Making the Best of an Online Ad

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So you found the perfect TV stand on Kijiji and the seller is only looking for half your budget. How do you proceed? Do you bombard them with messages letting them know you’re the guy? Do you send them a polite email asking if they’re still looking to sell? What do you do? What do you do?

Well, that definitely depends on which website you’re using. There are tons of classifieds and listing websites these days, each with their own philosophy and their own etiquette. Craigslist is very open, kind of the weathered hippy of the bunch, where just about everything goes. You can get stuff, you can get jobs, you can get people. Kijiji is a little bit more professional, but only because it seems like everybody but you is paying to be heard. Then there’s eBay, with its high-paced bidding system giving you anxiety and buyers’ remorse when you realise that your crazy rage-bid is actually going to win.

The point is, each listing and classifieds website has its own method to win. The best possible approach is to start by reading the website rules if there are any to ensure that your messages or bids won’t be automatically filtered out. The second step is being quick and being diligent. It doesn’t matter what you’re looking for – property or a date – ads are posted much faster than you could ever respond or even really see all of. You can, however, make a dent by making good use of the filters provided and understand each category.

Once all that is done, formulating a good message is the next big step. Different levels of formality are required for different situations, but good grammar, good spelling, and decently correct language is usually a good idea for anything more important that Billy Joe’s old rims. For jobs and property especially, it’s an excellent idea to have a few canned responses ready in your email (you can do this with most clients), in order to quickly and efficiently respond to as much as possible.

However, as with anything online, be sure to only include personal information that you’re comfortable making public. As careful as you can be, you’re still communicating with strangers and there’s always a chance that they could be gathering your information for reasons you don’t particularly agree with. If you’re the type who responds to personals, this is incredibly important, and not just for women. If planning to meet, make sure it’s somewhere in public for the first time, with many people around and that at least one person you trust knows what you’re doing and where you’ll be. It might seem silly, but it is much safer in the end. Anonymity on the internet makes it the perfect place for predators.

But, to end on a less somber note, classifieds websites are somewhat of a boon. Anybody familiar with videogames will tell you that one of the best features is the ability to sell whatever you don’t need for some quick cash to buy something else you don’t need but really really want. So, happy scouring!

 

For an extra treat, check out Freecycle.org! All the benefits of Kijiji and Craigslist but everything is free!

Scam Artist Playground

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Craigslist seems to have gotten itself a few reputations over the years. Some know it as the place where you can get anything for anything. Some know it for the missed connections section which can be thrilling, creepy, and downright hilarious. A lot more people though, have grown wary of the openness of the site and how its anonymity attracts scammers and con artists looking to leech off of the less-informed.

Why Craigslist and similar websites like Kijiji and eBay have become breeding grounds for scammers is obvious. It’s very difficult to track just who is posting and even easier to prey on desperate people just trying to earn a little money. Furthermore, there are so many sections so well laid out, that it’s incredibly easy to target any particular kind of person, saving scammers time on finding just the right mark. Many scams do indeed just go for low-hanging fruit, trying to con people out of their items much in the way a pawn shop would, and for those transgressions, it’s easy to give the website a pass. However, the schemes do get incredibly elaborate and it’s the ones that prey on the most desperate and least able to defend themselves that really stand out.

In particular, among the job boards is a scam involving an ad that, for all intents and purposes looks legitimate. Generally it will be in the human resources section, the office administration section, or the general help/labour sections. The ad comes in many forms but is always pretty similar: businessman looking for a secretary, receptionist, or personal assistant to help with daily office tasks. On the face of it, it seems pretty innocuous but many young students have fallen for the con. You send an email and receive, in return, an email asking for your address or a P.O. Box where you can exchange goods for money. Surprise surprise, they also need your bank information so they can wire you the money to get started. No employer ever needs anything more than contact information until they actually hire you.

It’s absolutely abhorrent since this type of scammer preys on poor students who are new to the job market and don’t know how to protect themselves yet or people who are so desperate they’d do just about anything.

Another one, involving employment, is the from-home sales consultant which is invariably a pyramid scheme or straight-up fraud. Telemarketers are also all over Craigslist looking for “shooters.” A shooter is generally just a cold call agent and is not only an absolutely awful job by itself, but generally only quasi-legal if legal at all. Of course, there are more reputable ways to find jobs, but many people, businesses included, rely on the ease and ubiquity of Craigslist and Kijiji.

If you are looking for employment in particular, it’s important to keep your resume to yourself until you’re sure that the person contacting you is actually an employer. A friendly inquiry with only basic information sent using the website’s secure message system is an excellent way to make very sure that you’re contacting a legitimate business.

This isn’t to say you can’t use these sorts of websites to your advantage. Knowing about these scams can help you navigate through the unsavoury ads and find the gems.

Staying Safe When Posting Online Ads

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Chances are at one point in your life you’ve looked through your stuff and thought, gee, I bet I could make some money on some of this junk! Not too long ago, your options would have been pretty limited to garage sales, pawn shops, and the classifieds section. With the advent of the internet though, it’s easier than ever to buy and sell thing online. Easier doesn’t always mean safer though. Posting an Ad online opens you up to contact from just about anybody, and there are ways to keep yourself safer.

First of all, choose a reputable website. Kijiji, Craigslist, and eBay are the big ones and they have lots of services available to newbies. Specific message boards and forums are another option for niche items like rare collectibles and even plants. For most items though, a listing service like Craigslist will have all the exposure you need. If you’re worried about the interface, the fact that so many people do frequent the websites means that there are always tutorials and guides on how and where to post your items.

Once you know where you want to post it, formulate a brief ad that gives only relevant information. You generally won’t have to display any information that you aren’t comfortable giving out — such as phone number and email address — and this is explicitly to protect your privacy. However, ads with phone numbers do tend to do better, so if you do post your number, be sure that it’s a number that belongs to you and that you’re comfortable sharing. Most classifieds websites are free to post on, but you can pay for premium services like hiding your information. While it’s not strictly necessary to guard against human spammers, it is a helpful option for guarding against bots that collect email addresses and phone numbers for spam purposes.

While creating your ad, use proper grammar and language, as that not only makes your ad seem more professional, but will generally be more appealing to people looking to buy. A poorly written ad can alert spammers to an inexperienced user, who could then become a target. Spammers do tend to look for people who seem confused or poorly versed in what they’re doing since those ‘marks’ are easiest to con. A well-written ad lets potential con artists know that you know what you’re doing and that you can’t be tricked into anything too easily.

Finally, keep track of your ad and be sure to make any necessary changes as they arise. This is not just to keep your potential customers abreast of the situation, but it will also limit the amount of time your ad is up. Generally, you will have to post it a few times unless you’re paying to be featured, and each one of those posts needs to be taken down once you’ve finally sold your item — especially if you’re including any personal information.

It’s important to remember that posting any information anywhere is always a risk to your privacy, not just online, but using these tips can help you create a tolerable level of security.