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Fighting the bad guys

With more and more people searching for great deals, many consumers have turned to online classifieds sites, such as Oodle or Craigslist. This rise of popularity has not gone unnoticed by con artists, otherwise known as scammers.

As the freshly-minted product manager for trust and safety initiatives at Oodle, my job is to make sure our proprietary fraud detection software is catching scammers and flagging suspicious behavior, organize other safety initiatives, stay up-to-date on the latest trends among the scammers, and educate our users on how to stay safe.

Each and every listing posted on Oodle and its properties, such as Facebook Marketplace or AOL Classifieds, is scanned by our proprietary fraud detection software. Many listings with suspicious content or behavior are removed before ever entering our marketplaces. On a typical day, more than 1000 spammers and more than 2500 listings are removed before even entering our system.

In addition to these automatic algorithms, we do a lot of other work once listings are posted on our site. For example, we monitor users’ behavior as they continue posting other listings, or check up on listings marked as suspicious by our users.

Scammers, however, are becoming more creative in how they use online classifieds to target potential victims, which is why the team at Oodle has to be constantly on the look-out for new scams. For example, some scammers copy legitimate users’ ads for popular items and lower the price in an effort to tempt people with deals that are too good to be true. When we launched Facebook Marketplace, we noticed a surge of fraudsters posing as sellers of tempting electronics gadgets, such as unlocked iPhones or cheap GPS navigators. After examining patterns and commonalities between them, our team developed an algorithm that detects and removes most of these listings automatically.

Recently, we’ve seen a surge in fraudulent buyers contacting sellers and offering to pay more than the listed price, asking sellers to send the difference to their “shipping company.” As we speak, I am working with our engineering team on fine-tuning a new algorithm that addresses this problem. While we haven’t solved the issue completely yet, we are seeing optimistic early results.

We take safety very seriously and are as annoyed by scammers as the next person. I plan to keep our users abreast of the latest scams that we see in our safety queue, but could also use your help. If you notice any suspicious behavior on one of our sites, don’t hesitate to email with any information or questions.

2 Responses to “Fighting the bad guys”

  1. September 22nd, 2009 at 9:53 am

    Dave Dugdale says:

    Zuzana I created a rental scam detection quiz if anyone is interested finding out if they are dealing with a scammer:

    Dave Dugdale

  2. October 22nd, 2009 at 11:45 am

    Zuzana says:

    Thanks Dave!

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