Sites like Kupatana have made it much easier for people to buy from and sell to other people in their area. Unfortunately, there are always a few bad apples that take advantage of others.
Many Tanzanians are worried about increasing crime rates. While 84% of people are worried about being targeted by gangs, others are also worried about online fraud.
Whether you are a buyer or a seller, you need to know how to keep yourself safe. Make sure that you understand the risks and know what precautions to take first.
Risks of Buying or Selling Products Online
You’ve probably heard horror stories of people who fell victim to crimes while using Ecommerce sites. These cases are actually pretty few and far between in comparison to all the people who successfully use these sites.
Unfortunately, the risks cannot be ignored. Aidan Eyakuze, Executive Director of Twaweza, explains that while most people feel safe in their communities, a growing number of people are realizing they need to take steps to ensure their safety.
Here are a couple of the most common dangers you may encounter while buying and selling products over the internet.
Robbers sometimes use Ecommerce sites to lure victims. There are several ways these robberies can be orchestrated:
- Robbing the person by force
- Stealing by deception (such as stealing a car while taking it on a test drive)
- Getting someone’s address by posing as an interested buyer, and coming back to rob the person later
While it’s difficult to obtain completely accurate statistics, robberies are the most common crime affecting customers on Ecommerce sites.
Violent criminals and sex offenders can also use classified sites to prey on innocent people. These people may target women and families with children, but could harm anyone. Always stay on your guard.
How Can You Protect Yourself?
Kupatana is an open advertising platform. Unfortunately, we can’t screen every customer and seller that uses it, so use your best judgment when using the site. Here are a few tips to follow.
1. Never Post Your Personal Information in Your Ad
The majority of people who view your ad will be honest people that just want to buy a product and move on. However, it only takes one potential robber or stalker to create problems.
Never let anyone know where you live. Don’t post your address, full name, or other identifying information in your ad. Only share this information with people who will actually be visiting you, and even then, limit it to what is absolutely necessary.
2. Meet in a Public Place
Meeting at a private residence is risky for everyone. Sellers worry about burglars posing as buyers, who could check out their home and come back at a later time. Buyers may worry about being robbed or assaulted at a stranger’s home.
If you are buying or selling small objects, then it’s always best to meet in a public place, such as a coffee shop or your local market.
3. Look for Red Flags in the Messages
Many criminals aren’t necessarily that bright, or are overly confident and prone to making mistakes. These criminals often leave a few warning signs in their conversations. Here are some common red flags to look out for:
- They are asking you for money in advance
- They make inconsistent statements
- They ask for excessive personal information
- They are hesitant to meet in public
There may be valid reasons why innocent people would make these requests. However, it’s important to proceed with caution to keep yourself safe.
4. Keep Sales as Quick as Possible
You probably aren’t looking to spend a lot of time talking to a random stranger who wants to buy or sell something over the internet, and there are legitimate safety reasons for this. There are a couple of reasons why you should keep your meeting as short as possible:
- The longer you talk, the more opportunities you give unscrupulous individuals to take advantage of you.
- People may try to coax personal information out of you if you stay too long. Don’t let your guard down if you talk for awhile and the person seems friendly.
Most sales should only take about ten minutes. Politely let the other party know that you have somewhere to be if things are taking longer than expected.
5. Don’t Share Too Much Information During the Discussion
When you were little, your parents probably told you not to overshare with strangers. Unfortunately, many adults have forgotten this tip.
You may not realize how dangerous it is to give away too much information. Doing so can easily lead to robberies. Robbers could also access your bank accounts if you give away too many personal details.
The best rule of thumb is to never share any information with someone unless they need it to complete the transaction. For example, you will need to share your address if you are transferring the title to a vehicle you just purchased from them.
6. Bring Someone Else With You
There is always safety in numbers. Bring another person to accompany you when meeting someone to buy or sell an item, even if you are planning to meet in a public place.
7. Make Careful Observations
You should also take note of any personally identifiable information about the people you connect with. Remember their physical appearance, vehicle descriptions, and the location of their home, if possible. In the event that you are robbed, you’ll need to be able to identify them to the police. You will also want to alert us so we can warn other people in case they try to use Kupatana in the future.
8. Inspect the Product First
Scam artists usually dupe people into paying for products that don’t exist. They may ask people to wire money to a bank account and promise to ship the product afterwards.
Tanzania regulators recognize that online fraud is a growing concern. They passed the National Payment System Bill to mitigate the risks, but online fraud will not be eliminated any time soon.
Obviously, many sellers are legitimate. They simply are too busy to meet with people in person. However, others just want to take your money and run at the first available opportunity.
Always meet with the seller in person, and verify that the product they are selling exists before exchanging money. Make sure that the item is in good condition before agreeing to the price. Some sellers may sell a shoddy knockoff or a product that doesn’t work. Unfortunately, you may have little recourse, unless you signed a formal contract first.
9. Read Local Police Reports
Stay aware of scammers or other predators in your neighborhood. Your local paper should publish reports about any criminal activity taking place in your area. Read them to see if there are any dangers in the area to be aware of before conducting business. Be very careful if you try to buy from someone matching the description of a known suspect.
10. Never Leave a Buyer Alone With Your Property
When selling a product, be careful about leaving potential buyers alone with it. This is especially a concern if you are selling a car or another high-ticket item. Just a couple of weeks ago, one of our sellers reported that a buyer stole their vehicle while they left it unattended.
Of course, most people will want to take the car for a test drive before they make a purchase. Make it impossible for them to drive it away by accompanying them on the ride.
11. Avoid Bringing Cash Until You Are Sure That You Want to Buy the Product
Carrying a lot of cash is always a risky move. Don’t carry too much unless you are certain that you’re going to buy the product. Ideally, you should either:
- Pay for the product with a check.
- Let the seller know that you only want to assess the product during the first meeting. You can always return with cash later if you are sure that you want to follow through on the purchase.
You should never carry enough cash to buy a car or other high-ticket item. Any reasonable seller will understand the risk and allow you to find another means of payment.
Always Make Safety Your First Priority
Over 30% of Tanzanians were robbed last year. As outlined above, there are many precautions you can take to keep yourself safe.
Dealing with strangers that you meet over the internet is always risky. You don’t need to be paranoid, because the majority of people using the site are decent people. However, it’s always prudent to take sensible precautions.
Review our safety checklist before agreeing to meet someone. You can drastically reduce the risk of falling victim by taking these precautions.