Popular online classifieds portal Gumtree is cautioning users against criminals, after a man from Mitchell Plain was a victim of robbery by men pretending to take an interest in buying his vehicle advertised. According to the victim Nazmie Lakay, he had gone to meet a potential buyer in Goodwood and was asked to drive to N1 City Mall where the transaction would take place. When he arrived at the mall, Lakay was held at gun point and told to drive to Tyger Valley where he was forced to withdraw money from an ATM. The criminals robbed him of R17 000, but left the car behind.
Gumtree spokesperson Claire Cobbledick, said that this is new kind of fraud and classified scams and robberies have grown over the past few years in the country. South Africa is relatively unsafe, and people have to be careful with any transaction, so the same universal rule applies for with online shopping.
“We have a number of tips for our users when buying online, knowing what to avoid and how to remain safe when making transactions or meeting a potential buyer or seller are crucial to avoiding becoming a victim,” said Cobbledick.
According to Cobbledick, the most common mistakes made by buyers and sellers happens when the exchange meeting has to occur. The buyer or sellers eyes should always be wide open for extra information, by requesting proof of purchase of the item and other extra information needed. Always ask the person to meet you in a public place and inform a friend or relative. It would also be advisable to have someone accompany you to the meeting. If it is a home service, then ask the person to send his identification and qualification beforehand.
“If you do not want to meet in person, we encourage our users to use Shepherd, (http://www.gumtree.co.za/pages/shepherd/). It’s a Standard Bank service that safely facilitates transactions between the buyer and the sellers. Both parties need to register with Shepherd on www.paywithshepherd.com. The buyer will pay the money to Shepherd for safekeeping, the seller will pay for a courier who collects and delivers the item to the buyer,” she explained.
If the buyer is pleased with the item the seller is then paid, if not the delivery is returned and the money is reversed. She further said that Capetonians who are selling items, should not allow people into their homes for viewing.
“This has been a reason behind many sellers ending up being robbed by the supposed buyers,” she said.
Do not try to negotiate or convince the other party and if they do not agree to your terms then don’t persist. It would be best to just move on as someone else will come along. When buying or selling, always be suspicious. Don’t just trust the seller or buyer but do a proper investigation.
“Never send an item before you have received the money, and don’t send any items until confirmation of payment reflects in your bank. There is a possibility the payment can be reversed, so don’t hand over goods to transport services that’s not a courier drivers after receiving an EFT notification from the buyer.”
Do not send money to sellers or buyers, via any of the services that’s posted on Gumtree and don’t provide your personal or banking information to others over the internet.
When buying a vehicle, do not pay any deposit for a motor before you had viewed it in person. Remember to check the VIN number if it matches the number on the owner registration and roadworthy documents.
Also, make sure that the address the seller is giving is the same as that on the registration and roadworthy documents. Then also make sure that there is no outstanding payment on the car, if it is asked for an arrangement agreement to make payments. Then lastly, do inquire by the police if they can check if the vehicle was stolen and if the VIN and engine numbers match the registration documents. This service is offered at no cost she broke down the guide lines.
There are very common signs in terms of messaging from fraudsters, which should raise red flags, she added. Instances where the buyer or seller would state that they are in a remote location or that they buy from abroad specially the United States and Europe should not be overlooked.
“These situations generally have to with off shore accounts which cannot be traced. So if there is an unusual story in regard to the buyer or sellers location, this is a warning,” said Cobbledick.
She stressed that if the buyer or seller is trying to rush the deal urgently, there is a possibility that it is not valid. The same rules apply when renting a property.
“First arrange to view the property, and do not send money to landlords beforehand without a contract. Never give your personal or banking information. If the landlord requests proof of income, your bank statements can provide that clarity,” she explained.
“Make yourself aware of common scams and fraud. Do not believe the promise of large sums of money for your help in any task. Use common sense, if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is,” she concluded. VOC