By Emsie Martin
My daughter was recently taken for a ride. It is so easy nowadays to buy or sell stuff, but first make sure how “genuine” the transaction is.
Cell phones, electronic devices, furniture, cars, pets, holidays, etc., are regularly offered online at very tempting prices and sometimes there are really some very good buys. Criminals regularly use fake advertisements to let unsuspecting bargain chasers pay anything from a few hundred to tens of thousands of rand for a pig in a poke. Virseker warns South Africans to be on the lookout at all times.
“There are few things more agonising than realising that your hard-earned money ended up in a crook’s purse while you are left empty-handed,” says Ricardo Coetzee, spokesperson for Virseker.
“It’s very easy to rustle up a fake advertisement, make it look professional and so attractive that it makes one bargain-stricken. A convincing crook combined with a lack of sound scepticism on the side of the victim makes this type of crime a very regular phenomenon.”
Virseker offers the following hints for recognising fake advertisements and protecting yourself:
Do your homework
Do thorough research about the specific item you want to buy, make sure of its specifications, and find out what a reasonable price would be.
Use trustworthy platforms
Free advertising platforms are plentiful, so rather use those that require detailed information about sellers, verify sellers and actively clamp down on fake advertisements.
Too good to be true
When a purchase looks too good to be true, it probably is. It’s better to give it a skip. Be especially careful with “repossessed” items and urgent sales”.
Advertisements with more detailed and accurate particulars are usually more trustworthy. Make sure that the item, description and photo agree one hundred percent with each other and with what you know about the item. For instance, if the model of an item is wrong or the advertisement says it’s a private seller but the photo was taken at a dealers premises, be careful. The more mistakes, the bigger the chances that it is a scam.
Ask the necessary questions right at the beginning
- Ask if the item is still available
- Confirm the details and get further details perhaps not given in the advertisement, such as price, age, condition, service record, supporting documentation, guarantees, previous damage or problems, etc.
- Ask where and when you can see the items.
Important: If a seller is hesitant to answer any of these questions or steers the conversation in another direction and/or puts pressure on you, give it a pass.
ID: Verify the seller’s details if possible – especially in the case of a dealer. Even a quick Google search should be useful.
Safety first: Avoid meeting sellers in places that look unsafe, especially sellers who are uncomfortable with meeting you or refuse to meet you in a public space.
With your own eyes: Take your time checking the item and make sure everything works as advertised. Take a friend or someone you trust with you for safety. If the seller and item are far from you, ask somebody you trust to check it out on your behalf.
Black on white: Ask for the manual or paperwork where applicable.
Private information: Do not share personal information – such as your residential address – with a seller before you have checked their details properly.
Keep your purse closed: Never give your credit card or banking details to a seller or take cash with you the first time you meet them. After you have made sure that it is a good and legal purchase, you can withdraw the cash at a nearby ATM or do an electronic transfer. Avoid paying a “holding deposit” where sellers are reserving an item for you.
Suspicious transaction: Avoid sellers who insist on using international pay services. They will mostly provide you with forged invoices with the logos of well-known service providers but with their own banking details.
Telltale: Report suspicious sellers to the authorities immediately and/or the owners of websites where the item is being advertised.
“ The most important rule is not to trust anybody and make it easy to win your confidence,” says Coetzee. “As the saying goes, the more haste, the less speed.”
Perhaps you would like a change of careers and help people to become financially independent and avoid unnecessary pitfalls such as fake transactions. Solidarity Occupational Guilds are a community that not only makes you strong in your profession, but is also a community where you feel at home, work together and learn together. It is a community that focuses on protecting the profession, creating career opportunities for young people, supervising like a watchdog to protect professions and coming forward with workable solutions for challenges. Visit https://gildes.solidariteit.co.za/ for more information regarding your occupational guild.