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Selling Safely With Oodle

One of the biggest problems associated with traditional online classifieds sites is anonymity.  In recent focus groups we conducted, issues relating to anonymous conversations really stood out.  Most complained of flakey behavior (e.g., the buyer who seems interested but then doesn’t show up for appointments).  But almost everyone cited a close call where they felt scared.

We see evidence of this problem in the media where burglaries, assaults, and even murders are attributed to meetings facilitated on Craigslist.  To get a feel for how big this problem really is, Oodle asked the AIM Group, an analyst organization covering the classifieds industry, to compile the number of crimes published in the press that originated with interactions on Craigslist. The results were pretty scary — 330 crimes committed in the past year, more than 43 of which were violent. (AIM Report on Craigslist Crime)

The information AIM compiled is all public — anyone could compile the same data by searching for reported-upon crimes committed as a result of Craigslist contacts. While the proportion of crimes to day-to-day Craigslist interactions may be small, the data we compiled only shows reported crimes, there could have been many more. Also, we think even one murder is too many — buying and selling online should just be safer.



At Oodle safety is a top priority. We’re all about building a social marketplace — a marketplace where who you’re buying from is as important as what you’re buying.  A key part of this mission is identity.  When people post or respond to a listing on Marketplace, they use their real identity on Facebook – enabling you to not only see who the other party is but to see if you’re connected (share a mutual friend, went to the same college, etc.).  By putting real identity back into conversation, Oodle is re-introducing appropriate social norms back into the local community marketplace.  We also do a lot to monitor communication between buyers and sellers — looking for suspicious activity — as well as provide tips on how to buy and sell safely online in our safety center.

In the age of social media when almost everyone has a Facebook profile, why continue to meet up with anonymous buyers and sellers when there’s a better way?

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 safety-support@oodle.com with any information or questions.

Using Online Classifieds: Some Safety Tips

With purse strings tightened, more and more people are turning to online classifieds for great deals — or to make a few extra dollars selling items no longer being used. Unfortunately, it’s a trend that has not gone unnoticed by scammers, who have become more widespread and creative in how they use online listings as a tool to target potential victims.

Here at Oodle, safety is a top priority and we’ve taken a strong stance to combat classifieds SPAM. We use proprietary fraud detection software to scan each and every listing before it can enter our network. In addition, our support team is armed with proprietary moderation tools for tracking down suspicious behavior and new scams. Working with the Better Business Bureau, we recently published an online classifieds safety guide to protect both buyers and sellers against potentially harmful situations. Following are a few simple tips to make sure you have a safe — and successful — classifieds experience:

  • Always meet in a public place — and avoid making an in-person transaction alone
  • Inspect all items before you buy
  • Beware of underpriced offers — if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is
  • Don’t wire money or take advance payments
  • Insist on cash–never use money wires, MoneyGrams or Western Union
  • Never give out personal identifiable information, such as your credit card numbers, Social Security numbers or bank numbers
  • Only pay for shipping if you know the seller

To see the entire guide, visit http://safety.oodle.com/files/Oodle_Safety_Brochure.pdf.

If you do happen to run into a fraudster or are suspicious of a certain listing, tell us about it so we can spread the word.

Shop Safely During the Holidays

We know it’s the holiday season and you’re feeling warm and fuzzy, but this is prime scammer season, so please shop intelligently.

Be careful of deals that sound too good to be true, and remember never to send money without seeing what you’re buying first. Be especially careful about Bulldog and Yorkie listings.

For more fraud prevention tips and to see sample scam emails, check out our Avoid Scams page. If you do spot a scam in our listings, please let us know as soon as possible!

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