Apr 082009
Authors: Glen Pfeiffer, Ryan Gibbons

As cheap, financially challenged college students, the proof is in the plasma — we’re always looking for ways to make or save a buck, and luckily the Internet is there to help (as always). We can hop on Craigslist or eBay and find everything from Jesus toast to cities for sale.

Sadly, the Internet is known to harbor some less-than-reputable characters: people who will try to steal your hard-earned money. It’s shocking, we know. And while it may be easier to think of Jesus toast as a sign of the Internet’s purity, you’re only fooling yourself.

Now before you swear it all off in frustration, let us give you some advice that will put you one step ahead of those Interweb bullies. Trust us, if there was one thing we learned growing up as geeks it was how to be one step ahead of those bullies.

First and foremost, if it sounds too good to be true, IT IS. Last week we Binary Boys happened to be in the market for a used MacBook Pro (we know, you all thought that we could buy new on Collegian columnist salaries), so we browsed eBay and Craigslist and started e-mailing everyone who had merch’ in our price range. One thing became clear: some of the prices listed were only there to catch the eye of the about-to-be-scammed.

In fact, we received e-mails from so many scammers offering to sell us cheap hardware that the characteristics of the scams became painfully obvious, and here we will share them for you.

“Let me know soon!”

Scammers will often try to rush you into a transaction. We conversed for several e-mails with one guy who ended every message with “let me know soon!”

“Please reply me soon!”

In addition to rushing you, bad grammar is number one on the list of things taught in scammer school. This might have to do with the fact that most scams come from overseas, leading to another of my favorite gems: “I’m from your area, but I want to send a present to my son who is in boarding school in fill-in-the-blank-ikstan.”

Perhaps the biggest red flag is method of payment. Any seller who wants you to pay by wiring money through Western Union or MoneyGram is trying to scam you. Period. Beyond this, they will even make up companies of which you have never heard. We got one guy saying he would send me the laptop, and we could pay for it afterward by wiring money through the Royal Express or something. Any reasonable businessperson on the Internet will accept PayPal./

Some jerks out there are actually pretty smart and have begun to use rather sophisticated scams. The weapon of choice is “phishing” Web sites. These sites try and often succeed at looking like a login screen of PayPal or eBay. Unfortunately, once you’ve attempted to login, your account information is sent to the scammers who will have full control of your accounts.

One more weapon on your Bat-belt is the eBay toolbar. This bad boy will automatically detect if you’re browsing on a legit eBay/PayPal Web site, giving you all the confidence you’ll need./

Now go save money safely you plasma-deprived kids.

Columnists Glen Pfeiffer and Ryan Gibbons want you to wire feedbacks on this column via Western Union to South Africa. You will do it now or write to verve@collegian.com./

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