SA 'aware' of online classified scams

2014-04-08 09:30
South African should be more aware of online classifieds scams. (Duncan Alfreds, News24)

South African should be more aware of online classifieds scams. (Duncan Alfreds, News24)

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Cape Town - South Africans are generally aware that they have to practice safety when dealing with online classifieds buyers and sellers, a provider has said.

While classifieds sites have seen growth in SA, criminals have seized on the platform as a way to swindle people out of money or goods.

Unlike like regular online traders, classifieds advertisers can instantly upload an ad and a phone number, making the barrier to entry relatively low.

South Africans though, seem to pretty aware of online scams involving unscrupulous online advertisers.

"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," Claire Cobbledick, Gumtree SA marketing head told News24.

Obvious scams

Despite this, though, she said the eBay-owned company makes an effort to ensure that users of the platform are aware of popular scams.

"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," said Cobbledick.

Beyond the obvious scams requesting credit card details, money transfers and fake escrow services, scammers on classifieds sites use emotions to con people.

One popular method is offer cute pets "to good homes for free". However, upon enquiry, it often emerges that the animals require several "inoculations" and need to be transported - usually over long distances, or at great expense.

Despite the legitimate love people have for pets, these ads are inevitably scams designed to extract cash from the mark until they are financially exhausted.

Classifieds employment advertising is also becoming popular as jobs advertised with minimal qualifications attract a large number of applications, allowing criminals access to personal information. Some scammers also harass potential job seekers with offers for training - at a cost.

Detection systems

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."

The company also works with the South African Police Service to prosecute criminals.

- Follow Duncan on Twitter
Read more on:    ebay  |  e-commerce

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