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SKYBIRD:
Dale Brown’s Ops Report
Copyright © 2003, TDPI

CCRR: Combat Crew Rest and Recuperation

From an eBay junkie: Watch Your Six

I admit it: I'm an eBay junkie. If I need or want anything, I'll go to eBay first--everything from a $50 SecureDigital card to a $16,000 Honda Gold Wing motorcycle (I'm still looking, by the way). But unscrupulous lurkers on eBay and my other vice, PayPal, have attempted to burn me recently, and they are the most clever and insidious examples of attempted identity theft I've seen. Here's a few warnings for all you similarly addicted computer weenies:

I received some bogus "spoof" e-mails purportedly from both eBay and PayPal, asking for passwords, personal information like driver's license numbers, and bank account information. I have to give the devils their due: the eBay spoof e-mail looked like the real thing, with the usual logo and header and footer stuff on it, and it even directed me to an eBay-like domain name (www.ebaydata.info or something like that). It was so real that I started filling in credit card information--until it asked for a driver's license number. I backed out of the form without submitting it and e-mailed eBay to let them know about it. The next morning the site was already down.

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But I wonder how many folks filled out and submitted those bogus forms? If the spoofer sent out one hundred thousand bogus e-mails and received responses back from only one-tenth of one percent, that's still ONE HUNDRED credit card numbers, bank account numbers, drivers license numbers, PIN numbers, and passwords. A skillful fraud artist can drain a bank account or charge several thousand dollars on a credit card in minutes. That's a pretty good payday.

The PayPal spoof e-mail was pretty realistic too, but I didn't even start to reply because I had already been alerted by the eBay spoof. Bad timing, numbnuts.

The lesson learned here: NEVER give out ANY personal information unless you are POSITIVE you are on a SECURE and VERIFIED Web site. The eBay site I was taken to did not have the security icon in my browser, and it did not start with "https:" in the URL. If you did not start by logging in to a secure site with your user name and password, you are probably on a spoofed site. Double-check exactly where you're taken every time you click on a URL in an e-mail message.

I will admit that when I'm in "target acquisition" mode, I get "target fixation" and get blinded by the obvious alerts that a trade is not the real thing:

I bid on a Honda Gold Wing motorcycle once. It was a typical deal: ask questions, bid, put down a small deposit by PayPal if you win, then come take a look at the bike or arrange for an inspection by a third party. If it's not as advertised, you get your deposit back and part ways. All pretty normal.

First clue this is not a real deal: this seller wanted the deposit in the form of a wire transfer. Second clue: seller would not accept setting up an escrow account, in which a third party escrow company holds the money and the title until the item is inspected and everything is as advertised. Why would a seller not accept an escrow deal, especially if the buyer pays the escrow fees? Third clue: seller would not give a VIN number. Three strikes. Spider-sense is really tingling now.

Turns out the entire sale was bogus: the guy is just after the deposit money. A simple thousand-dollar deposit adds up to big bucks if you can do a few bogus deals a month like this.

I have successfully completed many big-ticket trades on eBay. When everybody is cooperative, honest, flexible, and up-front, as in my last big trade, they go off very smoothly. I took precautions and had help and watched everything closely, and they concluded satisfactorily.

I consider myself a savvy, well-read, intelligent guy--but I have to caution myself to be on guard each and every second. There are just too many folks out there ready to take advantage of the unwary and overly-trusting like me. They're in it for the fast bucks, and they end up making it hard on everyone else who's trying to use the Internet for honest business rather than just as another virtual back alley to con the unsuspecting.

I urge you to do the same. Be vigilant. Question everything. Look carefully at the messages you receive for any signs of things out of the ordinary. Protect yourself: use escrow accounts, get seller's insurance, or buy only from reliable sellers with good track records. If you have children, DO NOT allow them to use any online buying services of any kind unless you directly supervise them.

Be especially wary of all-cash or guaranteed-money demands, even in small amounts. A SMALL deposit is OK for a very big-ticket item, just enough to demonstrate good faith--five percent is more than enough. NEVER agree to fork over full payment on a big-ticket item unless the seller has a long and sterling track record.

One quick unsolicited endorsement: I use Escrow.com for any big purchases over a couple hundred dollars. This service allows the buyer to inspect and try an item before the seller gets the money, and it allows the seller to know that the money has been paid before the item ships (no more "don't worry, check's in the mail"). It's pricey, especially if you choose to pay the escrow fees by credit card rather than certified check or wire transfer, but the peace of mind you get is worth the cost. Insist that your seller cooperates with an escrow arrangement. If the seller won't agree, buy elsewhere.

I like the Internet, and I use it many times a day. But I DO NOT trust it--and you shouldn't either.

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Air Battle Force (MAY 2003)

Maverick Pilot Patrick McLanahan Takes aerial warfare into unknown territory in a heart racing new adventure.

Still smarting from recent losses, the brilliant but unpredictable former USAF Major General is accepted back into the fold and assigned a simple task: devise and build the air combat unit of the future. McLanahan's answer: the Air Battle Force - a rapid-response team of elite commandos protected by state-of-the-art body armour and supported by an armada of anmanned planes.

His idea is soon put to the test when the oil rich Republic of Turkmenistan becomes a battleground between Taliban insurgents, former Soviet overlords, Iranian opportunists and American oil companies and politicians. But can a handful of commandos half a world away, aided by an unproven force of robot warplanes, fight and win a war in which semingly everyone - even 'friendly' forces at home - want them to fail?

'Whe a former pilot turns his hand to thrillers you can take their authenticity for granted. His writing is exceptional and the dialogue, plots and characters are first-class... far too good to be missed.'
--Sunday Mirror

‘Dale Brown is a superb storyteller’
--WASHINGTON POST

‘Dale Brown is the best military adventure writer in the country’
--CLIVE CUSSLER

Rights:
Robert Gottlieb
Trident Media Group
(212) 262-4810

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