To catch a scammer says that, while opportunistic scammers are all a part of operating the online space, its security and filtering systems, and its user community work in tandem to stop them at the door.

Bidorbuy is an online trading platform that enables independent sellers to trade with buyers. The two parties decide who to trade with and are responsible for their transactions – naturally, this kind of trading exposes the site and its users to potential scams.

“By far and large, we manage to stop significant number of potential fraudsters before they even register, or before they cause harm,” said Bidorbuy CEO, Jaco Jonker.

“If anything seems suspicious, we are prepared to disable accounts as a preventive measure.  Weeding out not only scammers, but also users who do not treat fellow bidorbuyers with due respect, is an ongoing task for us.”

Jonker said it’s difficult to pin down an exact figure of how many scammers the site deals with – but assured BusinessTech that identified scam accounts are removed from the site, and any future attempts by those users to register on bidorbuy are blocked automatically.

“Instances of outright scamming attempts are rare on bidorbuy. That’s not only because our security team regularly patrols the site, it’s also because our community of users are well-versed in recognising suspicious listings, and are quick to alert us as soon as they do.

“We do everything we can to empower [users] to make an informed decision, and to do it before entering into a trading deal. That is why we have in place our rating system, user verification system, and our buyer protection programme.”

The bidorbuy CEO said that users to check seller ratings before buying; to buy expensive items from verified sellers; to buy from sellers who have bidorbuy stores; or from sellers who are featured in the site’s “Deal of the Week”.

“If a buyer suffers a loss after purchasing from a verified seller, we as bidorbuy will reimburse the buyer for the loss, or to the amount to which the seller was verified.”

Phishing for opportunity

Joker warned that it is important to make a distinction between scammers on bidorbuy itself and scammers who operate outside, but use the company’s name.

“Having learned that it’s not easy to bypass the bidorbuy system of checks, scammers are more likely to resort to schemes that are carried outside of our site,” Jonker said.

“That is usually done by listing a product – usually a car – on various classified sites. When people respond to the ad, they send phishing emails purporting to come from bidorbuy. Such emails usually state that the prospective buyer is to pay R20,000 or R30,000 deposit and claim that the seller has an account on bidorbuy and that bidorbuy is guaranteeing him or her to some large amount of money.”

When it comes to these phishing scams, Jonker conceded that there was little bidorbuy could do to prevent them outside of educating and advising site users about the scams. Once recipients of a phishing scam alert the company to a scam, a warning is posted on the site.

“I must say that anyone who falls victim to a cyber scam is not likely to ever recover the loss, because this criminal activity always involves sending money via an untraceable wire transfer.”

The bidorbuy chief said that some tell-tale signs of possible scams are expensive items offered at a low price, listed for a very short period of time, with wire transfer services such as Western Union specified as payment method.

“The information about all these safety-nets is posted on our Help pages,” Jonker said.

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To catch a scammer