Toral: Online scams: buyer beware

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Tuesday, January 7, 2014


IT IS sad whenever someone asks for advice in our online help desk on what they need to do because they got scammed. These include sellers disappearing after receiving the money they sent.

Although I can easily say that they should not have paid beforehand, this will go against the purpose of shopping online.

Fraudulent seller profiles get removed after the victim complains at the marketplace site. However, the victim is also worried and she knew that another profile can be easily created. They may even have several profiles all along.

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“How can it be stopped?” she asked. She also inquired on how to report to authorities like the Philippine National Police and National Bureau of Investigation, Department of Trade and Industry’s Bureau of Trade Regulations and Consumer Protection. She inquired further if there is an industry association. I referred her to the Digital Commerce Association of the Philippines.

But in general, buyers need to be cautious. High ticket items marketed at very low prices should serve as a warning signal. Buyers who don’t have numerous transaction history or reviews from long-time buyers and sellers in the site should also be a warning. I think marketplace owners need to be compelled to verify the identity of online sellers in order to protect the buyers - if what they are selling is considered a hot item where the possibilities of a scam are high.

Users need to be constantly reminded as well of the marketplace’s best practices in order to minimize the risk of being scammed.

It can be a tedious task but I guess part of their advertising or marketing budget can be aligned towards that. Although people who have been scammed are still few, their experience can have a lot of influence on relatives or peers who may have thought of trying online purchases. Definitely, an improvement in the process is necessary.

Authorities should also need to implement a process where users can report those who have scammed them online. This way, policies can be created especially if there is a high number of reports being submitted on specific sites. Patterns can also be studied or established. Marketplace owners need to cooperate in this process in order to stop people taking advantage of gullible consumers. (www.digitalfilipino.com)

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on January 08, 2014.

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