Criminals messing up noble IT project in South Africa

Criminals have already caused tremendous economic and social damage in South Africa, and the fact that they will exploit any situation is shown by some fraudsters abusing the Woza Online platform to scam citizens.

Google launched its Woza Online platform in January 2012 – an initiative to bring small and medium businesses (SME) online in South Africa.

Woza Online makes it possible for businesses to create their own websites and develop an online presence for free.

It was not long before criminals saw an opportunity to abuse the Woza Online platform to impersonate legitimate retailers, scam unsuspecting consumers, and harvest credit card details.

“Wozaonline.co.za sub-domains have become a festering ground used for criminality and imposing on the rights of third parties,” said Derek Smythe from Artists Against 419.

“These sites are also used to lure foreigners into believing these sites are real – yet they are not. It affects the image and reputation of South Africa,” he added.

“Not a week goes by where sellers on our trading platform get impersonated by fraudulent users on the Woza Online platform,” said BidorBuy CTO Gerd Naschenweng.

Two of the Woza Online partners, Google and the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), have been asked by concerned parties to act to address the situation. However, progress is slow.

Affected parties are complaining that it can take weeks or months for Google to act against scammers using the Woza Online platform.

Google South Africa previously said that anyone can use the ‘Report abuse’ button at the bottom of every Woza Online website to complain and they will investigate.

“If a site breaks any of our policies, we will take it down. For legal reasons it is very important that we receive a fraud complaint from the owner of the site being defrauded. This is the same in the offline world,” said Google SA spokesperson Julie Taylor.

The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), which is a headline partner in Woza Online, said last year that they are not aware of Woza Online.

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Criminals messing up noble IT project in South Africa