Tag Archives: Craigslist

How to Safely Buy a Used Smartphone

African-Americans rely heavily in their smartphones. We use these devices for everything from email to banking to reinforcing our faith.  So buying used technology like a smartphone, laptop or tablet could be a disaster if you don’t know what you’re doing. Saving money is the objective for African-Americans but saving yourself some headaches ranks right up there as well.

How should black people buy used technology? What should we be looking for? How do we avoid scams and just outright junk?

First of all stay away from Craigslist.  I am not saying you can’t get some good deals but Craigslist is crawling with scam artists. Why take the chance? Look into refurbished products. The refurbished technology market is a great place to shop and many of the tech devices are factory refurbished. This means that they are repaired and re-conditioned by the maker to their standards. And many come with the proper guarantees and warranties to ease your fears. Some products you find on the refurbished market are simply returns that have never been used. Others had minor damage from shipping or were flawed and repaired for re-sale.

You probably know that a new smartphone could run you as much as $750 for the new top of the line models.  As a matter of fact Samsung’s new Galaxy Note 8 smartphone will break the bank at over $900. You can sometimes get a discount on a new phone by signing a contract but you still pay in the long run.

As I said, the best kind of used smartphone is a refurbished phone. They are fully tested, factory reset, and certified. Buying a refurbished phone, usually last year’s model, is close to the experience of buying a new phone. Let’s be real, there are often minor upgrades to this years model over last year’s. But the price difference can be hundreds of dollars. And do you need all the fancy tricks, bells and whistles anyway?

Buying a refurbished iPhone from Apple is a great move. Apple takes great care and pride in it’s used products.  For example, your used iPhone will have a new battery, the outer case will look and feel brand new and probably is. It will come in a brand new box with all the needed accessories. All that and a one year warranty. Try that on Craigslist!

If possible always buy directly from the manufacturer or certified re-seller. These companies are highly motivated to sell problem free used products.

So where do you buy factory refurbished smartphones? Try Amazon, Apple, Best Buy, Samsung, or Walmart.   Also check eBay and Blinq.com.

If you buy a used phone from another source make sure you follow these tips.

  • Check the device throughly for damage and functionality. Make sure it works as it should. Sort of take it for a test drive.
  • Check for tell tale signs of it being stolen like being unable to unlock it or not having accessories like the charging cord.
  • Check for contacts, messages and photos on board. This may indicate the phone was lost or stolen.
  • Apple iPhone comes with several apps that can only be deleted through jail breaking. These apps are camera, photos, music, clock, settings, messages, phone, mail, Safari, App Store, weather, reminders, calculator, calendar, iTunes, Newsstand, videos, Compass, Game Center, contacts, stocks, voice memos, Notes, Passbook and Maps. If any of these are missing don’t buy!
  • Search the iPhone for “Cydia.” This application is present on almost all jailbroken iPhones as it gives access to Cydia apps.
  • Connect your iPhone to your computer and use the iTunes “Restore” function. Once the restore process is complete, you can be certain your phone is not jailbroken.
  • Never buy a phone that is not fully charged.
  • Finally the U.S .wireless industry trade group, CTIA, has launched a tool called the Stolen Phone Checker, which lets you look up whether a phone has been reported lost or stolen. You simply go to the website and enter the IMEI, MEID or ESN number. Keep in mind that these companies keep a database of stolen phones and will not allow the phone to connect to any service if it is reported stolen.
If you want to buy an unlocked phone capable of being used on any service then you may want to check into Amazon. The ‘sell you anything’ company is expanding its unlocked phone marketplace.  Unlocked phones are a growing market because people want to save money and have the flexibility to go with any service they desire. And let’s not forget that many carriers are no longer offering the subsidies and free phones with a contract like they used to.
 
 Now you know.
 
 

 

 

Congress Bans Ticket Bots

Courtesy Stuart Miles

Courtesy Stuart Miles

You have asked this question more than once; “How the hell did the concert sell out in five minutes?! Let me answer that question for you, Bots!

Bots are computer programs operated by ‘cyber-scalpers ‘ that buy thousands of tickets in a split second to re-sell them at astronomical mark ups. That is how bots cheat ordinary fans like yourself out of a fair chance to buy tickets.

Ticket bots work by using multiple IP addresses.  Such software, which is illegal in New York state, can bypass a ticket-selling websites’s security measures, such as CAPTCHA. According to the New York Times the secondary ticket market is an $8 billion a year industry.

