Over the years we have come across several interesting and clever scams that unsuspecting victims have fallen for. However, in the last few days we have discovered a new technique that seems to have claimed plenty of victims off late. This rather innovative trick does not involve the usage of advanced technology or devices. On the other hand, it uses a simple trick of posting fake ads on online classifieds or auction websites such as Quikr, OLX and more.
The scammers seem to attract attention by posting high value goods like luxury cars from recognized brands such as Audi, BMW and others at unbelievably low prices. When they receive inquiries for these fake Quikr ads, they then proceed to demand some form of processing payment in a rather suave and smooth way that would easily fool most people.
In our case, we received a seemingly convincing email saying that the car in question is stuck in a warehouse and the seller has been immediately transferred to another country. So the car is brand new and has no registered owner. In order to complete the deal we have to first get the car registered in our name and this will require Rs. 70,000. Scammers are known to outsource this job of money collection to local money mules and this enables them to stay out of the reach of law enforcement agencies. It has also been found that once this initial ‘registration’ money has been paid, the fake sellers and scammers stop responding to all emails and calls.
Why this is almost the perfect con
All these sites encourage buyers and sellers to interact with each other and this opens up an uninterrupted channel of communication between a potential scammer and an innocent victim. Once this channel has been established, a clever scam artist can manipulate a buyer into sharing his personal details, bank account information and other personal data. This can be achieved with the help of fake phishing pages which look genuine or fraudulent emails which appear to come from official sources.
What you can do to avoid such scams
We strongly advise all visitors to such sites to be very careful when they come across ads of great products at very cheap prices. Always remember the motto – “If it sounds too good to be true, then it probably is.”
With that in mind, here are some crucial safety tips to always keep in mind while scouring auction websites for great deals at throwaway prices.
- Never communicate with strangers over SMS. They could be using premium-rate numbers which will lead to high SMS charges for you.
- If you receive an email from a potential buyer/seller, check the email address carefully. A small spelling tweak here and there can fool almost anyone.
- If you are directed to a form or a website or webpage where you have to enter information, steer away from such pages. If not, at least examine them closely.
- Never use credit cards for such payments. If you must use a card, set aside a standalone debit card for such transactions and keep very little money in that account. That way, even if that card is compromised, your losses will be minimal.
- If you are shipping a product, ensure that you have received full payment before you actually ship the product out.
- If you are to receive a product, try not to give out your home address. Give out your office address or the address of a familiar shop or location from where you can pick up the product.
- Carefully read the FAQs of such sites before you undertake any transactions on them.
- Lastly, if someone is selling a product and asks you as a buyer to transfer some fraction of the asking price as a registration amount, do not fall for that.
These and many more safety measures will help you stay protected against such potential scams. We are further investigating the case of fraudulent car ads on auction websites and will post our findings here once we have more information. Till then, stay tuned for more updates.