By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Glazer: A hard lesson in Web treachery
Placeholder Image

I didn't just fall off a turnip truck. I've been using a computer for well over 20 years. I've been selling on eBay since 1997. That was about the same time the Beanie Baby craze hit.

Remember Beanie Babies? They were cushy little stuffed animals with cute names and heart-shaped tags and normally sane people went berzerk trying to collect them. Some marketing genius decided to periodically "retire" certain dolls, making them hard to find and far more valuable than the original $5 selling price.

When Garcia the tie-dyed bear was retired, the demand went through the roof. I sold one in an auction with spirited last-minute bidding that ended with a sale price of more than $200. And the buyer actually thanked me for the opportunity to pay that for a few ounces of plush and pellets. A quick check on eBay this morning showed the same doll selling for around $12.99. Ouch.

The Beanie Baby craze came and went. I moved away from the collectible market and focused on selling clothing and accessories. I don't know how many auctions I've listed since 1997, but according to my eBay stats, I've received more than 10,000 positive feedbacks from buyers. I've received one negative review. One. And human nature being what it is, I still occasionally find myself fuming over that undeserved criticism rather than celebrating those thousands of happy customers.

Throughout the years, I've been exposed to all sorts of schemes and scams. In the days when purchases could be paid with money orders, I sometimes received emails asking if a buyer could send a money order in an amount that was considerably more than the purchase price. The story was usually that they'd bought it to pay for another auction that fell though. Would I please just cash it, keep the amount of my auction and a bit more for my trouble and then mail them the balance? I suppose they expected me to hop in my turnip truck and drive straight to the bank with that bogus money order.

I've received hundreds of emails that appear to be from eBay, usually with disturbing subject lines reading "Account suspended!" or "Notification of customer complaint." The email will seem completely kosher, with eBay graphics and formatting just like all of their communications. There's always a link to click that leads to what looks just like the standard log-in page asking for user name and password. The scammer's hope is that I'll have used the same password for other online accounts as well, especially PayPal, where my customers make their payments.

Of course, I'm too smart to fall for that. At least I was until last Sunday. That morning's email simply referred to a bid that had been canceled. It's nothing earth shattering. It happens from time to time. There was a link that claimed to be the auction number. Clicking on it took me to my log-in page. Lulled by the pedestrian nature of the communication and the fact that I'd yet to have my morning coffee, I typed in my information.

I immediately realized my mistake. I went to eBay and quickly changed my password. But I wasn't fast enough. Some black-hearted eCrook had already listed half a dozen auctions for the much sought-after Nintendo Wii U. They were going for $350 each. I began desperately canceling the auctions but, again, I wasn't fast enough. Some poor woman in South Carolina purchased two of them, using the Buy It Now feature. She immediately sent almost $700 to my PayPal account.

At that point, I knew I needed help. I called eBay's customer support and spoke to a young man with the dulcet lilt of Bangalore in his voice and the unlikely name of Austin. He voided all of the auctions and advised me to refund the hapless buyer's money. As I suspected, the scammer was gambling that my password to the PayPal account was the same the one for eBay. If that had been the case, he could have made off with $700 and I would have been left holding the bag.

And there ends the story. I really dodged a bullet on that one. It took a few hours to straighten everything out and it gave my husband, Arthur, who writes the Computer Care column for The Times, a topic for Saturday's submission. You'll see it as an informative essay on Internet security. I see it as a well-deserved 800 word "I told you so."

Now I'll just climb in my turnip truck and head off into the sunset. Happy trails and safe computing, y'all.

Teressa Glazer is a Gainesville businesswoman. Her column appears biweekly on Fridays and at gainesvilletimes.com/viewpoint.

Regional events