Secure online?shopping

2014-03-16 10:01

You’ve seen the adverts on TV – they make selling unwanted goods via online classifieds look simple. It is simple, but you need to be wary of fraudsters Neesa Moodley-Isaacs reports

An internet economic study by research firm World Wide Worx shows that internet shopping is likely to account for 2.5% of GDP in 2016.

According to Bronwyn Johnson, the head of marketing at OLX, thousands of online deals happen every day. “There is always the risk of encountering scammers but with a little caution, you can protect yourself and enjoy the benefits of buying and selling online.”

Bidorbuy chief executive Jaco Jonker says relatively slow broadband speeds, fraud and high shipping costs must be overcome to further drive online shopping.

According to the SA Banking Risk Information Centre, the banking industry’s gross fraud losses, due to South African-issued credit card fraud, increased by 22% from R300.6?million in 2012 to R366.8?million last year.

Johnson says while scammers used to limit their activity to people interested in electronics and animals, they are now moving to other categories as well. “Trailers and farming equipment are the latest targets for scammers,” she says.

Scam tactics

A favourite tactic with scammers is to get you to pay a deposit to “secure your purchase” or pay for a “courier bill”.

“Never give a deposit on goods,” advises Johnson. “Only pay cash for goods you have checked in person. If a person insists on a deposit to keep the goods before you’ve had the chance to see them, walk away from the deal – no exceptions.”

She points out that users also need to be aware that scammers often use real cellphone numbers and have conversations via messaging apps.

“They are clever and convincing. They also use bank accounts that actually do exist but as soon as the money is deposited, the account is closed.”

She also warns it is not always the seller who is the scam artist – advertisers are increasingly being conned by fraudulent buyers.

“They even send fake SMSes impersonating the bank to convince sellers the payment has been made. In this case, we advise you to first make sure the money has cleared in your account before you release the goods,” she says.

It usually takes a maximum of seven days for money deposited from a different bank to clear.

The 3D Secure initiative

As online shopping enjoys increasing popularity in South Africa, merchants are taking note and trying to promote this forum by increasing safety measures.

For example, the Payment Association of SA recently made it compulsory for all South African merchants to be enrolled in the 3D Secure programme by the beginning of this month.

The deadline for merchants dealing with mobile transactions is September?1. 3D Secure, which was created by Visa and MasterCard, provides an extra step during the online payment process to verify your identity.

This was introduced to help reduce online fraud risk and safeguard credit card transactions. Once you activate 3D Secure on your credit card, it cannot be used for online shopping transactions without entering a “one time pin”, which is linked to your email address or cellphone number.

Some banks automatically enrol customers in the 3D Secure programme, while others require you to request it. Check to find out if you are covered.

Safety tips

»?If the scammer gives you a physical address to collect the goods, have look on Google Maps to see if the address actually exists. Also check the surrounding area.

»?Call your bank when you receive an SMS payment confirmation and ask it to confirm the transaction is legitimate and the ­money has cleared.

»?Do some research to find out if any of the people you are dealing with have had reports of fraud filed against them. Useful websites include, and

»?Don’t carry large sums of cash when going to meet a seller. If you are buying a big-ticket item, rather go with the seller to the bank and draw money or do an electronic fund transfer once you have both agreed to the sale.

»?Always arrange to meet the other party in person, in a public place. Don’t invite strangers into your home when they know you are likely to be carrying a large amount of cash.

»?If you are buying an item that carries some kind of ownership or authenticity certificate such as a car or a diamond ring, make sure you get the certificate at the same time as the item itself. Never allow the seller to persuade you with promises of sending it to you later.

They may be selling you something they don’t own and if the item is traced by the actual owner, you will have no recourse or proof of ownership.

»?Only make purchases on secure websites: look for a valid certificate such as Verisign and use a secure payment system such as PayU.

You will also note that when it comes to adding your private payment information, the “http://” in the address bar will change to “https://” when the site has the required security in place.

»?Verify the identity of the person you are dealing with. Get a copy of their identity document and if you are buying a cellphone or another high-risk product, get proof of purchase (the original box the item came in and the receipt of purchase) from the seller.

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