Local Business Launches Dedicated, Secure Online Marketplace to Help University of Alabama Students Buy and Sell Safely

Here in Tuscaloosa, football is a big business. Buying and selling football tickets is a part of that too and it’s become a brisk trade among fans and students alike. Too often, though, using the internet, mobile apps, and social media to list and buy tickets is fraught with danger – especially for young University of Alabama students. 

So, why? 

We here at the Tuscaloosa Tourism and Sports have found the answers, so read on below.

Stopping the Steal on the Web and Social Media

At any time on Facebook and other online marketplaces, a big majority of users lurking there are not what they seem. Too often, these online exchanges are filled with cyber hackers and scammers pretending to be legitimate buyers and sellers in order to lure in college students for payment scams, data theft, spreading malware, and other nefarious intents. 

That’s where new local business BamaBuys hopes to step in and change things quickly for the better in and around the University of Alabama’s student and faculty population.

“Cybercriminals love to scam college students online because it’s easy money,” says Jason Polancich, owner of local web and application design firm VandalsSmile and founder of BamaBuys.”They know the current generation of college-age, young adults have grown up online with technology and can often be too trusting of apps, sites, and social media platforms when they make financial and personal property transactions.” 

According to Polancich, this leads to less time doing proper diligence and being too fast to pull the trigger on deals where students want to earn some extra cash by selling stuff or picking up hot items like big game tickets.

As well, he says large university student populations tend to be what he calls scammer “watering holes” where demand and opportunity lead kids to engage with others online around something they really want to buy or sell without much thought about who might be on the other end of a chat window.

“Just like all those thirsty antelope you see on nature shows lingering too long or too far into a fresh-looking watering hole full of unseen crocodiles, students can get too excited at the chance to pick up that hot new gaming console or sell a ticket to a game they’re not attending for more than the face value,” says Polancich. “As such, they send payments without verification and exchange vital Personally Identifiable Information (or “PII”) with bad guys who appear to be students but who are really after valuable data such as emails, addresses, and socials they can sell or just easy money they can steal via a split-second Venmo transaction.”

Having his daughters fall for Facebook scams that looked on the surface to be very real and legitimate items led him to partner with some other local area businessmen to launch BamaBuys. 

So what is it and how does it work?

Stranger Danger, Stranger Danger!

Put simply, the BamaBuys app is a student and faculty-only mobile web application accessible from a browser on any computer or mobile device that helps keep its users safe while offering them an easy way to buy and sell things online here in Tuscaloosa and Northport. 

Only students and faculty with university-provided email addresses can sign up and log into the app. As well, no contact information is provided to any non-student or faculty user. There are no app passwords either. 

Users just log in with their secure university email to post things for sale in over a dozen categories from tickets to cars and everything in between. When a buyer sees something they want, they simply click to contact the seller. 

On the other end, the seller gets a text and email from BamaBuys containing the buyer’s cell phone number so they can then text directly with one another to negotiate prices and set up exchanges. 

When students or faculty members post, BamaBuys requires a nominal $2 to post something for sale as an additional security measure. As Polancich explains, “One of the best ways to discourage scams is to collect payment data from users, i.e. credit cards, since even the bad guys don’t like to have the traceable network and card information out there for cyber analysts and law enforcement to follow up on – even if they’re using stolen cards or numbers.”

As well, the BamaBuys app is monitored 24/7 by industry-leading cybersecurity tools that detect suspicious logins or other activity and follows cyber best practices gained from Polancich’s 20+ years doing cybersecurity software and data work for the U.S. Intelligence Community. Anything suspicious that’s detected is immediately shut down and investigated to keep the user base safer from scams and hacks. 

“You can’t stop all the bad guys, but we think BamaBuys can make a measurable difference in the local university community when it comes to stemming the tide of financial theft and cybercrime amongst the population,” Polancich says. “A secure student-to-student and faculty marketplace will also help students earn extra cash and even promote less trash around campus as kids can now get rid of commonly-used items more quickly for cash to other interested students that would otherwise be left behind or on curbsides.”

BamaBuys is also planning to let local businesses market student-only events, deals, coupons, and specials to its users starting in the second half of 2021 via paid subscription that will guarantee only value-added and needed promotions are presented to the student and faculty user base. 

If you’re a student or faculty member who wants to try out BamaBuys, head over to www.bamabuys.com, or just launch the app directly at https://market.bamabuys.com. For more info, just contact the BamaBuys team at [email protected]

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