Scam warning signs to look out for online

Online trading sites like Gumtree have enabled millions of South Africans to make and save money but

Claire Cobbledick, Head of Core Business for Gumtree SA, warns that consumers always need to stay alert for scammers.

“The overwhelming majority of online transactions pass off safely, but as platforms sharpen their security and new players enter the market, new scams are created. Fortunately these are fairly easy to identify.”

Cobbledick highlights some of the current scam warning signs;

  • Potential buyers who ask you to delete your ad or communicate only via Whatsapp. This makes it hard for the platform to track your communication. Work though the brand app or platform only, and keep your ad active until the item is sold. Do not provide your direct email address or phone number.
  • Potential buyers who claim to work offshore. Of course, not everyone who works offshore is a scammer but be extra suspicious if they refuse to communicate via Skype, claim that they don’t have phone access, or that they work on an oil rig or at a mine in a foreign country. Also be very alert to anyone willing to pay for the item via PayPal or money transfer without viewing it.
  • Car buyers, in particular, who ask for information not related to the item, e.g. your bank account details, whether or not your car is equipped with an alarm system, your ID number etc. These are possibly data scammers, so never provide any personal information.
  • Potential buyers who refer to your advert in vague terms, referencing “the item” or “your merchandise”.  It is relatively easy to make sure that the buyer is genuinely interested in your item rather than someone just trawling the internet looking for an easy target.
  • Anyone who does not want to meet in person to assess the item or to finalise the deal should concern you, unless there is an obvious geographical reason for this.
  • Anyone hounding you constantly to make a decision or a payment should send up a red flag. Do not be pressurised, make your checks.
  • Bad spelling, foreign telephone numbers or a refusal to share information are all warning signs.

Cobbledick says vigilance is the most important defense against scams. “Keep a hawk eye out for suspect behaviours during your communication. If in doubt, then back out and report your suspicions to the site so we can follow up. Our help desk help.gumtree.co.za operates 24/7. Any confirmed fraudulent activity must also be reported to SAPS.”