The House of Representatives and the Senate have  passed the Better Online Ticket Sales Act, or BOTS Act, with rare bipartisan support. President Obama is expected to sign the bill into law.

Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) issued a state from his government website  saying, “These bots have gotten completely out of control and their dominance in the market is denying countless fans access to shows, concerts, and sporting events and driving prices through the roof. With this soon to be new law that will eliminate ‘bots’ and slap hackers with a hefty fine, we can now ensure those who want to attend shows in the future will not have to pay outrageous, unfair prices.”

The BOTS Act makes it illegal to circumvent a ticket sales website’s  security measures. The Federal Trade Commission will be charged with enforcing the law. Critics say bots feed a high-priced resale market that pushes ticket prices out of reach of ordinary consumers, particularly for hot events like the play “Hamilton” or a Beyonce concert. I mean, c’mon! How do you think the play “Hamilton” sold out for the next year? And the price for some a tickets have reached $10,000!  Really?

Here is the catch to a great move by congress. Many ticket bots operate with software and computers located outside the U.S. Because of this enforcement can be difficult. The New York Times reports that European governments are considering governments similar legislation.

Ticket scalping is legal. Companies like StubHub and Ticketmaster are well known ticket re-sellers. And yes, their ticket mark up can reach as high as 50 percent. So the law does not outlaw scalping it outlaws bypassing a website’s security measures. 

Passage of the BOTS Act is the culmination of years of frustration among the public, artists and producers infuriated by ticket hoarding bots that profit from their work while gouging the public. Jeffrey Seller, the lead producer of  the Broadway play “Hamilton,”called scalping “a usurious, parasitic business that only serves to create a new profit center between the artist and the consumer.”

Consider the recent visit by the Pope  to United States. Tickets to the parade were issued for free. But bots managed to gobble up thousands of them and they suddenly appeared on sites like eBay and Craigslist for hundreds of dollars.

Now you know.

 

Cops Offer Safe Zones for Internet Transactions

Safe TransactionOne of the beautiful things about the Internet is the ability for people to buy and sell from one another.  However the Internet also can bring you in contact with some pretty bad characters who have no intention of conducting an honest transaction.

There have been many stories in the news of people robbed, assualted and even murdered as a result of meeting with people from person-to-person websites like Craigslist.

As a result of the rise in crime of this nature police and sheriff’s departments nationwide are creating areas at their stations for people to complete transactions that began online. These areas are known as Safe Zones or Safe Havens.

Although this trend started several years ago the idea has caught on.  As many as 70 police agencies stretching from Boca Raton, Florida to Bedford, Texas, have created safe transaction zones. They are usually in parking lots or lobbies according to websites that track the programs. Safe havens located inside buildings are normally open only during office hours and no reservations are required. Parking lots are usually available 24/7.

Because these areas are literally inside the police station or on police property and under surveillance theives are detered from committing crimes. The program does have its skeptics who believe the police accept some liability  if a transction goes wrong. But many police departments said they felt obligated to do something as a result of crimes carried out as part of an online transaction.

According to a report by the AIM Group, a classified-ad consultancy, 87 killings were tied to Craigslist interactions in the U.S. since 2007, including 22 last year and six so far in 2015.

Jim Buckmaster, Craigslist’s chief executive accuses AIM of unjustly portraying the website as fraught with risk for criminal activity. AIM has done studies of crime connected to Craigslist by its competitors.

Craigslist does offer an advisory on its “Personal Safety” page that reads: “With billions of human interactions facilitated, the incidence of violent crime is extremely low.” Among several precautions the company suggests is to “consider making high-value exchanges at your local police station.”

Where the service is available people seem to aprove. Atlanta Craigslist user Derek Lee said news reports of people getting murdered after connecting online caused him to complete his transactions at a police station.

That “is your ultimate safety zone,” he said. “It’s not just personal safety. I think people are less likely to rip each other off, like selling a bogus product or counterfeit product.”

Law-enforcement officials said it is too early to determine whether the zones are reducing crime, but some contend initial results are promising.

Now you know

 

 

How Not to Buy Stolen Stuff

Everyone wants a good deal. Nothing feels better than getting a nice phone, tablet or laptop at a nicely reduced price. But on the other hand there are millions of these devices lost or stolen each year. Last year alone over 3 million smartphones were reported stolen. Would thieves continue to steal these devices if they were not easy to re-sell? I don’t think so.

