Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Dear Mom: Craigslist Sale Safety 101

Craigslist Safety for the Technologically Unaware

As a followup to my last Technology post, this post is going to focus more specifically on using Craigslist safely... by safely, I mean avoiding technology-related problems.

To begin with, here's a copy of what I wrote in my Dear Mom: Email Safety 101 Post:
(Common Scam) Someone asks for your Paypal account after you post a Craigslist ad. They don't want to see the item. They hired a go between to pick up item. They're deaf/blind/etc. Basically they're trying to present an "weakness" (that you won't ask questions about) to tap into your empathy so they can take advantage of you. This really ticks me off. Anyways- my father-in-law asked about setting up a PayPal because someone wanted to buy their used car using PayPal- guy couldn't get it himself because he was deaf or something to that effect. I started answering about how to setup Paypal, then suddenly asked about what buyer said in email. "Oooohhh..." A quick web search and I was able to find multiple hits about this scam and various versions of it. It's not to say Paypal isn't safe, but there are apparently ways to run scams using it. That's all you need to know. I use Paypal all the time, safely, via stores online and people I know. It generally works out fine. You just need to sniff out the cons. When I post Craiglist ads, I find it's helpful to look for "humanness" in the responses I get to the ad- the person asks questions about the product, they say they can meet me somewhere public, they say they can't make it until after the kids get out of school. More on Craigslist on another post.
Okay so that's the scam piece. Please don't fall for suspicious stuff. I KNOW that my mom and father-in-law had alarms going off in their heads, just based on how they mentioned the topic to me. But I sense that due to their comfort level with the technology, they dismissed those warning bells as themselves just being uncomfortable with the technology. LISTEN TO YOUR WARNING BELLS.

Okay so here's two scam emails that I received (cross posted on my Email Safety 101) post. The pink is my own writing and the yellow-ed out is just private information that I chose to "white out."
      

Warning Signs with these two emails:

  • Saying Craiglists isn't relaying an email... in the email that they emailed me and I received.
  • The person doesn't ask any questions about the product.
  • The person doesn't reference the item itself in their email at all. 
  • The person has this mysterious person who picks items up for them... the person isn't a family member or friend, just a "mover." 
  • The person immediately begins asking for your confidential information: PayPal, Email Address, Full Name, Cell Phone, etc. 
  • The person has some really unusual excuse for not being able to come see the product you're selling. 

Below is a real email for a sound system that I sold on Craigslist. I love Craigslist, when it's used safely. There are a number of factors that made this what I see as a "legitimate email." I can't promise a "real life" buyer isn't a bad person to have come over your house or even that a scammer can't do these things, but this amount of detail in the email tends to bode well towards telling you that the person is a legitimately interested buyer. I use Freecycle as well and I find that replies that are more detailed like this tend to get more replies from me (or from them to me).


Good Signs of the Above Email:
  • The potential buyer references the item specifically (in this case, the model number of the sound system). 
  • The potential buyer asks questions that make sense for the item you're selling- in this case, is it working, is it available, and how good of condition it is in.
  • The potential buyer adds some personal detail that makes sense in context... in this case, the person mentions their location which I'm familiar with.  

IF YOU ARE A BUYER on Craigslist or would like an item off Freecycle, please note these good qualities in a "real" email... many sellers are trying to sift through vast amounts of fake emails to get to "real" people so try to look real when you email them. Usually I add some personal tidbit like vague location I'm coming from, where I'd prefer to meet to exchange, "Oh I've been looking for one of these for my son!", etc.

Personal Safety

I can't speak as much to personal safety when dealing with Craigslist exchanges, although I generally will only meet in public. I like to swap off in busy parking lots (ie. Target) so that it's easy for both of us, but I don't have to stress about going to people's house. If I'm going alone, I let my husband know where I'm meeting someone and make sure the person's information is on my computer. I don't carry extra cash. I carry only the amount that's needed... if I happen to have more than needed, I separate it out ahead of time so I'm not showing how much I have in my wallet. I leave my wallet elsewhere during the exchange. Keep my phone and/or keys in my hands or close by (you can always press the alarm button if you feel uncomfortable).

If I do end up picking up at someone's house, I can scope out the address on the computer beforehand to see how safe the neighborhood looks... I don't go too far out so usually I have a pretty good idea how my local area is. But if I had to pick something up in Baltimore, I might see if I can find pictures of the location in advance.. Google Maps allows you to see a street view of an address sometimes (not always). If it feels wrong, listen to your warning bells. Don't do anything that makes you uncomfortable or deal with people who make you feel uncomfortable online (can you imagine how much more uncomfortable they'll make you feel in person?!).

