Junk Mail mission is to offer a whole new way to shop using online classifieds. An important part of achieving that is making the experience as safe as possible for all parties. Most listings are perfectly legitimate, but as with any financial transaction, you should always protect yourself. Here are some precautionary measures we recommend taking to ensure a positive and successful experience.
When Buying Something Online:
- Ask questions. It helps to research the market value of an item to know if you’re getting a good deal. When you first contact a seller by phone or email, express your interest in the item and ask any questions you may have about the condition and/or history of them item. Ask to see digital photos as well.
- Limit personal information. Limit the amount of information you share about yourself (for example, don’t give out your home phone or address and remove personal information from your email signature file). After the seller has answered some questions and seems credible, you may need to disclose more information about yourself such as your name and cell phone number. Try to keep it limited to that. Establish the credibility of the seller. In addition to communicating over email, we recommend talking to the seller by phone before meeting them.
2. Meeting the Seller
- Meet in a public place. Meet in a public place if possible – during the daytime when other people will be around.
Bring a friend. If the item is large, like a piece of furniture, and you must go to the seller’s home, always let someone knows where you are going. You may also want to share whatever contact info you have for the seller (their email address, phone number).
3. Seeing and Evaluating the Item
- Do your research. It helps to do advance research on the market value of item so you will know if you are getting a good deal. You may want to bring copies of similar listings with you that support your valuation. Don’t be afraid to haggle or negotiate on price, but don’t insult the seller with an unreasonably low offer.
- See it before you buy it. Always see the item in person before you buy it, inspect its condition carefully. If it is a car, ask and check the vehicle history (i.e. how many owners, service record book and ask for receipts for any service records etc.). You can also request a pre-purchase inspection at a local AA Roadworthy Center, (generally between R150 and R300), a service which can identify potential safety and mechanical issues. Take the car on a test drive and for extra precaution, ensure that the car is registered in the seller’s name. If the item in question is a pet, check its veterinary records and pedigree papers.
4. The Transaction
- Pay cash. In online classifieds, it’s best to pay cash and to keep the payment simple. Do not use money wires, Western Union or Moneygrams.
- For big purchases, use cash check. For an item priced over R1000, you may be more comfortable using a cash check so you don’t have to carry cash around. You can bring a cash check in person to your first meeting, but it may be better to wait until you are sure you want to buy the item since you will need to make it out to the seller and you will need a final amount. Ask for a signed receipt or go make an affidavit at the nearest police station.
- Protect your personally identifiable information. Don’t give out your Identity Number, Bank Numbers, Credit Card Numbers, etc.