Millions of people every day use the Internet to buy and sell goods.
It's a tremendous boon to buyers, who have a wider array of products to choose from and can more easily find deals. It's also great for sellers, who have more potential customers and an inexpensive way to advertise their goods.
The system, however, is not without its flaws.
Take my own recent experience as one example. A longtime eBay user when buying or selling small items, I decided to try posting a big-ticket item — my beloved Jeep — on a certain nationwide free classified site, just to see what would happen.
Within minutes I had responses from a handful of interested buyers.
One person liked the look of my vehicle so much that he wanted to wire the money immediately, if I would just send him my bank account number and the security code on my credit card.
Another was willing to send me an extra $1,000 — in a cashier's check drawn on the Congo United National Bank — to pay for a deluxe wax job and a couple of week's storage. Oh, and would I mind mailing him back any remaining funds, in the form of crisp $100 bills?
One guy wondered if I was willing to make a trade instead of a sale. Said he had a slice of yellowcake uranium. All I had to do was bring a lead-lined container and meet him in the alley behind the coffee shop at 2:18 a.m. Come alone.
The last to respond wanted to know what I was wearing, and if I smelled like violets.
That's when it hit me that the Internet might not be a completely secure place to be. I mean, a person less savvy easily could have given up his bank account numbers to a scam artist … and totally missed out on that sweetheart deal from the gentleman in the Congo.