On-line Purchasing Fraud

May 29, 2019

On-line Purchasing Fraud – The warning signs

Online purchasing fraud is on the increase. There are a number of warning signs to be aware of. Read more about a member’s experience and some signs to be aware of if you are buying or selling goods on the many on-line platforms.

A recent report from one of our members has highlighted ongoing online purchasing fraud.

He reported that when he advertised his Smartwatch on Gumtree he was contacted by a prospective buyer who said he couldn’t meet him, as his car was in for repair. The prospective buyer offered to make an EFT payment and then send an Uber to pick up the watch.

When the member insisted on waiting for the payment to be cleared by his bank, before handing over his Smartwatch, the prospective buyer disappeared.

There have even been incidents where an EFT payment appears briefly on the recipient's bank account, but then disappears after a day or two, and by then the goods have been handed over. If in doubt check with your bank that the deposit is genuine and cannot be reversed. ie not a fraudulent cheque, deposited at a branch, which then bounces.

Here are some warning signs, published by Gumtree, that the person who contacts you to buy your goods might be a scammer:

Potential buyers who ask you to delete your ad or communicate only via Whatsapp or Text messages. This makes it hard for the online platform to track your communication. Work though the brand app or online 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 to make an EFT 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.