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Perfecto is a new online marketplace for bikes that aims to remove stolen bikes from the process.
Many people prefer to buy bicycles second hand, and for good reason. New bikes can be expensive, and there tons of great used bicycles out there that offer the same utility at a fraction of a price. However, with bike theft being so prevalent and a good number of stolen bikes ending up on marketplace sites like Craigslist, it can be difficult to be ensure whether or not the bike you’re buying is stolen.
Nobody wants to buy a stolen bike. Along with perpetuating the bike theft cycle and supporting “the bad guys,” buying a stolen bike can leave the buyer vulnerable when their “new” ride is in fact discovered to be stolen – typically they’re confiscated without compensation.
Rob Lawson, a tech entrepreneur in Los Angeles, is trying to change the game. Lawson recently launched Perfecto, a website aimed at providing the public with an online marketplace for non-stolen used bikes.
Like too many people, Lawson has had his bike stolen on multiple occasions, which lead to “a personal frustration, verging on hatred, for bike theft, ” he said. His experience reached further than his own, with his children and many of his friends becoming victims of bike theft as well. “I’ve been hesitant about buying used bikes,” Lawson went on, ” because I don’t want to fuel the theft problem.”
Lawson bought his current road bike used. However, before purchasing it from the seller, he checked them out on Strava to see if they “had actually owned and ridden the bike, and that his riding history matched his own description.” Perhaps this may sound extreme to some, but the alternative to Lawson was inadvertently supporting an issue he’d like to see remedied. While using Strava to check the details for his new ride, he realized the potential for the app’s data set to change the game with used bike sales in general, and the idea for Perfecto was born.
Perfecto uses a multi-faceted approach to ensure the validity of the sellers and the bikes on their site. Logging in with your Strava account is the easiest way for buyers to gain confidence in the seller, but it isn’t the only option. As we know, not all bike riders use Strava or track their rides. Moreover, not all Strava users register their bikes to their accounts.
Perfecto also allows users to register via Facebook – a way to hopefully make it easier for the user, prevent fraud, and make it easier for other users to trust that it’s a real account. Buyers and sellers can chat back and forth before making a sale, and bike’s serial numbers can be registered, which Perfecto then checks against several databases of stolen bikes, such as BikeIndex or local law enforcement agencies.
Perfecto partners with Braintree and Paypal to offer buyers and sellers reassurance and protection once a sale is made. They provide an escrow service, – once the item is paid for, the buyer knows they can ship it, but they won’t receive the money until the buyer has received it and confirmed it is as advertised – both buyer and seller are protected in the transaction. Perfecto also provides a lot of behind-the-scenes anti-fraud protection to eliminate spam users. So far, a whole lot of good.
But Lawson is honest about potential flaws in the system, admitting that it’s not yet possible to 100% guarantee the validity of the bikes. When asked if someone couldn’t just enter a fake serial number, he responded bluntly, “Yes, they could – sometimes we actually recognize when the provided serial number doesn’t match a known pattern and go back to the user to check. This is normally caused when someone mistakes a frame number for a serial number.”
Moreover, it is absolutely possible to create fake Facebook profiles, or profiles on other similar databases. Regardless, Lawson is in talks with bigger manufacturers to stay informed on what valid serial numbers are correct for certain types of bikes, and is constantly updating the system to make it as secure as possible. There is a screening process including “IP address, address, phone number, bank and credit card details plus a range of security services offered by our payment partners to determine validity of user profiles.” Lawson takes the process very seriously – going so far as to remove any listings for questionable sales.
So while it is not currently a guarantee that there are absolutely no stolen bikes on the site, Lawson is confident they can get there, and they are definitely on the right track.
Lawson said the response so far from the cycling community has been universally supportive – “We gets lots of comments like ‘It’s about time’ or ‘we’ve been crying out for something like this.'”