December 13th, 2019
How can I stay safe and secure when using online services?
Websites and apps have become increasingly popular for hiring someone to perform errands, tasks, or chores for you, to make deliveries, and to drive you places. These sites put you in touch with individuals who are willing to do a broad range of services such as housecleaning, assistance with moving, furniture assembly, and pet-sitting, as well as drive you to a destination or make a delivery. However, you may be wary to hire a complete stranger from the internet to do something as personal as enter your home or care for your pet. Here are some tips to make sure you are not being scammed.
Use trusted websites that require background checks and verifications
Sites such as Rover.com or TaskRabbit require anyone who wants to perform services for money to fill out an application, provide references, and undergo a background check. This helps ensure that anyone you consider hiring to assist you has been checked out by the company and does not have a record which would indicate they are likely to scam or otherwise harm you. Look to these sites first when trying to hire someone. Look to see that the potential pet-sitter, housecleaner, or furniture assembly assistant has completed all of the requirements to have an account on the site, that they have legitimate profile photos, and that they have references which are positive and indicate that they have done this work before to someone’s satisfaction. You should also check for any negative reviews, and steer clear of anyone who seems problematic. Of course, you may not have all of the information about why that person received a negative review, but particularly if it seems like the person was not trustworthy or reliable, there are many other options and it is not worth taking a chance if something seems off. If you yourself have a negative experience hiring someone through one of these sites, you should immediately report it to the site so that they can take the appropriate action.
Be cautious about arrangements when selling or purchasing goods online
Sites like Craigslist have been around for ages to allow people to sell and buy all kinds of items, but there have been many news stories about online sales gone wrong where people have ended up being scammed, robbed, or even worse, killed. While this is an unlikely occurrence, you should always be cautious about selling and purchasing items through the internet. Try to use sites such as LetGo or Facebook Marketplace which provide more user verification information than sites like Craigslist, and allow you to report users who are violating the terms of services, such as sending inappropriate messages, soliciting your banking or credit card information, or suggesting dangerous meetings to exchange the goods. Sites like eBay and Poshmark can be even more secure, as you do not have to meet in person to make the sale for your goods. It can be a little more work to set up an account with those sites and make arrangements for shipping goods, but those companies also provide protection and guarantees to help foster safe sales and assist you in the event of a scam. If you do opt for in-person sales or purchases, take a friend or family member with you, try to meet in a public place, and exchange funds in a secure manner, such as paying or accepting cash or using a verified money transferring app like Venmo.
Check information when using ride share services
When using Uber or Lyft to get a ride, make sure that the vehicle and driver that arrives to pick you up matches the information that you were provided when you requested the ride. This means taking a few extra moments to check the vehicle’s license plate and taking a look at the vehicle and driver to make sure the plate numbers, make and model, and driver match the information and photos on the app. If the information does not match up, do not get into the vehicle and report it to the company immediately. Do not feel pressured just because you are running late, or because you do not want to incur a cancellation fee, or because you are worried the driver will be mad at you. These companies take safety seriously, and want to know if the drivers they have screened and approved are complying with all of the rules and policies, and they also want to know if individuals are out there fraudulently pretending to work for the company. Be especially cautious of any driver who tries to solicit you to pay in cash or any method other than the rideshare app, or who tries to get you to contact them directly, rather than through the app, for future rides.
The internet has become a convenient way for us to conduct a variety of business, and there are many safeguards in place to ensure that users can trust those who they hire or engage with, but following a few precautions when using these sites and services can help give you peace of mind and foster safe and secure transactions.