There is no perfect plan to avoid becoming the victim of scammers. Scamming has changed a lot from the back-in-the-days scams where you were offered an investment opportunity in an “almost” too-good-to-be-true scheme.
Scammers have developed skills and means that will amaze you. Ranging from algorithm spyware on computers to just preying on normal people is all in a day’s work for them. During our involvement in several high- and low-profile fraud investigations we have seen that their “workday” literally consists of searching opportunities to scam people.
This article aims to try and assist people who need to decide whether it is a scam or not. There is no perfect plan, but as with all scams the rule “If it is too good to be true, it normally is” apply.
In investigations, scams are split into a few categories. We will do several articles to try and cover the biggest ones.
Online Advertisements and Bid-Or-Buy Scams
The standard modus operandi is –

When Selling

• You advertise items on an online platform (Gumtree – Bid-or-Buy, etc.)
• You get a response from a very keen buyer who asks all the standard questions.
• The buyer then tells you that the items are needed in another province for an important event like a birthday, etc.
• The buyer asks your bank details and forwards you a proof of payment on either your cellphone or via e-mail.
• You are then required to send the item/s (normally) via Postnet.
• Your objections that the money is not reflecting in your account yet, is either met with smooth talk or threats of laying criminal charges against you for theft of the buyer’s money.
• You end up trusting the person and dispatch the goods.
• Three days later there is still no money in your bank, and you realise you have been scammed.

When Buying

• You respond to an online advertisement.
• You are supplied with photos of the items.
• You are required to send money via one of the online money sending platforms. (Their bank account is normally not available.)
• You are then waiting for your delivery and two or more days later the scammer informs you of some problem with dispatching the item/s, which requires a further payment.

An important tell-tale sign –

• Scammers use Google translate to communicate with you in your own language. If there is anything wrong with the grammar double and triple check.
• Scammers normally just copy and paste translations without changing the copied font into the font used to write the e-mail to you.
• The following had been extracted from an actual e-mail used by a scammer:

~~ The trained eye will pick up the following –

• The difference in the font;
• Spacing errors;
• Lack of capital letters.

How to check if it is a scam –

• Google the e-mail address and cellphone numbers together with the words “scam”, “complaints”, and “fraud”. (No gaps between the numbers otherwise you are going to get millions of hits.)
• Google the seller’s addresses provided on invoices or anything else. Google again with the words “scam”, “complaints”, and “fraud”.
• Text messages from the banks informing you of a payment made to you must contain a unique transaction number. Use that number to check the transaction with the bank.
• When getting an e-mail hover your mouse cursor over the sender’s e-mail address. It will reveal a little block, which you can click on to reveal the actual e-mail address of the sender. (The address you see in the mail is what the sender wants you to see.)
• If you are not sure about the authenticity of an e-mail or do not feel comfortable with a transaction feel free to contact us for an opinion on [email protected]

Most Importantly –

When selling anything do not let your assets go until the money CLEARS in your account. Fraudsters use all sorts of excuses to get your assets. If they insist on getting the items before the money clears tell them to go to the Police to force you to hand over the items. Do not let someone else’s failure to plan become your problem.
Rather safe than sorry…
Compiled by Willem van Romburgh – April 2020 ©
www.willemvanromburgh.co.za