If I have someone pick up an item from my house, I don't mention good times we're home or not home. We just find a time that works for both of us... ie. "Oh 9am won't work, but I can do 4pm." They don't need to know what your typical schedule for being home is. I also try to make sure I schedule a time when other people are home- we have a roommate and my husband of course so I make sure one or both of them is around.

Conclusion

The Internet is an awesome wonderful thing to use, it's just important to use these resources carefully so that you can safely get the information that you want and need.  You don't need to be scared of it or of other people on it, you just need to be cautious as you would be if you were walking alone in an unknown area.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Dear Mom: Email Safety 101

How to not get a virus or scammed via Email

I received a call from my very non tech-savvy mom the other day and she's all flustered and upset that she did a scan on her computer and it told her she's got errors and viruses and pop ups. Chant "Errors, and viruses and pop ups, OH MY"... To think we used to be scared of lions, tigers and bears. It's crazy how bad this stuff is for our continued computer use.

So I've been trying to explain why she shouldn't pay to have this all fixed, given she's just going to get them back because she doesn't understand what is okay to click on and what will give her a terrible computer virus. I feel bad because many many people aren't used to technology scams, especially the people that didn't grow up around computers. And many of the scams are clever enough to catch even the more savvy computer users. But when you're unfamiliar with the technology it's easy to not understand how you're getting taken. I remember "my uncle" sent us an email a couple years ago saying he was in a foreign country and needed us to wire "him" money because he can't leave as his money all got stolen.  There's really so many very clever scams and occasionally they hit on the right victims to pull it off- ie. my uncle travels a lot so I did a bit of a double take. I knew I wouldn't be on the list of people he called for money though so I knew it was fake. There's also all these scams that are done via other technologies (ie. phone). 

Two common scams that seem to get the non tech savvy... (Gosh someone's making a fortune):

1. Someone calls your house and says they're from IRS and you owe them money... or "Microsoft" calls to tell you that you have viruses. Then they ask you for information or payment, etc. Unless you're Bill Gates and owe the IRS a LOT of money, the IRS just isn't going to be calling you on the phone. And if you've ever tried to receive tech support from Microsoft (or any company really, these people are busy enough), do you really think it's feasible they'd call you? No. Whenever you're not sure and something sounds fishy... Do a quick web search for what the person is telling you. You'll probably come up with a bunch of hits that say BEWARE OF THIS SCAM! 

...speaking of web searches to find out what's a scam, brings me to popular scam #2...

2. Someone asks for your Paypal account after you post a Craigslist ad. They don't want to see the item. They hired a go between to pick up item. They're deaf/blind/etc. Basically they're trying to present an "weakness" (that you won't ask questions about) to tap into your empathy so they can take advantage of you. This really ticks me off. Anyways- my father-in-law asked about setting up a PayPal because someone wanted to buy their used car using PayPal- guy couldn't get it himself because he was deaf or something to that effect. I started answering about how to setup Paypal, then suddenly asked about what buyer said in email. "Oooohhh..." A quick web search and I was able to find multiple hits about this scam and various versions of it. It's not to say Paypal isn't safe, but there are apparently ways to run scams using it. That's all you need to know. I use Paypal all the time, safely, via stores online and people I know. It generally works out fine. You just need to sniff out the cons. When I post Craiglist ads, I find it's helpful to look for "humanness" in the responses I get to the ad- the person asks questions about the product, they say they can meet me somewhere public, they say they can't make it until after the kids get out of school. More on Craigslist on another post. 

Okay so that's the scam piece. Please don't fall for suspicious stuff. I KNOW that my mom and father-in-law had alarms going off in their heads, just based on how they mentioned the topic to me. But I sense that due to their (dis)comfort level with the technology, they dismissed those warning bells as themselves just being uncomfortable with the technology. LISTEN TO YOUR WARNING BELLS.


So let's review some of my junk mail to help work on identifying spam/scams easily. 
The pink writing is my notes. The yellow sections are just where I "whited out" information that I didn't want to share (ie. other people's email addresses). 

Photo 1: Displayed on the right here is an example of a scam/spam email that will give you a virus.

Warning Signs:
  • I don't know the person who sent the email to me.
  • There is no email content besides the link and the person's name. Most people (real people) are going to write something of substance when they email you something. "This is funny" is not "substance."
  • Check out the link... at the end it says .php. HUGE warning sign. .Exe files are off limits too. That means you'll download something that will run a program on your computer... that program is not something you want. 



Photo 2: This is an email that my Mother-in-Law "sent" that was really a virus.

