The other day I was on facebook and saw a lady talk about how she was almost conned trying to sell her tablet on OLX. For those not in the know, it’s a classified site where users can buy or sell anything for free . So the lady had put up an ad of her tablet, and got a prospective buyer. They arranged for a meeting at a certain cafe in town. As she sat waiting for him, the buyer said he was a little busy so he will be passing by in a car and wanted her to take the tablet out to him on the street.
She stepped out following his directions. However, when the car the buyer was in pulled up, there were three other men inside. She immediately sensed something was wrong and this was confirmed when a man in the rear seat pulled out a gun and told her to get into the car. Luckily, it was daylight, she was near a buidling on Loita Street and she ran towards the watchmen as the the fraudsters drove away.
In another incident, my colleague’s uncle gave out a car he was selling to a potential buyer to test drive it. He drove off away and hasn’t been seen since. Goes without saying, you don’t let anyone (least of all someone you met online) test drive your car without you in it. You should also bring backup. Don’t be too trusting.
I’ve also heard tales of people who copy others’ ads, especially cars, complete with the same pictures, only the price is lower. Then they tell you the car is Nakuru (if you’re in Nairobi), just send 3K for fuel. And that’s the last you hear of them.
These incidents are many, just as there are many successful cases of online transactions. Just recently, my bro and I got a good deal on a laptop. With the recent implementation of VAT on laptops, it’s hard to find a 4GB RAM, 250 GB Hard disk, Core i3 (minimum specs) laptop for under Ksh. 40,000. So we went to OLX and searched around and finally got a seller of a new Lenovo laptop for around 38K.
So here is my basic guide when shopping online:
- Meet the seller/buyer in a secure, public location of your choice. A cafe/restaurant is good because it’s indoor and it’s a public place. If something goes wrong, plenty of witnesses and the person has less time to run for it so choose a crowded restaurant.
- Come with a backup. A reliable friend, relative.. they can inspect an item with you and agree if it’s worthe the price
- Never exchange money beforehand. Don’t even send money for ‘transport/fare’. It is better to exchange the item for money at the same time.
- When you buying a car or land, whether on OLX or any other market place, you need to confirm ownership at the relevant authorities (KRA/Land commission).
- If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. This is the golden rule of all transactions.
- Do not share your financial information for example bank details, pin, e.t.c Put up only minimal personal information needed for the buyer/seller to contact you: a reliable phone number.
- Don’t accept a cheque payments. Checks bounce. Cash for goods
For more tips, check out this link.