British classifieds platform popular with South Africans, Gumtree has seen an increase in scams during the country’s lockdown with criminals and fraudsters benefiting from scamming people over a distance.
Estelle Nagel of Gumtree says that “The pandemic has seen more South Africans sell their items in an attempt to raise additional cash, and as those listings increase, so do scam attempts.”
“With lockdown, buyers and sellers are inclined to transact online only rather than face to face or without viewing an item in person and using electronic payment methods rather than cash. This does lead to more instances of fraud,” she continues.
With more and more South Africans desperately searching for cash during these tough times, Nagel says, they may be less risk-averse than normal and more likely to “take a gamble in terms of safety.”
Even with the surge in scam attempts, criminals on Gumtree have been struggling to find success. The ratio of fraudulent transactions vs. fraudulent transactions is unchanged, says Gumtree. Less than 0.5% of transactions are reported as fraudulent.
The platform remains concerned, however, by the sharp rise in “buyer scams.”
In this type of scam, a fraudster or criminal will send through a fake proof of payment to a seller – usually, an SMS that looks like an EFT has been made to the account of the seller.
Often times the ‘buyer’ will then send an Uber for the item, only to steal it then and there.
With this kind of scam, high-value small items are targetted – usually electronics like gaming consoles, tablets, smartphones and laptops.
A new kind of scam is emerging now, as well. One involving motorcycles, users are warned.
How users can protect themselves
Business Insider writes that the best defence against any kind of buyer scam is to only hand over the product when the money has cleared in your account. Once the money is in your account it is recommended that you transfer the funds to another account, such as a savings account. This can be done very quickly and easily via an internet banking app.
This will ensure that a fraudster doesn’t cancel the transaction after you receive the funds.
Nagel recommends that users who are in the process of selling items communicate with respective buyers on the actual Gumtree platform and to not move communication to WhatsApp.
“Even though times are tough, don’t compromise on personal or financial safety. There are millions of legitimate buyers for your items – take time, negotiate and wait for the right one,” she says.