Internet Scams are everywhere nowadays. Scammers are making use of almost every classifieds website out there. It gets more difficult to tell which ads are “for real” and which are not. Professional scammers are getting sharper at refining their schemes and ways as fast as their ways and schemes are being discovered. At Junk Mail we aim to arm our users with some great tips to help them pick up fraudulent adverts easier. If you follow these guidelines you will be able to determine which classifieds adverts are legitimate and which adverts are placed by fraudsters who are looking for opportunities to take advantage of unsuspecting Junk Mail users.
Here are a few things you can look out for:
- Price of the item being advertised: If the item being advertised is free or too cheap there must be something wrong with it. The item is either too damaged and /or beyond repair. The advertised item could be a fake, was smuggled, illegally acquired or it could have been stolen. The worst case scenario is that it doesn’t exist at all. Before you fork out any of your hard-earned cash learn what the item you are interested normally sells for. Read consumer forum entries or credible trading blogs before clicking that button to release your funds or sending your money via Western Union (the scammer’s preferred method of payment)./ If an item is too expensive, you might also want to do some research first about the pricing for the particular item. Reverse psychology works. It usually targets brand-conscious people or people who want to live the ‘high life’. Rather be a responsible buyer and keep the privilege of always having the extra bucks to throw around than feeling sorry for yourself for being caught by a scam. Remember: Price regulation laws exist for a reason and competition exists to deliver quality goods at the best price for the consumer. Browse and compare. Be Safe! Be Savvy! Be Smart!
- The Advertiser’s Personality: Being polite and pleasant (even if the customer is king) has never hurt anyone. But, always have your defense mechanism on standy. Be aware that some bogus advertisers try their best to sound too nice and steal your heart when posting their ads. Examples of language used by scammers can be found in our recent ‘Watch Out for Online Scams’ and ‘Urgent Vehicle Scam Warning’ posts – read them to get an idea of how scammers respond to users on Junk Mail. If someone sounds to be true, they probably are. Don’t be charmed by elaborately-planned explanations coming from a seemingly educated person with a fishy personality. Always trust your educated and well-informed instinct. You might be dealing with a scammer if they are outside South Africa, if there is no possibility for you to view the advertised item before you need to fork out money, or if they will ask you to send the money via Western Union. This is not to say that this money transfer company encourages scammers. The fraudsters just prefer to take advantage of the ease of making transactions with this service. Western Union is the best and least complicated way to send money abroad. Also be aware that there are other scammers who would like their victims to think that they are not bogus by using traceable modes of payment either by making fake accounts or by stealing someone’s identity.
- Photo Used On the Advert: Classifieds adverts with photos draw people to click on them more often than those without images. You might want to use a meticulous eye and even sharper judgment when viewing almost impeccable photos on ads (like well-designed magazine-perfect interiors of a property, a very cute animal looking at you with begging ‘puppy dog-take-me-home-now’ eyes, an official image of a phone or a car model and others). These images could clearly play tricks on your mind. Scammers have mastered taking advantage of the great subliminal effect visual marketing has on consumers. Junk Mail highly recommends referring to the saying “Don’t judge a book by its cover”. Take the time to inspect the items you are interested before you fork out some cash.
- E-mail Addresses and Contact Telephone Numbers: Nowadays, nothing is what it seems Check if the e-mail address being used has been reported for fraudulent use on an online form. Scammers love using web-generated e-mail address like “@gmail.com” “@yahoo.com” “@yahoo.co.uk” “@live.co.za” “@hotmail.com”, etc. A quick Google search will confirm if the advert has been used to scam unsuspecting users. If the advertiser is claiming to run a shop / that he or she is at a certain address, double check if the address actually exists. If the contact telephone number does not exist and the advertiser expects you to contact them via e-mail only, you are most likely dealing with a scammer. Ask for an appointment to check out / test drive / view the advertised item for yourself. Try all possible ways to communicate with the advertiser and make sure to always be on standby for replies. If you contact an advertiser from your own number and you suspect that they are attempting to defraud you, ask a friend to call from a different number. If the person uses a different contact name, you are most likely dealing with a scammer.
Recently the Junk Mail team launched the new and improved Safety & Security Tips page on the Junk Mail Blog. This page contains links to all the posts that we’ve published that contain warnings about scams and other safety tips for buying and selling using classifieds. If you do pick up a scam advert on the Junk Mail website, please comment on this post and provide us with the link to the advert / report the advert during office hours to our Customer Care Department (via e-mail at email@example.com or telephonically on 012-3423840 x2295) / click the “Report Advert” link on the detailed advert page to report the advert to us as fraudulent.