SA ‘alert’ about online classified scams
It has been noted that South Africans are generally alert and careful when dealing with online classifieds buyers and sellers, a provider has said.
There has been growth in classifieds sites in SA which criminals are also using as a platform to swindle people out of money or goods.
Classifieds advertisers are unlike like regular online traders. Classified advertisers can instantly upload an ad and a phone number, making the barrier to entry relatively low.
South Africans seem to be pretty aware of online scams involving unscrupulous online advertisers.
Claire Cobbledick, Gumtree SA marketing head told News24, “South Africans are generally very safety conscious. We do encourage users to carefully read our guidelines for transacting safely and to let us know if they are at all suspicious of a buyer or seller that they encounter on our site.”
Besides this, the eBay-owned company also makes an effort to ensure that users of the platform are aware of popular scams.
Cobbledick added that “Gumtree commits significant resources toward the detection and prevention of activities that violate our policies in order to allow safe and successful transactions via our platforms. We also encourage our users to let us know if they see an ad that they think is inappropriate or suspicious.”
Besides the obvious scams that request credit card details, money transfers and fake escrow services, scammers on classifieds sites also use emotions to con people.
A popular method is offer cute pets “to good homes for free”. Upon enquiry, it often emerges that the animals require several “inoculations” and need to be transported – over long distances, or at great expense.
Classifieds employment advertising is also becoming popular. Jobs advertised that require minimal qualifications attract a large number of applications, allowing criminals access to personal information. Some scammers also harass potential job seekers demanding money for offers or training.
One can report ads, but that usually happens after a scam has taken place and Cobbledick said that there are behind-the-scenes systems so that fraudsters can be limited on the site.
“Gumtree also employs extremely sophisticated filtering systems that prohibit known fraudsters from accessing the site again. In addition, we have a customer service support team that is fully operational 7 days a week, 24 hours a day, to assist users that have queries or concerns about safety or any other issues on the site,” stated Cobbledick.
The company also works with the South African Police Service to prosecute criminals.
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