Marketplaces such as Olx and Quikr dominate India's online classifieds market. The number of buying and selling transactions handled by these platforms is increasing daily. Recently, Olx has been under public scrutiny for advance fee frauds, as well as other online procurement scams.
You need to be aware of all aspects of the deal you are engaging in as a buyer/seller. Here are some tips for buying safely on Olx and all the information you need about online purchase scams.
In what ways are Advance Fee Frauds committed?
Buying/selling products through e-commerce and social media platforms often involve advance fee fraud. A method of requesting an advance payment from the buyer or seller that never materializes!
The problem is particularly problematic on online classified sites like Olx where businesses are conducted outside the platform. The company cannot keep track of fraudulent transactions since all communications and negotiations take place over the phone or by email.
Online purchase scams that involve dubious advance payments typically include:
- It is tempting and lucrative to take advantage of some offers, but some are actually too good to be true
- Affiliation with professional organizations, including Defence, Doctors, and Nongovernmental Organizations
- Psychological blackmail
- Excessive urgency
Fraudsters either spin a web of lies and extract more money from their victims, or they simply disappear once they have received the money. Therefore, Olx and other platforms like it should be used safely.
Online purchase scams: Ways to trick buyers and sellers
Airport phone call
Typically, this is a method of Olx fraud related to the sale of a car.
There is a lucrative offer posted by the dubious seller. A completely fake story is then told to the buyer. A seller tells the buyer that the car is parked at an airport and requires a customs clearance before it can be claimed. There are conmen who demand advance payments on the pretext of VIP parking fees and road clearances. It cannot be released to the buyer unless the advance payment is made.
A fraudster posing as an Airport Customs Officer (also involved in the scam) may even call Olx victims, coaxing them into making the payment. It is common for gullible victims to make the payment, which is usually over a lakh. The seller ceases to respond to the buyer's calls as a result. At that point, they realize their error!
Army Personnel Scams on OLX
Be extra cautious when dealing with a seller/buyer claiming to be in the military.
OLX scams involving Army personnel have allegedly duped 37 people according to a media outlet. The fraudster's methods were the same in all cases where he claimed to be from the Army or CISF.
Don't fall victim to OLX scams!
Online classified sites have seen a significant increase in advance fee fraud using soft copies of ID cards belonging to the Army or CISF. Fraudsters are using police officers' and soldiers' ID cards to gain the trust of buyers.
Identity proofs used in such OLX scams are either leaked by OLX or by travel agencies. When buyers consider the seller's reputable background, they are duped into a dubious deal. Innocent buyers fall victim to advance fee fraud, make an advance payment, and never receive the products they ordered!
Read - Did you get a call from the army? - for the full story
Scams involving distance buyers
The distance buyer's scam involves the fraudster claiming to reside overseas and asking the seller to deliver the item to his address.
The scammer conveniently promises the seller that he will reimburse him for the shipping fees once he receives the product.
The buyers in distance buyer's scams claim to reside in a remote location, which results in really high shipping costs.
The item and shipping charges are collected by a fake representative at the seller's door. Sellers are given fake courier details and some receive fake emails as well!
During this time, the victim receives notifications from the bank and courier company about the receipt of payments. In order to send him the shipping charges and the item's payment, the victim is required to share the courier's details.
Yet, here we are! As soon as the seller ships the product, the buyer disappears along with everyone else involved!
Buying on Olx: Tips for staying safe
- If you are asked for money in advance for duty/shipping/conversion/courier/processing charges, please avoid getting involved in such transactions.
- Whenever a seller demands an advance payment citing an urgency, medical or emotional reason, use extra caution. This is a common Olx scam trap.
- The demands for money accompanied by assurances of fraud/loss recovery are also likely to be scams and advance fee frauds.
- As a buyer, you need to be aware of who you are dealing with. Make sure the seller's name, address, website, and telephone number are verified independently. Search online for relevant information about the buyer.
A few tips for sellers
- False buyers usually claim to have paid more online, then attempt to have the seller compensate them for the difference. Until you receive a payment clearance statement from your bank, DO NOT entertain any such claims.
- Check your emails and messages carefully. Today, fraudsters are adept at modifying emails and creating websites that look like the official websites of legitimate companies.
- Keep in mind that no courier company or bank will ever contact you to say they are holding money for you. The message which states the payment shall be credited after the seller sends them the shipping details is definitely a scam.
How can Vouch help you avoid fraud?
In digital escrow, a third-party account holds the money deposited by the buyer until the seller fulfills the terms of the contract. The escrow company supervises the transacting parties.
What is the role of Digital Escrow in preventing online fraud in India?
Digital escrow services are offered by many companies in India. Among the most trusted is Vouch.
Vouch’s Digital Escrow service is a transparent way for buyers and sellers to build trust and secure a clean transfer of product and payment. Sellers can feel assured that they will be fairly compensated promptly, and buyers will feel confident that their order will be delivered as expected and on schedule. Vouch Digital Escrow keeps you updated and informed at every step of the transaction process till the end. Vouch’s professionals are always available to assist you with all queries that you may have during the entire transaction process.
There is no scope for deceit or fraud since the payments, shipping, delivery, and execution are carried out under the honest and watchful eyes of the Vouch’s professionals. With Vouch, any business transaction becomes transparent, uncomplicated, and hassle-free. If you ever come across a fraudster asking for OTP, asking you to scan a QR code, or asking you to click on phishing links, you can simply refuse and ask him/her to proceed with the transaction through Vouch.
Safety is not just about protecting your credit, debit card number, and UPI accounts. It's about having control of your money till you've received the product or service you bought online!
Note: This is a good-faith initiative to educate the world about avoiding frauds like these and how to act when you're becoming a victim of such a situation.
Do you have a fraud you would like to report? Please write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org