Online trade and interactions are growing exponentially – as are reports and speculation about scams perpetrated on free platforms. Claire Cobbledick, GM of Gumtree South Africa says that while prevention is better than cure, victims who find themselves out of pocket due to an online scam should report the incident immediately.
“Some victims chose not to report incidents because they either feel embarrassed about being tricked, or think that “the culprit is never going to get caught”, or because they don’t know how the process works,” she says. “However, we rely on these reports to track down criminals and prevent them from scamming others.”
Once an advertiser is identified by the community as a scammer, he or she is banned from the site. The advert is removed and the fraudster blocked so as to prevent them from creating a new ad. “He or she can appeal the process, but the onus is on them to prove the legitimacy of their advert and business.”
Cobbledick says that consistent resistance will usually cause the scammer to give up. “We’ve actually seen scammers migrate entirely to other platforms because of this process. The harder we make it for them, the better.”
Proactive banning and reporting, coupled with preventative measures, has seen the number of reported scams decrease significantly over the last year. “We rarely see more than one or two incidents reported each week out of over 22 million monthly interactions. Specialist staff work behind the scenes to identify fraudulent or suspicious listings.”
Cobbledick says that a close working relationship with SAPS has proved fruitful. “Although not all investigations result in goods or funds being returned, many of them do. Two-way communication between Gumtree and the South African Police Service ensures that both parties are aware of risks and able to combat them.”
If you have been a victim on an online classified site:
- Report the incident to the classified site immediately, sending them as much information as possible about the ad in question as possible. They can retrieve and store information to pass on to the police. (For Gumtree, visit help.gumtree.co.za).
- Report the incident to your local police station so that they can open a case. Send the details of the investigating officer to the classifieds, along with your case number.
- If you haven’t fallen victim to the scam, but you suspect that someone was attempting to scam you, report it immediately to the classified in question. They can investigate and take steps to prevent that person from carrying through with their plans.
Comprehensive safety tips can be viewed at help.gumtree.co.za