Posts in Trust & Safety

Buying Second-Hand Designer Bags (and recognizing counterfeits)

Some things in life should be bought first-hand and brand new- most food products, eye glasses, underwear (to name a few.) But then there are many things that just make sense to buy used- especially if the value depreciates over time. Most of the luxury items we buy such as cars, watches and jewelry depreciate as soon as we take it out of the box or wrapping and begin using them.

Case in point: designer bags. We love them, we want them, we scour the Internet looking at celebrities using them, and every so often we’ll let ourselves browse through the designer’s website casually checking out the prices. However, the logic of paying thousands of dollars for a bag that begins to lose its worth as soon as you take it out for a spin seems odd.

Buying second hand a designer bag can be one of the easiest and smartest ways to have the bag you want without putting a serious dent in your bank account. As long as the previous owner has taken decent care of the bag, no one would be the wiser that your bag didn’t come from a store.

The only major con of buying a designer bag used, is the risk that you’re spending a chunk of change on something that could be potentially “fake”, or a knock-off of the original. We’ve all seen the tables or carts set up on the streets of many major North American cities with piles upon piles of “Chanel”, “Hermes”, and “Prada” designer bags lumped together being sold by someone yelling out “DESIGNER BAGS FOR SALE. Hey…are you looking for a Gucci bag?” That happens everyday (minus the tables and carts) online. Smart Kijiji shoppers know that when it comes to buying anything designer, it’s important to know the markers of a genuine item.

Avoiding Counterfeit Handbags

To help make sure you’re never duped into buying a designer bag that isn’t actually designer, here are a few tips on what to look for in a used bag and what to ask the seller before hanging over your hard-earned cash.

1. Look for the “Obvious” Clues First

  • Check for spelling! Knock-offs often will spell just one letter incorrectly and if you’re just skimming the hardware of the bag or the inside stitching, it’s very easy to miss.
  • Take a sniff! Designers use real leather. Real leather smells like leather. You shouldn’t smell glue, rubber, or any other synthetic materials no matter how “used” the bag is.
  • Take a close look! Genuine handbags have a consistent coloration throughout the bag, and if it’s a printed bag or one with a logo, they should be consistent throughout the bag. Also, the stitching on designer bags are almost always with real stitches, not glue or other adhesives. Don’t forget about the hardware! Genuine handbags use quality metal for their hardware so there shouldn’t be severe rusting or discoloration. Any sign of deep damage could be a big hint that the bag isn’t authentic.

2. Know Your Bag Inside and Out

  • Before you purchase the second-hand bag, go to an actual store that sells verified new handbags and take a look at the details. Don’t be afraid to get a little handsy and get a good feel of the leather, the weight of the bag, and the smoothness of the stitching and lining so you can compare it to the second-hand bag later on. Never buy a bag without seeing it in person first!

3. Be Realistic About Pricing

  • A true, genuine bag (even a second-hand designer bag) will be expensive. If someone is offering a Celine, or Birkin, or Chanel for a couple hundred dollars when the real bag retails for over a few thousand dollars, that’s a huge red flag. It may be tempting to seize a deal but in this case, the old adage “if it seems too good to be true, it probably is” fits the situation.

4. Get the Proof

  • When buying from second-hand stores or sellers, it’s always safer to buy from someone who can offer you proof of purchase or has a card of authenticity that’s included with the bag when it was originally purchased.

Buying and “Celling” on Kijiji: How to Check if a Phone for sale is Lost or Stolen

Buying a used phone makes a lot of sense. Much like a new car, new phones depreciate quickly. The hottest new phone can only maintain the title of “most coveted telecommunications accessory” for so long before it is displaced by one even newer and shinier – which is exactly what makes them a great buy on classifieds. Whether you are the one always in hot pursuit of the newest phone (and find yourself constantly wanting to unload the flavor of last month to finance your new toy), or you want to score a great deal on a great phone by buying gently used, connecting with another local Canadian to make your money go farther just makes sense.

Many are concerned when buying a new phone that they might not be dealing with the rightful owner – a very legitimate concern, considering no one wants to be unknowingly funding illicit activities, or end up with an unusable phone.

Buying and Celling: How to check if a used phone is safe to buy

How to Check if an iPhone is Lost or Stolen.

Look at the lock screen.
If the iPhone offered for sale has been erased remotely or put into lost mode, it should show either that or that it is lost or stolen on the lock screen. If it says that on the lock screen, this is how you can verify that the phone is being sold by the rightful owner.

Ask the seller to reset the iPhone while you watch.
They can do this by going to Settings > General > Reset >Erase All Content and Settings. The process should take a few minutes in which the apple logo and a progress bar will be on the screen. If the seller refuses to do this, do not buy the phone! Claims that the password is forgotten or they are in too much of a rush are big red flags.

