South Africans scammed by fake online stores

A number of South Africans have fallen victim to online retailer scams over the holiday season, with many paying for products that never arrived.

MyBroadband has received a number of complaints regarding fake online stores that purport to sell products at attractive discounts but leave consumers in the dark after purchases are made.

One such store is called Markdown Marvin, which has been the target of complaints about not delivering goods to customers once purchased.

The company’s website has since been taken offline, but it previously offered a range of products, from PlayStation consoles to high-end TVs.

A MyBroadband reader reached out to us regarding this retail scam after ordering a new PlayStation 4 console for R5,999 from Markdown Marvin on 16 November.

The reader received an email confirming their order, along with FNB account details and a request that payment was made to the retailer before the order could be processed.

Upon making the payment, however, the retailer fell silent and did not respond to requests for updates on the order.

Widespread complaints and criminal case

Visiting the HelloPeter page for Markdown Marvin shows that this reader was not the only one to fall victim to this scam.

“I ordered a Hisense TV on their Website, was sent an email confirming that they have stock, gave me an order number and requested that I EFT into an FNB bank account,” one customer said.

“I paid the money, and never received any further communication from them after the funds have been paid. Their website can’t be reached now and the contact numbers don’t work.”

“Ordered my PS5 in October and was promised delivery on the 19th of November. It never came and they no longer reply to emails or WhatsApps and the phone line is dead,” said another.

The affected MyBroadband reader contacted FNB regarding the fraud.

The bank confirmed that its fraud department had been notified of the issue and that it would work with the police to investigate the month-old account that had received the payment.

Unfortunately, the payment could not be reversed as the funds had already been removed from the account when the reader realised they had fallen victim to a scam.

FNB responds

FNB told MyBroadband it is aware of the incident and a hold was placed on the fraudulent bank account used by Markdown Marvin, although unfortunately, the funds could not be recovered.

“The Bank will cooperate with the SAPS in their investigation into this matter,” FNB said. “We have a zero-tolerance approach to any incidents of fraud or illegal activity.”

“As part of our standard fraud prevention measures, FNB proactively monitors accounts to identify suspicious activity.”

“When fraud is detected, swift action is taken to block the account and recover funds,” it added.

The bank said that in some instances, fraudsters use stolen or synthetic identities to open bank accounts, which can delay the detection and closing down of fraudulent accounts.

It noted that fraud is a global concern in the financial services industry urged customers to be wary of products being sold online and requests made for direct deposits.

“Independent verification and research into the supplier or other party should always be conducted,” FNB said.

“Customers can also use the Verify Owner tab on FNB Online Banking to ensure that the name of the supplier accords with the account number provided.”

FNB said that due to client confidentiality, it could not provide any further details on the matter.

MyBroadband reached out to Markdown Marvin for comment but did not receive a response by the time of publication.

Increase in online retail scams

This case is part of a larger trend in South Africa where fraudsters open fake online stores to scam local buyers over the festive season.

In September 2020, a MyBroadband reader complained they had experienced the same problem when attempting to purchase an item from a new retailer called Zulu-Tech.

The purchase was made on 7 September 2020, and the customer said they received an email the next day which said the delivery would take place between 14 and 21 September 2020.

They never received their order, however, and the Zulu-Tech website has since been taken offline.

The South African Banking and Risk Information Centre (SABRIC) also issued a warning ahead of the Black Friday and festive shopping seasons late last year, stating that South Africans should only shop at reputable online stores.

“Be wary of unfamiliar e-commerce sites, especially if they do not redirect you to confirm your transaction via your bank’s 3D secure page or via your own bank’s mobile app before you pay,” it said.

Furthermore, when using a reputable site, he also recommended that you do not store your payment details – such as the information on a bank card.

This would prevent criminals from getting your card details, in case your login details were compromised.

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South Africans scammed by fake online stores