So how can you avoid buying a stolen phone or other device? First let me tell you why you don’t want to buy a phone, tablet or computer from a dubious source. First of all you could be buying junk. If a smartphone is reported stolen you may be unable to activate it. Your service provider may have information that the phone is stolen and could report you as having it. Other times the service provider will simply refuse to activate the phone. You got a good deal on a useless product. Second, the device could be tracked and when the owner and the police catch up to it you get caught holding stolen property and could be charged. How do they know you aren’t the thief? Now you’re out the money and you need a lawyer.

A good deal is nice but let’s make sure you’re getting what you paid for and not a lot of regrets.

1) Be careful who you buy from. Make sure you are buying from an authorized re-seller. Cellphone service providers offer used and refurbished phones on their websites. These are nicely conditioned trade ins. You can also find good deals on Amazon, eBay, and Craigslist. But I would suggest being a little more careful on Craigslist since this is often the first stop for thieves to advertise their loot. Amazon and eBay offer profiles and seller reviews that make them more trustworthy than Craigslist. But even that is no guarantee so you have to do your homework. Check Swappa and Glyde for buying used phones as they have policies and safeguards in place for buyers.

2)Investigate. Regardless of the site investigate the device thoroughly. The ad should have basic information about the phone and its condition such as color, correct model number, and storage capacity. Also check the overall quality of the device. eBay will have conditions listed and you can see them here.   They are an excellent standard to go by. If possible make sure the picture is of the actual smartphone rather than an official photo taken from the Internet of that phone model. If you can contact the owner directly and they are not too far away ask to come by and see the phone. If they are too far away then ask for additional photos of the phone to make sure it matches the description. Ask for things like the original box it came in, manuals, the re-charger etc. If the seller does not have these things there is a problem; move on. Also ask for the original carrier if the phone is advertised as unlocked and  IMEI (International Mobile Station Equipment Identity) or the serial number of the device. Sometimes these numbers are altered. You can run a check on that number at the IMEI.info website. If the seller is unwilling to share this info then again; move on.

For buyers of Apple devices Apple offers  a new service on iCloud.com called Check Activation Lock Status. This lets the potential buyer quickly see if a device was reported stolen or missing. Just enter the IMEI or serial number of the device you’re thinking of buying. You will immediately know if someone used the Find My iPhone app to implement the Activation Lock. Activation Lock was first introduced in iOS 7 and it completely locks down the device rendering it useless until the proper Apple ID and password have been entered. So if you make the mistake of buying an Apple device that was stolen, you won’t be able to use it. And don’t even dream of getting your money back. You can also check the remaining warranty on the device using the serial number.

3) Can you return it?  Ok, you’ve done the homework and believe that the device is legit. Don’t hand over the money just yet. If you’re buying the phone off Craigslist ask the seller to meet in a public location like, say, the carrier store so you can activate it following your purchase, with the seller there. This the best final step. If the phone does not activate keep your cash. Another thing; if they already gave you an IMEI or ESN, you’ll want to double check that it matches up before handing over any cash. And if they didn’t give you that information before, you can check the serial number with one of the sites we mentioned above once you have it in hand. With Amazon and eBay they have strict requirements for the seller on their sites and the seller must provide a return policy or state all sales are final. If you see that then just go with another seller. Always make sure you have a safety net. Remember;  Caveat Emptor, let the buyer beware.

Now you now.

Ok, so now what do you do with the old phone?

Reacting to Online Fraud

You want to see a black person mad? Have them pay for something and not get what they paid for. Fraud is a reality whenever you shop online. And nothing is more frustrating than not knowing who to call when you discover you have been ripped off.

According to the  FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center or IC3 there were 262,813 complaints of Internet crime filed with the agency last year alone. Of that number 119, 457 or 45% reported actual financial losses. So how much money was lost to online fraud in 2013? How about $781,841,611! Yeah; I used an exact number because you need to see exactly how much money the criminals are raking in. The average victim lost $2,975  to online fraud. Again, exact numbers. You can see all the stats in the IC3 2013 Internet Crime Report.

Imagine how much larger those numbers would be if all the crime was actually reported. It is believed that as much as 15% of online fraud is never reported because the victims are just too embarrassed. 

