10 Ways to Avoid Scammers
Advice from SAIA
TAKE THE RISK OUT OF ONLINE AUCTIONS
The popularity of online auctions has exploded due to Covid-19 restrictions that have also given rise to scams where the public is at risk of being swindled out of their money or where they do not receive the products they won on the bid.
While there are hundreds of legitimate online auctioneers out there, the rapid growth of the industry during lockdown has also attracted the attention of criminals, who prefer to prey on the good intentions of buyers and have developed a variety of ploys to trick them out of their hard-earned cash.
Fortunately, the South African Institute of Auctioneers (SAIA) is doing everything it can to raise awareness and educate the public to enjoy the many benefits of online auctions without the risks. Long-serving SAIA board member, Clive Lazarus, shares the top 10 ways to avoid scammers and how to find the right auctioneering professionals:
- Treat every website or social media post with scepticism until you have established the credentials. Make sure you are dealing with the legitimate auctioneers, as scammers are cloning their sites on Facebook and populating them with deals that are too good to be true in order to lure unsuspecting buyers. If interested in a deal first establish credentials to make sure that you are dealing with a reputable and trustworthy company. Successful auctioneers usually have long track records and it should not be difficult to establish their credentials. Once you are near certain you have the right company it is essential you communicate with them on your own terms before sharing any sensitive information.
- When dealing with an auctioneer for the first time phone the company’s landline, check the emails are not free Webmail based ones and get a physical address that can be checked on Google Maps. Seldom, if ever, will they only give a cell phone number and email to contact them. Be warned, these scam operations are fairly well resourced and smart enough to make just small changes to the stolen companies’ identities to bypass Facebook’s filters and fool even seasoned buyers.
- Don’t fall for their tricks. The scamsters lure unsuspecting victims with too-good-to-be-true prices and reel them in with promises of bypassing the usual system if they pay an amount upfront. When people respond they usually give them the option to reserve the item or buy it outright before going to auction. False invoices are then created in the name of the legitimate company and would-be bidders are scammed out of a deposit to “remove & reserve” the item from auction. These scammers are especially active in the car auction space but are not limited to it.
- Adhere to the rules of engagement. Remember, at no time whatsoever will legitimate auctioneers require a deposit for viewing purposes, they will require a refundable deposit to register to bid at the auction only. All vehicles and items relating to bank repossessions will only be sold via auction and the same usually applies to liquidations and insolvencies. No off-hand negotiations will be done before a vehicle or another item is placed on auction. Banks will never allow selling a vehicle before an auction.
- It is imperative that you view and inspect any item before buying. Do not pay any deposits unless you have physically seen the item. It is incumbent on a purchaser to familiarize themselves with an item on which they bid prior to commencement of the bidding process. Any enquiry or doubt as to the condition of the item that they are bidding on should be ascertained in open discussion with the auctioneer beforehand or when the item is put up on auction.
- Report suspected scams to SAIA and share as much information as possible to allow the institute to conduct a full investigation. In this way, the offending sites can be identified and removed and law enforcement officers can begin to close the net on criminal syndicates. SAIA keeps a careful eye out for any signs of new scams emerging and has launched awareness campaigns on all its platforms, including the mainstream media, to protect the public and encourage them to report suspicious-looking auctions.
- When in doubt, find out. SAIA encourage would-be buyers to contact its offices and do enquiries about the status of the auctioneers they plan to deal with. There are many alternatives, and the public can use whichever means is the most suitable for them. Don’t take chances, only deal with auctioneers who are active members of SAIA. SAIA has a full list of its members on its website www.auctioneering.co.za and is always happy to communicate with the public to find out more about the conduct of its members. But remember, a SAIA logo on a website or letterhead is not proof of membership and it is incumbent on the public to make sure that the companies are indeed members before dealing with them.
- Be safe and enjoy the many benefits of auctions. Auctions offer sellers access to quick, safe sales and provide buyers with unmatched opportunities to find goods at a price that is right for them. Often it allows buyers to find “once in a lifetime” treasures such as the cars they want or a house that they can make a home in the right area and at the right price. There are also a lot of investment opportunities in the form of unwanted equipment, properties, agricultural goods and so much more. You have just got to be there and be in the moment to find your opportunity.
- Check the bank accounts. By far the majority of scamsters reported to SAIA have made use of either Capitec or African Bank accounts. Although many legitimate companies use these accounts, it is suggested that these accounts should be double and triple checked. Note: Never pay money into an account reflecting an individual’s name when dealing with a registered company.
- Spread the word about the good guys. SAIA members have great reputations and usually leave a trail of delighted buyers and sellers in the wake of their auctions. By leaving positive reviews and sharing your positive experiences on social media you make it easier for other users to find good, honest and professional auctioneers in all areas.
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