Beware when buying and selling online

ONLINE classifieds have become a hive of activity where millions of people trade and criminals know this all too well and are ready to capitalise on unsuspecting buyers and sellers.

“We’ve all heard of people who have sold a car, only to find the EFT cancelled once the car was released, arrived at their holiday accommodation to find the real owners still living there, or paid for a deposit on the deal of a lifetime that turned out to be a scam of the same proportions,” said Elmarie Twilley, spokesman of the Afrikaans insurance brand, Virseker.

Below are a few tips to help ensure your peace of mind:



1. Screen potential buyers thoroughly – if you find anything suspicious about a seller’s profile or behaviour, avoid them.

2. Ensure your ad or conversation with a potential buyer excludes particulars that they could use to trace your physical address before you’ve screened them.

3. Do not share details such as your vehicle’s registration or VIN number as this could be used for identity theft.

4. Meet potential buyers in a safe environment, and take someone you trust with you.

5. Never release goods to buyers before they have paid for it. Insist on cash or bank guaranteed cheques before releasing goods.

6. If you accept an EFT, check with your bank that the correct amount of money has been deposited and is secure, before you release the goods.

7. Avoid buyers who insist on using global money transfer services such as Moneygram or Western Union.

8. Report suspicious buyers to the respective site’s administrators.



1. If a deal looks too good to be true, it probably is.

2. If possible, check the seller’s rating and feedback.

3. Avoid meeting sellers at locations that seem unsafe, especially sellers who refuse to meet you in a public space.

4. Do not give your credit card or banking details to a seller.

5. Do not take cash with you the first time you meet a seller. Once you have verified that it is a legitimate deal, rather draw the money from a nearby ATM.

6. Take your time inspecting the goods and make sure that they are/work as advertised.

7. If a seller claims to represent a reputable dealer, verify their details with the dealer.

8. Do not pay a holding deposit.

9. Avoid sellers who insist on using international payment services. “They’ll often supply you with forged invoices with the logos of reputable service providers, but with their own banking details,” said Twilley.

10. Report suspicious sellers to the respective site’s administrators.



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Lloyd Mackenzie

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