Opinion Web Exclusive

Beware empty box scams when buying used electronics

David Delgado//The Daily Cougar

David Delgado//The Daily Cougar

If you’re in the market for a new laptop or tablet and aren’t having much luck, fear not. Craigslist’s digital sales shelves are overflowing with the accessories you need to keep up with those tech-savvy Joneses … Or, at least, the packaging for these accessories.

In what seems to be another curve ball thrown by the World Wide Web, a market for the empty packages of smartphones, tablets and computers has sprouted up on the digital classifieds bulletin board Craigslist. Elise Hu of NPR reported that the “empty-box” market seems limited to boxes of electronics — listings of empty jewelry or instrument boxes are nowhere to be found.

While this may strike many as strange and unnecessary, let’s not downplay the awesome potential that these bags have, especially in the fashion world.

They’re slick, über-trendy and all the rage among today’s youth. Whether they’re being used as the adorable handbags of today’s middle school “fashionistas” or the messenger bags of their male counterparts, the wide-reaching value of these boxes is not to be downplayed.

Without their corresponding devices, selling these empty packages seems to be rather pointless.

Except, however, to those with malicious intent.

Tales of buyers receiving an empty box in lieu of the product they’ve already been charged for have existed since the advent of user-operated sales sites like eBay and Craigslist. Those who have come to accept this reality of Internet sales might have simply found a way to profit from it — by providing the packages needed by those with malicious intentions to continue their illicit activities.

According to Craigslist’s own fact sheet, the site caters to more than 60 million monthly users in the U.S. alone. The site also features more than 200 million listings — one can say with near certainty that out of 200 million online listings, several thousand exist solely to extort your hard-earned cash.

As college students, we’ve knowingly adopted the burden of a greater workload, stress level and a tighter allowance. Simply put, a lot of us can’t afford to buy these technologies at full retail price. We’re forced to consult the sites that guarantee unbelievably low prices, but not much else.

“It’s not that anyone ever prefers used electronics … More often than not, it’s just the only way we can afford them in the first place,” said finance senior Andrew Stephens.

While third parties like Amazon and Overstock are great solutions to meeting that monthly budget, it’s critical that we’re able to distinguish between the sites that exist for our benefit and the ones that exist for our detriment. The suspicious rise of this market for empty packaging serves as evidence of a greater threat that’s, digitally speaking, looming all around us.

Senior staff columnist Cara Smith is a communications junior and may be reached at [email protected]

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