Craigslist is a wonderful thing. I have bought and sold several items on it. Occasionally a listing can generate a surprise. Sometimes potential buyers want to negotiate or swap. Just yesterday I declined an offer to sell a computer that I had listed for the equivalent in tattoos from a licensed legitimate practitioner. Since I made it through 70 years without tattoos, it seems reasonable to try to go the whole way.

But today Craigslist surprised me again. A letter self-identified as coming from Ryan Barnes, CEO of Craigslist, gave me the good news that in conjunction with a special promotion from Apple, Craigslist was giving out a limited number of free iPhones (valued at $800), and (applause please) I had been selected to get one! All I had to do was to click on the website to claim it.

Of course I had to click immediately because this offer was only good for one day. That is a nice touch.

Instead of clicking, I went to the Craigslist site and navigated to where I could report a spoof. Since I sent this out a few minutes ago, there is nothing to report about their response. Who knows, maybe it is legitimate. Maybe instead of waiting I should…

Strangely enough, this letter came shortly after I received a phone call from an anxious friend who teaches several courses in PC usage. His computer had been infected! Infections are not unusual, but he is definitely not a novice user. Based on the description of what happened to him, I suggested how to proceed to clean it. At least he had done the correct thing by immediately shutting down his modem and then isolating the infected machine from others in his house. Also, since this just happened, I cannot report if my advice worked or if any permanent harm has occurred.

The lesson of these two events is that anti-virus software is not enough. Relying on McAfee, Norton, AVG, or your application of choice is insufficient. Relying on anti-virus software to protect your computer is roughly like relying on seat belts to prevent accidents. In both cases, the primary responsibility is on the operator. I know people who have decided that anti-virus software is not worth the overhead and “go naked” without any protection other than careful surfing.

That probably works for some people, but I tend to be paranoid and keep up to date with anti-virus software. Also I check for safe surfing sites. Those habits do not guarantee that I will not become infected, but it does lower the probability, and that is about all one can ask.

I wonder how many free iPhones Craigslist has given out?