assume that the author has the credentials to be posting that information.

  • Misinformation regarding drugs and health remedies have proven deadly for many people around the world.
  • Misinformation through sharing emails or social media spam can expose you to fraudulent phishing web sites.
  • Misinformation regarding investment advice has lead to personal financial losses.

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