After they reset, go through the phone set up with them – make sure to select, the language, location, and network. After that, it will ask you to enter your apple ID and password (hopefully), which means you are safe to buy the iphone.

If there is not a prompt for you to enter an ID and password, and instead it asks for the previous owners ID and password, or a message that says that the phone was lost and erased, something is wrong. Ask the seller to enter the credentials. If they cannot get past this screen, you know that the phone was found or stolen.

What about other smart phones? How do I know if an Android, Blackberry, or Windows Phone is stolen?

The Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association (or CWTA) has set up a page to check whether IMEI numbers belong to cells that are available for sale before you buy. Seller doesn’t know their IMEI? It is easy to find (and replicate to verify that they gave you the right number). Open the dialler and enter *#06#, which works on most major smart phones including BlackBerry, Android, iOS and Windows Phone, as well as many other cell phone brands.

As the list is populated by reports from carriers after their customers report phones lost or stolen, there can be a lag of up to 48 hours before an IMEI number appears on the list. If you are replying to a newly posted ad and meeting up same day, ask the seller for some verification that they bought this phone originally (or if it is an iPhone, just follow the steps above). If they can’t demonstrate that this is their phone, set a meeting time that will give enough time between the ad being posted and the CWTA list being updated to ensure your peace of mind.

To learn more about mobile phone theft and how to protect yourself, visit the GSMA website.

Back to School Scams to Watch Out For

With the beginning of the school year right around the corner, students are facing many transitions. Many will be looking for a part time job that will be flexible enough to hold through the rigors of exam writing, and many post-secondary students are seeking affordable housing close to campus. The urgency of the situation can make you an easy target for those looking to victimize. Here are some tips from our resident fraud experts on how to avoid falling for fraud when you are heading back to school.

Avoiding back to school scams

Securing a Back to School Job
For most students in college or university (or who aspire to go), securing an income source is a big part of what will enable the budget to balance. Finding a job close to campus with flexible hours is a popular way to add some cash flow during the year. Working in retail, finding work in hospitality, babysitting on the side, or cleaning houses for money are all options that can supplement incomes part time that work with student schedules. Here is how to stay safe while looking for work:

Guard your personal information until you know who you are dealing with. Sending a resume to a legitimate company is no problem, but avoid sending out a resume with all your contact details and address to every ad you see. When dealing with anonymous ads, have a version of your resume that doesn’t give too much about yourself away. Wait until you get a reply from someone with a company name (if applicable) before sharing your contact details. Never share your social insurance number online.

Know the average wages for the field. Job scams generally will advertise a wage that is much higher than average for positions that don’t require much (if at all) in the way of specialized skills or training. Drivers, assistants, data entry, and secret shoppers are especially popular targets for fraud. Frequently, scam artists will post ads for positions at much higher pay than average, and will be in a rush to hire without an interview.

Never pay for a job. If the “job” involves start up costs, refunding “over paid” cheques, wiring money, or anything else that involves you sending or spending money, stay away! A real job will pay you, and won’t make you foot the bill for your own training or pay up front for a uniform or kit.

Check out more job ad red flags, or learn how students can improve their resume for more information on getting a part time position.

Finding Student Accommodations
With over 2 million unique monthly visitors, the Real Estate category on Kijiji has become an immensely popular destination for those seeking short-term or long-term rentals. It can be very difficult to secure accommodations in a new city, but don’t let panic get the best of you and allow yourself to be victimized by a fraudulent landlord. Here are some tips to ensure that moving day doesn’t end in tears:

Only deal with local landlords. The majority of scam artists operate out of foreign countries. The poster behind the ad might say they’re out of the country indefinitely, or that they won’t return until after you would need to agree to the rental (and pay up).

Never wire funds. As a prospective tenant, you should never be expected to send money in advance without having met the landlord or seen the rental unit. It’s crucial to physically visit any place you’re considering renting, rather than relying on scanned photos or website links – even if the apartment is real, there can be major shortcomings that are not clear without checking out the space.

Be skeptical of especially low rental prices. Check rental rates in the same area. Often, fraudsters will try to entice their victims with low prices. If the apartment you are looking at seems to have no flaws but is considerably under the median asking price for apartments of a similar size nearby, be on the alert, as it could be fraud.

Never share personal financial information. Some may be tricked by deceptive offers into sharing social insurance information, credit card and bank account numbers. Personal information can then be used by scam artists to open new bank or credit card accounts in your name. Legitimate landlords don’t need any of this information to do a credit check.

Trust your instincts. If a situation makes you feel uncomfortable or strange, the circumstances are more than likely too good to be true. Go with your gut and steer clear.

Check out more tips on identifying real estate rental fraud, how to land an apartment when vacancies are low, and how to budget for your first apartment for more information on student housing.

