Recently I had to bail on a family time-share holiday due to studies (sigh). I felt terrible as we had gotten an extra vacation rental and now it would be completely unoccupied. To make it up to the family, I figured that the least I could do was to sell the extra apartment to make up the lost cash.
When it comes to internet classifieds such as Gumtree, I’m a real old lady. I remember every Carte Blanche episode on identity theft and imagine that someone is going to take my details and Viola! I’m now married to four people taking credit out in my name. Anyway, none of that occurred. I posted an ad on Gumtree and got contacted by 3 buyers. I then internet stalked them (to check if they existed), sold it to the most legit looking buyer and sold the vacay with some profit (yay!).
As easy as it was, my paranoia was kicked into high-gear. I realised that many people may feel the same way about internet classifieds and the only way to ease paranoia is with knowledge. So, I’ve compiled some guidelines and info to help the rest of you stay internet safe.
Scams, Scams, Scams! How to spot a scam
We all know there are countless scams that are out there. Many of us receive daily text messages informing us that we have won the European Lotto or emails telling us that we are the sole heirs to an Arab oil tycoon. Yawn, these scams are easy to spot (yes, I know many fall for them but they are quite obvious due to the sheer number we receive). Here is a list of some commonly used scams:
- Using Money Transfer Services- eg. Western Union & Moneygram. This may seem like the safer way to send money but fraudsters have found ways to send fake payment and tracking codes. Only do local trade. Cash is king!
- EFT scams: Internet bank transfers are relatively safe. Wait till the money reflects in your bank account and not the buyers receipt of payment as these too can be forged.
- Over-payment Scams: A cheque is deposited into your bank account for more than the agreed amount. You, being the honest person you are, refunds the “buyer” the amount. A few weeks later, the cheque is withdrawn and you have lost your money and the refunded amount.
- Commission scams: These are terribly obvious. They don’t make much sense either. They offer you commission on a large amount of money which need to be moved into the country. They eventually require some type of fee from you. In the end, that is the only transaction that takes place.
- Pet Shipping Scams: We all know thoroughbred pets are expensive. I’ve spent my fair share of time looking for Exotic Shorthaired kittens (if you see them them, you would understand). The fraudster will have pics of the most adorable pets (they are probably from Google) and offer to fly them to you from overseas or other cities for just the fee of the flight and the cage. Inevitably you give the money upfront and get nothing in return.
Be a responsible consumer- if you pick up dodgy looking ads, do report it. If you are scammed, report it to the police.
Buying and Selling Safely
Two of the most important principles to classified trade is 1) keep it local 2) cash is king.
- Selling timeshares are pretty safe. If you are the seller, you can just tell the resort not to give the keys if the buyer has not paid. If you are a buyer, you can usually contact the resort to find out if that person does have a timeshare there once you receive the booking code.
- If they are hesitant to give you any information you request such as booking codes or owner’s details, then run away!
- If you are buying a product: Always take someone with you to view it; don’t carry the cash on first visit; meet in public and well-lit place; always be alert and skeptical; and obey your instincts
- Don’t give unnecessary personal information away on your ad. I prefer to use email only initially as I do not like giving out my number.
- There is nothing wrong with checking up on people when you are doing trade. Most people are now on Facebook, Twitter and even better- Linked In. I like to think people are more likely to be legit if you can find them on the internet. Also, some very unintelligent scammers use the same names and email addresses repeatedly so a simple check might bring up scam alerts.
- As with everything- If it is too good to be true it probably is
Stay safe and Have Fun
Using classifieds is a great way to pick up last-minute holiday deals, unwanted timeshares and vacation rentals. If you are looking for great vacation rentals in the Cape, do check out the amazing Cape Town Villas. I highly recommend it for saving some rands and better yet- making some rands! It is sometimes also really fun to see what people put up for sale and have a good laugh.
At all times be alert and safe!