Warning Signs:
  • You'll note "she" sent it to two different Danielle's... that's because she sent it to both my email addresses. Someone who knows me won't do that.
  • Again, random link with no content to the actual email is usually a big warning sign.
  • I checked out the link itself... does this look like something she'd send me? Eh no. I remember the last time I got one of these from her it was a porn web address (I assume, based on the text of the web address)... I chuckled because I knew my mother-in-law wasn't sending me porn.
  • I also always check the email address... sometimes the person's name is on "from" line, but when I look at the email address itself it's not their email address. Usually you can click on their name to show the email address.

    NOTE: If you think the email could actually be legit, a simple text message or phone call to the person to inquire if it's legitimate is worth the time. It also helps them because they can change their password on the account if it isn't something they sent. 


 Photo 3: Craigslist Scam

Warning Signs:
  • See all the pink? Alllllll of that. Okay let me expand on that...
  • "I'm ready to pay your asking price"... I was selling a car. They didn't ask anything questions about it, they didn't want to see it? Come on, seriously.
  • They conveniently are unavailable... at sea... and have a "mover" coming. Who actually "has people" to pick stuff up for them? Nobody who is buying a used car. Haha. 
  • They want to pay with PayPal... I'd love to understand how they're working this scam, but long story short- don't do it. I do use PayPal for lots of things, but only when I know the person is legit.What little I comprehend of this scam is that PayPal protects the buyer more so than the seller... so the seller can "pay" then file a claim through PayPal saying you screwed them over somehow and they get their money back. I'm not sure if these scammers take the product too. Don't know, don't care. I just don't waste time on these emails. 

Photo 4: Craigslist Scam #2

Warning Signs:
  • They emailed me saying Craigslist wasn't relaying their message to me. Um...



    ...that said, I did reply to this person and gave them my "spam" email address to contact me (I believe that resulted in Photo 3). I have a special email account that I made for spam and I use it for times like this when I figure it might be good to respond just to make sure they aren't a legit person who just doesn't know how to use their computer.

In Summary: Always ask the person you're receiving the email from if it's legit before you open it if you think it might not be from them. Be conscious that scams and viruses and all those good things ARE out there, with limitless resources. I open the majority of my email with no issues... and even most bad emails can be opened- just DON'T click on links or attached files.


Did I miss anything? Does anyone have questions or anything to add?
Have you ever been taken by a scam?

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Do a Dot Marker Fun!

How to teach toddlers the alphabet.

I bought these dot markers off Amazon after I saw my 30 month old son come home from his 6 week preschool class with some dot art. It looked like so much fun and I missed enrollment for the next 6 week session of preschool so I decided that we should probably be doing some preschool activities of our own.


By visiting the above link and purchasing from
Amazon, you help to support this blog. Thank you!

I decided to setup some pretty strict rules with these because I didn't want to be cleaning up dot markers off everything and the other markers we had got dried up because he wasn't putting the caps on consistently. This wasn't an issue when mommy was watching him, but sometimes daddy isn't as careful. 

Rules
  1. The dot markers are kept on a high shelf and only mommy gets them down.
  2. You can only have one marker at a time. You put one back and get a new one.
  3. Mommy holds onto the box of dot markers until you'd like to pick a new one.
  4. You get to say what color marker you want when you need a new one. 
  5. We put the caps back on our markers.
  6. We are gentle with our markers. 
It seems silly and he's only 30 months old, but doing this has helped him tremendously and they're in really good condition still after a month or so.  He tends to be really rough with things so we've got to give a lot of reminders to be gentle and guide his hand to show him, otherwise he might bang the marker against the desk repeatedly and hard. This is a huge task to do with him, but the consistency has been good for him to learn. 

You can tell that he's getting more accurate as we progress...

I've been using these markers with special alphabet sheets that I found on Confessions of a Homeschooler. She also has some other sheets as well if you check out her blog which I LOVE. 

Activity

When we do the dot markers, we talk about what letter it is and I have G say the letter, as well as the sound it makes. We repeat that as we're using the markers and I might mention words that start with that letter. After we're done drawing and he's bored of that, I turn on ABCMouse for him and play the song for that letter and I might pull up an activity about that letter (ie. a paint activity for a word that starts with that letter). This gives some structure to the activity, without expecting him to sit at the activity for too long.

So like this, "Godric, do you know what letter this is?" (wait, see if he's got an answer) "Yes it's the letter A!" (he only occasionally gets it right which is normal at this age from what I understand). "A says ahhhhhh, can you say ahhhhh" "Ahhhh..." "Do you know what starts with the letter A? APPLE!" "Apple!" And so on. 

It's very cool and he really seems to enjoy himself. I think he does well with structured activities. The morning is the best time for us to complete activities like this because that's when he's most receptive, and his brain is most awake. Sometimes I'll try it right after a good nap too.

If you don't want to print your own, I found these books on Amazon that are reasonable: