Friday, March 16, 2012

Buyer and Seller Safety With Online Classifieds

The online classifieds industry is booming and growing larger by the day compared with traditional newspaper classifieds that are slowly disappearing into the abyss. The reasoning for this shift is simply explained in convenience and functionality. After all you can search online and quickly find what you're looking for, whereas in a newspaper you have to sift through them one by one trying to find what you want.
However, this convenience comes at the price of security which many people don't realise until they experience it first hand and become the victim of fraud or identity theft. The large online classifieds and auction websites introduce many measures to minimize fraud with a variety of mechanisms including:
- Validation via email (insecure).
- Validation via land line telephone
- Validation via SMS cell / mobile phone.
- Payment verification via Credit Card
- IP Address location algorithms
- Physical address validation
Yet these security measures come at a price to the website operators by making their websites more difficult to use and reduces user participation. The increased complexity leaves many people who are not very technology savvy lost and confused so they find themselves on simplistic websites that accept listings without validation.
The simplicity is great for user participation, but it is also fantastic for fraudsters who take advantage of the lack of security on these sites.
This is quite concerning particularly when the demand for this simplicity is increasing with the increased use of smart phones where simplicity is paramount. In recent times many start-up's are working on exclusively mobile oriented local classifieds systems that are extremely simple to use, but there appears to be a lack of consideration on security with a pure focus to simplicity, user interaction and growth.
So how does one identify a potential fraudster when it comes to buying and selling online? Well there are a number of key indicators that everyone should be aware of:
- The mention of utilization of a 'buyers agent'.
- Unable to contact via telephone due to being on an oil rig, mines, etc.
- Underpriced items, if the price is too good to be true, it probably is.
- Discussions of using the so called 'eBay Protection Program' when the sale isn't on eBay.
- Offers to purchase a large ticket item without an inspection, such as a car, bike or boat.
Ultimately the best and safest way to purchase online is to buy and sell locally, meet the opposing party in person, and exchange payment with cash, but this does not mean that if you are buying and selling big ticket items that will ultimately be paid by cash or cheque that any communication with a buyer via e-mail is safe. Many scams target big ticket items due to the increased participation and communication involved between the parties and therefore probe for information in a manner that leads to identity theft. This is particularly rampant amongst used car sales online.
If you must buy from someone that you cannot meet, you must be extremely cautious and buy from reputable persons only. Look for sites with user reputation systems, review other listings by the same person, and see how long that particular user has been a member of the website.
Buyer and Seller safety is of the utmost importance in this growing industry however it is often overlooked by newcomers in the space, however even the most stringent security measures can be bypassed by fraudsters via identity theft and stolen credit cards, so you cannot assume safety when it comes to buying and selling online with any website, big or small.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

2012 Chevrolet Malibu Review and Road Test

If you bought a Chevrolet Malibu prior to 2008 you most likely did it for practical reasons rather than emotional ones. It is highly unlikely that the Malibu from that era would evoke any kind of emotion beyond a certain sense of security because you knew what you were getting: value, reliability and of course it was a sensible decision. Nowadays the Malibu is still a sensible decision, it just isn't as boring. In 2008 the Malibu was totally re-designed to be much more visually appealing, as well as a host of technical improvements. It was so good at the time in fact that it was awarded North American car of the year. But that was 2008, the question a car buyer asks in 2012 is; how does it stack up now?
On the inside the Malibu is appealing to look at. The dash has a nice flow to it that leads down to the centre console. The materials are soft to the touch and appear well put together. The manual heating and ventilation controls along with the generic GM stereo unit look a little dated but are functional and easy to use. The switch gear on the doors could also use an update. Seats are comfortable and look great when equipped with the leather and suede option. Head and leg room is good for taller people and everything can be adjusted for all most any size of driver. The back seats have adequate leg room but not class leading. For safety the Malibu has thorax and head curtain airbags as well as the standard ones in the steering wheel and dash in front of the passenger. Overall the interior of the Malibu is nice, but not the best on the market.
On the road the Malibu has a nice ride that you would expect from a more expensive car. This is thanks in part to the fact that the Malibu has one of the longest wheel bases in its class at 112". This allows the car to take the bumps very smoothly. You will also be struck by how quiet the interior is. GM has laminated the windshield and front side windows to reduce noise coming from the outside. The car feels solid over most bumps not rattling like many GM sedans that came before it.
Most Malibu's are being bought with the 2.4L 4 cylinder engine with 169 horsepower because of fuel prices. The engine is good enough when hooked up to the 6-speed automatic. Originally the 4 cylinder came hooked to a truly awful 4-speed automatic that was bad on fuel and worse at acceleration. Whether in the city or on the highway the 4 cylinder/6-speed combination gets good fuel economy. The optional 3.6L V6 engine with 252 horsepower is considerably quicker than the 4 cylinder is. It is actually quite fun to drive. The V6 however is a little too thirsty on fuel to appeal to the commuters that typically purchase midsize cars. V6 sales in this segment have dipped to low that they seem to getting phased out. The Hyundai Sonata and Kia Optima have ditched the V6 option from their model line ups, instead opting for a 2.0L turbo 4 cylinder engine. GM has its own turbo 2.0L 4 cylinder that should find its way into the next generation of Malibu.
Steering is lazy and unresponsive, but then again this isn't marketed as a sport sedan. Handling is reasonably good with little body roll. When pushed hard in the corners the conservative Malibu feels reluctant but doesn't make you feel like it's about to lose control. Buyers looking for a sporty drive will want to consider the Buick Regal or Honda Accord.
Exterior styling is nice enough and looks like a more expensive car when you glance at it. There are many choices for wheels. Any buyer with a modicum of taste will want to do their best to avoid the tacky "chrome clad" wheel option. Simply put this is a plastic chrome finish pressed over a standard alloy wheel. The result is a wheel with a lip that hangs the better part of an inch over the edge of the rim. Not only does it look bad but it is prone to getting scraped on curbs.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Tips for When Test Driving a Car

When looking to purchase a car it's advised that you take it for a test drive before committing to buy it. Taking a test drive in a vehicle ensures that you like the way the car feel and you enjoy driving it. It may also outline any underlying problems with the car that normally you wouldn't be able to see if it was stationary. Here are a few tips to help you decide if the car is the right one for you whilst you're test driving it.
First, think about what you will use the car for mainly. Do you drive down the motorway a lot or are you more of a city driver? Depending on the primary use of the car will depend where you should test the car for longer. You should take the vehicle for at least a half an hour drive and test it on all different kinds of roads. Split this half an hour up into sections and spend longer on the roads you will use the most.
By sitting in a stationary car you can't really tell if it will be a comfortable drive or not, and that's why it's vital to test drive a car when considering buying it. Adjust the seat and the steering column to a comfortable position before you start your test drive and make sure it remains comfortable even when driving.
Another good tip is to take a look around the car to see if it has any blind spots that may jeopardise safety when driving or parking. The best way to test this is to try reversing into a parking space to make sure the rear visibility is good. This is something that wouldn't be blatantly obvious when stationary in a car and only becomes obvious when put into practice.
The way a car performs can tell you a lot about the condition of it and maybe even outline any underlying problems. The next tip is to find a safe place and test the braking, acceleration and turning of the vehicle. Making sure that it handles and performs as it should do is important, an excellent example of a well performing car is the vehicle you drive when on your driving lessons as they are maintained and kept well.
Comfort of your passengers is also very important in a car so when you have finished your test drive take a seat in the front passenger's seat and the back, if are any.
Listen out for any unusual noises or sounds throughout the whole duration of your test drive. Any unusual noises may indicate there is something wrong with the car and this is never a good sign.
If you're viewing a number of different cars then try to test drive them all on the same day. This way all the cars are fresh in your memory and you can make an informed choice using what you liked and disliked about all the cars you drove. You should find that when on your driving lessons you can ask your instructor for more tips on test driving a car.