- Gumtree has seen an increase in scams during lockdown - as fraudsters try to trick sellers who are desperate for cash.
- The platform is especially concerned about "buyer scams", where a scammer fakes a transaction, picks up the item via Uber and disappears with the stolen goods.
- Pricey electronic goods are usually targeted, and motorcycles are also in hot demand.
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The popular classifieds platform Gumtree has seen an increase in scams during lockdown, as fraudsters benefit from doing deals over a distance.
“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,” says Estelle Nagel of Gumtree.
Many South Africans are also desperate for cash in tough times. "(This) means that we are less risk averse than normal and more likely to take a gamble in terms of safety," she adds.
However, while there are more scam attempts, criminals are not necessarily more successful. The ratio of successful transactions versus fraudulent transactions is unchanged and less than 0.5% of transactions are reported as fraudulent, according to Gumtree.
The platform is, however, concerned about the sharp rise in “buyer scams”.
A fraudster will send through a fake proof of payment to a seller – typically a SMS that looks like an electronic transfer has been made - and then send an Uber driver to collect the item. The fraudster will then abscond with the product.
High-value items are often targeted – particularly electronics like gaming consoles, tablets, phones and laptops.
Of late, however, more scams with motorcycles have been reported.
The best defence against a buyer scam is to never hand over an item until the money has cleared in your account. Once money has been received, transfer it to a separate account to avoid the fraudster cancelling the transfer from their side.
Nagel recommends that you continue to communicate via the Gumtree platform, and not on 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.
During the coronavirus crisis, criminals have targeted South Africans with various new scams.
These scams include sending victims cellphone messages with links purporting to be reports about the virus in their area – instead the links click through to phishing sites, which steal the victim’s credentials, says the South African Banking Risk Information Centre,
There has also been a surge of fake – but very realistic - emails offering products such as masks, or fake offerings of vaccines, leading to phishing websites, Sabric says.