Shopping or conducting business online is fairly secure if you take the right precautions. But what if you lose money to a fraud or scam? Who do you report it to? First let me say this; if you call your local police they may be woefully untrained on how to handle a cyber crime. Its not their fault. Investigating cyber crime is a specialized task that is beyond their pay grade. If you got ripped off by a fake charity that comes to your door they may be able to help. But a cyber crime that may originate half a world away is just out of their league.

One of the most common scams that strike people online is the phishing attack.  A phishing scam is when a cyber criminal tries to trick you into revealing potentially valuable information. The same information that was stolen from JP Morgan.

The criminal will create an email that is a near perfect duplicate of an email from your bank or other trusted source. The email may warn you about a potential security incident then provide you a link to click on for further information,  or to go to the website or a security patch or something like that.

If you click on the link one of two things are going to happen. You may be taken to a duplicate website and asked for your user name and password. Or you may download some form of malware that could steal valuable information. Most banks and other financial institutions do not communicate this way. My advice is never, ever click on a link you are not absolutely certain of what it is.  But if you do…

1) Forward the phishing email and link along to the company being imitated. If they impersonated your bank or other financial service provider make sure you let the bank know and forward the email to them as well.

2) Contact your local law enforcement and at least complete a police report. Also report the incident to the Internet Crime Complaint Center or IC3.

3) Remember that a paper trail is your best friend. Your bank or credit card company keeps excellent records. You should too. Keep a record of all the calls  you make and to whom you spoke with, your statements with the suspicious transactions and any other correspondence or documentation required.  If enough people report this scam it could trigger a community alert. Inform a government consumer protection agency or relevant tech firm.    

4) Delete the message once you’ve done all this and add the email address to your spam folder so you never have to see it again.

Most legitimate online shopping sites will offer a way for customers to dispute a sale or charge or report fraud of any kind.

For example if you get caught up in PayPal themed phishing campaign you will need to contact PayPal’s fraud department.  Do a simple web search for PayPal Phishing or PayPal Fraud. Remember that these cyber criminals can craft an absolutely flawless copy of a PayPal site or email so don’t click on or respond to anything suspicious. Once you are in touch with the real PayPal they will tell you exactly what to do. Nearly every bank and online merchant will have a procedure to report phishing and fraud. Use it. And the next question is; if they don’t why are you doing business with them?

I shop online regularly. And I worry about what happens if I don’t receive what I ordered. This rarely happens. But what if it did?

Disputing charges or an order is a skill you have to master if you shop online. You have to learn who and how to report it. How to return it and if necessary how to get your money back? Or what if you are overcharged? You need to learn how to dispute and get the correct product or money back.  Here are some effective steps for dealing with disputed or fraudulent transactions.

1) Contact the organization where the charges are coming from. Most legitimate organizations  have a fast and efficient system to help the customer. They want to correct the situation as soon as possible. And they will. These merchants will provide return shipping and refunds if the order or the price is not right. I have even returned items and got a coupon for the next time I shop on their site. They want your business.

2) But if that’s not the case or doesn’t solve your problem, contact your bank or credit card provider. You may be able to block the charges or even get your money back. Some credit card issuers and banks have fraud protections for their card holders. Merchants take notice when the bank or a credit card company calls. They don’t want that kind of trouble.

3) You may need to contact law enforcement or the Better Business Bureau or the IC3. Don’t hesitate if you think you’ve been ripped off. And don’t be afraid to take to social media and let them have it! You’ll be surprised what happens if you send out a Tweet.

Sites like eBay and Amazon are market providers. They simply create the online site where people sell directly to each other. There are many sites that specialize in providing a marketplace for buyer and sellers. Some online marketplaces carry very specific or unique products and others carry just about everything like Craigslist. A very dangerous place if you don’t know what you’re doing and how to protect yourself.  Now eBay and Amazon and many other online marketplaces are very diligent at protecting their customers and their reputations. But using these sites means you have to protect yourself.  Learn how they fight fraud before you get involved with them. eBay has an excellent system in place to judge the sellers on their site and are very responsive to complaints. Same for Amazon. Learn how to use their systems. But if something does happen you’ll need to follow their specific instructions for handling fraudulent sellers. Amazon and eBay are definitely ready to fight fraud with you and for you. 

Remember there are ways to fight online fraud. You have to educate yourself to spot it before it happens and how to react when it does happen. There is no software that is going to do the job for you.

Now you know