More and more South Africans want to trade goods online but fraud in the digital space is an increasing concern.
Head of Marketing for Gumtree SA Claire Cobbledick says that scammers are becoming more creative; “they’re generating fake proof of payments and sending SMS notifications to inform you that funds have been paid into your account to gain release of the items before you realise that no actual funds were transferred”.
Cobbledick continues that the true perspective is that an overwhelming majority of the hundreds of thousands of transactions every year on Gumtree are concluded safely and satisfactorily but that everyone can trade more securely if they follow six basic steps.
- Use the Message Centre on the free Gumtree app which enables you to connect with potential buyers via direct messaging – this also allows Gumtree to track scammers and retrieve their contact details.
- If the seller or buyer is pressuring you, be suspicious – insist on doing your due diligence even at the risk of losing the deal.
- Never release your banking details to strangers – when paying ensure that you’re using a secure connection with a padlock setting in your browser.
- Once a price has been agreed upon, do not release items until money is actually cleared into your account by your bank and not just by text alert.
- Gumtree never requires payment as part of any transaction – if any such payment is mentioned then the deal is potentially a scam.
In response to this ongoing problem and in an effort to protect Gumtree.co.za users, the online classified site has partnered with Shepherd, a third party escrow service which is supported by Standard Bank, to reduce the risk of fraud for both buyer and seller.
Cobbledick describes the mechanism as simple; “once a price has been agreed, Shepherd, for a small fee, collects the item from the seller, delivers it to the buyer and, if all is in order, releases the buyer’s money to the seller”.
Shepherd is the safer option – get in touch with the escrow service directly or with Gumtree’s Customer Service to assist. Never pay money into an account until you are certain of the validity thereof.
Gumtree relies heavily on their community to help reduce fraud and report questionable integrity. The online classified site has a large and experienced team who can be contacted directly via their helpdesk, help.gumtree.co.za, to answer questions if users are sceptical.