Guide to Buying Car Seats for Your Baby

For parents to be, one of the most stressful parts of your new life happens before your baby even arrives. The amount of research you need to do, as well as the money and time that goes into figuring out the hundreds of things you’re going to need to prepare for your new little bundle of joy is enough to overwhelm anyone.

As we’ve all been told, babies go through things quickly and they grow out of them even quicker. For this reason, a lot of new parents opt towards purchasing some gently used items for their baby, especially the bigger-ticket, more expensive things your baby needs. Of the many baby essentials you’ll have to have, one of the more complicated items is the baby seat. Seems simple enough- get a car seat, put it in the back, stick the baby in until it’s old enough to wear a seatbelt – not too difficult, right?

What some new parents may not know is that not all car seats were created equal. If you’re thinking about purchasing a used car seat, you have to be up to date on the new requirements that were put in place as of January, 2012. It is illegal to buy, sell, trade, or give away a car or booster seat that does not comply with the new regulations. Anyone who does could be held liable in civil court. Kijiji does not allow ads for car seats manufactured prior to January 1, 2012 as many of them do not comply with the new regulations.

Buying a Safe Car Seat

From the Ministry of Transportation website:
The major changes incorporated in the new Canadian regulations include:
• a lap/shoulder seat belt testing requirement for all types of car seats;
• changes to child seats’ dynamic testing to adopt most of the U.S. testing parameters;
• changing the definition of an infant from up to 9 kg, to up to 10 kg;
• increase in the maximum allowable weight limit of child seats from 22 kg to 30 kg;
• introduction of dynamic testing requirements for booster seats;
• extending the limitation on rebound to all rear facing child seats; and
• the allowance of harnesses to be certified for usage on school buses for special needs children.
New car seats you’re purchasing from a store now should all be in compliance, but don’t assume anything- always look for the National Safety Mark for assurance that you’ve indeed purchased a valid, safe car seat.

This goes for buying a used car seat as well – if the car seat was manufactured after January 2012, look for the National Safety Mark. It may sound scary and it may seem better to buy new from a store, but for some parents to be, money can be tight and these new laws shouldn’t intimidate you away from buying baby items off classifieds. When you’re going through the ads, make sure the seller has included the following information:

• the date which the product was manufactured
• the serial number and model number of the car seat
• a picture of the NSM/information label of the car seat

If you have any doubts still, you can always reach out directly to the manufacturer to ask questions before you make your purchase.
At the end of the day, these new rules and regulations are put in place to keep your new baby safe and to give you a little peace of mind too. New parents have enough things to worry about, the safety of your child in your vehicle shouldn’t be one of them.

Avoiding Contractor, Moving, and Other Service Scams

Whether you find a service off Kijiji or elsewhere, it is important to vet the quality of the work they do before you hire them. The costs of being defrauded by a fraudulent contractor or moving company can get quite high. Here are a few tips to ensure you are getting what you paid for.

Finding the right person: Avoiding moving and contractor scams

Search the company or individual’s name and see what comes up. Read review from other customers and request a list of references they have worked for before. Past customers are the best source of information on the quality of work.

Ask for recommendations. If a friend, colleague, or family member has recently had a good experience with a company, that is worth much more than a review from a stranger online.

Get multiple estimates. If one is far lower than the rest, that is a big red flag. Remember, if it seems to be too good to be true, it probably is!

When hiring a moving company, make sure you get a full written contract that includes the estimate, exactly what work you need to have done, and specifies that the price cannot be more than 10% more than the original quote. Also discuss insurance; even good movers may damage something. What sets the good ones apart is taking responsibility for damages incurred and having or helping you set up the appropriate insurance.

Be wary of up front deposits. Some services require deposits (for instance, renovation services that have to buy raw materials), but never give one without first drawing up a contract and checking their references. If possible, front any initial costs for materials yourself so you don’t have to give out a deposit. A post-dated cheque or a PayPal payment are good alternatives to cash as you have recourse if the services paid for do not materialize.

Specifically ask about other costs not mentioned in the quote, and read the fine print on a contract.

Stay away from companies with out any history. Non reputable companies will frequently change their name to avoid the bad reputation they have gained from past work. If you can’t find any information about the past jobs of the company, keep looking for a company that has a reputation they are invested in protecting. Look for markers of an established business – for instance, printed business cards, a website, an address listed. If looking for a moving service, the presence vans advertising the company name and contact information are also a good sign, as it shows that the owners have invested in their name and are thus more likely to want to protect their reputation.

Be skeptical; if it seems too good to be true, chances are, it is. Want to learn more about moving scams? The Financial Services Commission of Ontario is running a chat on how to identify and avoid moving scams today, Thursday August 14th at 1 PM EST. Follow the hashtag #FraudChat on Twitter and the FSCO Twitter account