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Fraudsters Take Over Online Market   
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An increase in online market trading sites in recent times has evolved with it associated internet fraud, where unsuspecting customers are duped in figures running into thousands of cedis.

Some reports gathered by the Business Day indicate that the phenomenon is becoming pervasive among customers who visit popular online classified websites to transact business. The modus operandi adopted by these scammers is craftily done through courting a prospective buyer, by exhibiting an item such as vehicle with a price tag far below its market value.

The buyer is then directed by the fraudsters to transfer money into an account to fuel the vehicle to an agreed location. However, upon receipt of the money, the “seller” breaks contact and absconds with the money.

Confirming the development to the Business Day, the Director, Fraud unit, at the Criminal investigation Department (CID) Headquarters of the Ghana Police Service, Superintendent Felix Koku Mawusi, revealed that some culprits have been arrested and their dockets are before the court.

He disclosed that there are instances where buyers have lost money by making part payments for vehicles that were never delivered.

Currently, there are multiples of online market sites operating in Ghana that exhibit items including automobiles, house, pets, and electrical gadgets for sale.

According to some statistics released by the online market giant “Tonaton.com”, “Over one Million visitors successfully continue to visit online classified websites on a monthly basis either to upload an item for sale, or looking for an item to buy.”

“This is under pinned by the number of items uploaded weekly online which is in excess of 20,000 nationwide, with 75% of these ads found on TOnaton.com alone.

“We have continuously been educating consumers through radio interviews on what some of these scammers can do and the reason why prospective buyers should not part with money for an item they haven’t seen,” Marketing Manager of Tonanton.com, Mr. Kwabena Opoku-Boakye advised.

He warned Internet users to be alert regarding these types of fraud, which have been common in major markets, where online trading is rampant.

“There is very little an online classifieds platform can do to prevent people from parting with money before seeing an item they intend to buy,” he said.

Speaking in an interview with the Business Day, the Content Manager of Lamudi Ghana, Mr. Fidel Amoah stressed that, online market trading will in the near future play an integral role in the economic lives of Ghanaians, hence, the need to pay proper attention to the sector.

He explained that, even though online fraud cannot be expunged totally, there is the need for stakeholders to minimize avenues that enable fraudsters to unduly take advantage of unsuspecting customers.

“One way we can clean the system and enhance it is by establishing quality check control mechanisms to verify information posted by sellers,” he counseled.

He revealed that, Lamudi has used this mechanism to sieve through many uploaded items to protect the general public from fraudsters.

Mr. Amoah stated that it is imperative for buyers and sellers to cross-check and research items before they pay or release them.

Assessing the impact in a report, Mr. Rita Chikwendu-Offeh, the Customer Support Manager of Tonaton.com disclosed that the threat of scammers informed the company’s decision to manually review all ads posted on the website by a local Customer Support Tema.

“The threat of these fraudsters to our business is real and in addition to our manual reviews, we have also boldly displayed on our home page, tit-bits on how to buy and sell safely on Tonaton.com,” she said.

She added that the impact of the initiative to nib the problem in the bud has massively reduced the number of fraudulent ads that find their way onto the platform.

Source: Business Day

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