Guiding consumers since 2009

How to shop online safely

By Staff Writer
Now that the Christmas boom has passed, many people will be browsing through online classified sites, such as OLX and Gumtree in order to sell unwanted gifts.
 
This is generally the time when you could snap up a bargain. But when shopping online, especially the classified sections you do run the risk of being scammed. We look at ways that you can stay safe while shopping online.
 
Buying from classifieds
 
It is always nice to find something you really want at a great price, but sometimes that great price can be just too good to be true.
 
OLX points out that one of the main things you should look for, before deciding to buy something, is if there are any spelling and grammatical errors in the advert. A genuine advert will be written properly, and sound professional.
 
If there is a link in the site, make sure that the URL begins 'https' instead of http – this indicates if the site is secure or not. Also, beware of very long website addresses. These could house viruses or code that tracks your browsing history so fraudsters can get hold of your banking details.
 
"Never follow any 'links' that you are asked to follow. If an e-mail requests that you follow a link to the website of your bank, ignore the request. Always log off a site when you have completed what you need to do," says OLX.
 
Bank statements
 
Once you have made any purchases always check your bank statements regularly to identify any errors or fraudulent transactions that might have been performed on your account without your knowledge.
 
Use your bank's security features to ensure you have a safe and secure banking experience. Keep your pins safe, and never tell anyone your personal banking information.
 
If you have any doubt about a transaction, contact your bank immediately.
 
Gumtree has some information on what scams you should look out for, click here.
 
Safety tips for buyers
 
Outsmarting scammers is not as hard as it seems, explains OLX. For starters if it's too good to be true, guess what? It's a scam, says OLX.
 
Always try to meet in a safe, public place and bring a friend with you. Before you even go to meet always call the seller. This way you not only get to verify their phone number by calling them, but you also get to tell what type of person they are. A first impression is a lasting impression.
 
If at any moment you feel intimidated or made to feel guilty, leave immediately. Also, check the item before paying. If the item is electronic, plug it in or get it charged to see if it works the way you hoped.
 
This is also true for housing rentals. If you can't tour the house or apartment before renting it, it's likely not available.
 
When it comes to buying a cellphone from a classifieds site, check if the serial number (under the battery) is not 11111111111 – if it is, then it's fake. Also check if the serial number is the same as the one printed on the box. If it isn't, walk away.
 
If you're buying a vehicle or trailer make sure you verify vehicle identification numbers (VIN) and check that the vehicle's serial number on the engine corresponds with the number in the papers of the car. The best way to do this is to buy a full report about the vehicle at TransUnion —for R10, click here to fill out the form.
 
If the seller doesn't want you to check all the VIN and serial numbers, then walk away. If the car is legitimate, they should have no problem with you checking everything.
 
Always pay in cash and ask for a receipt. Walk away if the seller requests a deposit. This way you can check the product before any money is handed over.
 
But if you don't feel safe with carrying a large amount of cash with you, then pay via EFT (Electronic Funds Transfer). Set up a meeting before you do this so that you can inspect the item. You don't want to EFT the money and then never get what you paid for.
 
"If someone says they work for OLX, please contact us to verify. We're a small team and everybody knows each other. Hey, you might get lucky and meet all of us if you exchange at our Cape Town offices! OLX will NEVER ask you to pay a deposit. We absolutely do not run a so-called 'OLX Purchase Program': Scam! Be neighbourly: If you've spotted a scam, let us know. We'll take it off our site immediately," saysOLX.
 
Identity fraud
 
This occurs when someone steals your personal information and then uses those details to commit fraud.
 
In this case, fraud could include accessing of private information, gaining access to unauthorised physical structures by appearing to be the victim or simply stealing the obvious: your money.
Usually, you will only find out your identity has been stolen when you legitimately apply for credit and get turned down.
 
Banks are taking significant steps every day to combat and prevent online fraud such as phishing and other cyber-related threats.
 
While online fraud is not a new issue, it continues to be of concern as perpetrators identify new ways of obtaining the information they need.
 
One of the latest trends is to mimic the look of rewards sites in an attempt to elicit responses from users of legitimate sites.
 
Sugendhree Reddy, head of personal banking at Standard Bank says, "We urge all our customers to take care when conducting transactions, particularly when it comes to dealing with unsolicited mails, notifications or web material where personal account information is requested.
 
"The biggest weapon against online fraud is always to be informed and alert. With all financial transactions, maintaining a watchful eye over your accounts and security information is vital."
 
Regardless of whether you have a debit, credit card, savings account, or are a member of a rewards programme, remember that your bank will never request you to divulge pin numbers and passwords.
 
Always make sure that you keep your personal information safe at all times. Trust your instincts and if something doesn't feel right, then walk away. You have no obligation to buy an item and if you think that a transaction was incorrect, then contact your bank to check it.

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