The online trading economy in South Africa is massive. Commmunity website Gumtree has more than 700,000 live ads for goods and services alone – and it’s growing all the time. Gumtree SA GM-Director Claire Cobbledick says that although the vast majority of online sellers and buyers are genuine, it is important for everyone to be alert and aware. He suggests these 9 steps to help prevent fraud.
1. Don’t open any suspicious website pop-ups.
2. Contact details are an important signal. Warning signs include bad spelling, a foreign phone number, unfamiliar e-mail service providers.
3. Use Gumtree’s chat facility during initial enquiries to avoid giving out your e-mail or cellphone address. However, if you are proceeding with a purchase or a sale, it’s essential for both sides to have cell phone numbers and/or e-mail addresses, and to check that they are valid and operational.
4. Don’t be taken in by photos. Sometimes a scammer will pull images from elsewhere. Be very wary of low-grade, cropped or pixelated photos. If in doubt, ask the advertiser to send additional photos. If possible, inspect the item before paying to make sure it is in the promised condition.
5. If the seller or buyer is pressurising for a quick transaction then be suspicious. Don’t be rushed into a deal without verifying.
6. If the price is very cheap then there may well be a problem. A real cut-price bargain, without adequate explanation, should raise alarm bells.
7. Never release your banking details.
8. As a seller, do not send an item before receiving the money.
9. Make the online space safer for everyone by immediately reporting any suspicious posts or fraudulent acts. Gumtree investigates every report and blocks fraudulent traders and, in criminal cases, passes information to the police.