While the internet has made information exchange much easier, it's also made consumers a lot more vulnerable. Money can be transferred without ever seeing the glint in a scammer's eyes as they rob you of your hard-earned cash.
Not only that, but now scammers are becoming more sophisticated and thousands of people are becoming victims.
Keep an eye out for these lesser-known scams:
When renting out a property, beware of tenants who only pay a deposit and part of the rent before moving in and then make excuses by not paying further rent.
Make sure you do reference checks with previous landlords and ask for previous addresses and contact numbers.
Some tenants have no intention of paying rent and will stay in your property for several months without paying because they know it costs a small fortune to get an eviction order.
Only hand over the keys for the property, after all your conditions have been met.
This is when an advertiser informs the prospective tenant that they can move in soon, but they must make the deposit immediately (usually because someone else is interested). Many people fall for this because of the need for cheap accommodation and the urgency to move at the end of the month.
Remember, you also have a right to double-check the landlord's details especially if you are not leasing through a reputed agency.
You may see an advert for a recruitment company advertising certain jobs – usually within one particular sector of the industry, like 'administrative or airline industry jobs'. They then put you through an interview process but in order to get to the next step you have to pay a fee. This can range from R200 to R500.
Once you have paid the fee you may leave with a booklet and that’s the end of the road, or they may sell you an expensive seminar to increase your chances of getting the job.
None of these activities results in a job, because they don't have employment available.
Most notably, it is illegal for a recruiter to charge a fee.
The con man tells the potential client that a holiday home is available and that he requires a 50% deposit. He may even send photos – but he collects deposits from as many people as possible.
Once all parties have deposited their money, the fraudster withdraws the cash, closes the account and vanishes. When the clients ask for an address for the accommodation he gives them an address that doesn’t exist.
A deposit is usually required when booking holiday accommodation, so what do you do?
• When booking ask the renter for references and contact at least two of these people.
• Offer a greatly reduced deposit. A con artist will take what they can get, so if they accept, see this as a red flag and investigate further. A genuine renter will not agree to a small deposit as it puts them at risk.
• Ask the renter for a copy of their ID book and the phone number of their place of work. A con artist will balk at this. Verify the address of the accommodation independently.
But mostly trust your instincts! Even better, find accommodation via a reputable agent.
Although less prevalent, some brazen scam artists steal cars by pretending to be interested in your vehicle for sale. They arrange to meet, ask you to bring the ownership documents and take it for a test drive, never to return. They will often leave their vehicle behind, because it’s stolen.
The best place to meet someone who wants to buy your car is at a police station with a few friends in tow. If they want a test drive ask them for their driver's license or ID book for safe-keeping.
For more financial advice, workshops and articles, go to Iona Minton's financial blog here.
Have you ever fallen victim to a scam? Did reporting it do any good or was it just a waste of time? Share your story below.