Surge in online shopping scams in South Africa

Personal finance journalist Maya Fisher-French reports that there has been a surge in fake online shopping sites and that con artists are spoofing the domains of online banking and delivery companies to send scam emails.

When shopping for good deals online, checking certain aspects of the webpage is essential to ensure you aren’t getting scammed.

Tsonga, an online store selling South African-made leather shoes and bags, recently warned that fake social media advertisements were directing customers to fraudulent websites not affiliated with the brand.

“It is the silly season, please be vigilant and aware that there are fraudsters making offers of Tsonga specials and redirecting you to websites that are not associated with our brand!” Tsonga said in an Instagram post.

“These are not legitimate and will con you out of your hard-earned money.”

It explained that these sites are built to look as legitimate as possible to deceive customers and claim to offer discounts of up to 80%.

“Unfortunately, these sites appear legitimate until you look at the actual URL of the site you are visiting,” it added.

Even those experienced in spotting these kinds of scams can fall victim to them.

Fisher-French detailed in her article how she fell victim to such a scam.

While searching for shoes online, she spotted a legitimate enough-looking advertisement for a pair from the Sketchers brand, advertised at 40% off.

After placing an order and receiving an additional 43% discount, Fisher-French became suspicious of the site when no contact details were provided.

A better look at the URL revealed that she had been directed to skechers-south-africa.co.za, and she found several similar URL variations in a Google search.

A website called malwaretips.com warns about these Skechers in South Africa scams and provides tips on protecting yourself from falling victim to them.

“This scam website claims to sell various Skechers sneakers at very low prices, but will send you either counterfeit or inferior goods, or nothing at all,” it says.

Malwaretips.com believes the site is part of a network of fake sites based in China through which scammers sell customers’ personal and financial data, including names, home addresses, phone numbers and credit card details.

South Africa getting system to report scams and fraud online

In May 2023, the South Africa Fraud Prevention Service (SAFPS) announced that it is working on a system through which South Africans can report scams, secure their personal information, and scan websites for vulnerabilities.

It announced the initiative after revealing a 600% increase in incidents reported by its members in 2022 compared to 2018.

Dubbed “Yima”, the system will help South Africans learn to identify scams like sketchers-south-africa.co.za and protect themselves online.

“In response to the growing need for a proactive approach to fraud prevention, the SAFPS is developing a product called Yima,” said SAFPS product development head Nazia Karrim.

“Once launched, the product’s website will be a one-stop-shop for South Africans to report scams, secure their identity, and scan any website for vulnerabilities related to scams.”

At Yima’s core will be a reporting system for South Africans to submit any scam incidents or suspicious activity to the SAFPS.

The SAFPS specified that suspicious activity includes fake or suspect-looking online shopping websites, portals, and incidents where residents receive phoney banking information.

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Surge in online shopping scams in South Africa