The age of e-commerce and online stores is upon us, and with that comes the need for shoppers to be vigilant when choosing platforms and merchants from whom they make their purchases. Why is that? Because as the online marketplace experiences a boom, the risks that come attached, namely fraud, have been given a boost.
Discount scams are on the rise, and while a lot of people are aware enough to avoid losing money to the fraudsters, some get seduced with the fantastic ‘savings’ they expect to be making on that item and eventually end up falling victim to the scam.
What are discount scams? How are they operated? And what should you do in order to not fall for them? Here is what we know, and we think you should know too.

The rise of discount scams

These scams are simply operated under the guise of discounts. Here, you either end up paying for a low-quality item, or you end up with nothing at all. The fraudsters put up items; refrigerators, television sets, premium hair bundles, etc., for sale even though they never have them in stock.

How are discount scams operated?

Usually, buying such items (refrigerators, television sets, premium hair bundles) at their right prices would set you back by a significant amount of money. Which is why a lot of unsuspecting prospective buyers would want to take advantage of a discounted selling price; only that in this case, the seller is the one who may end up taking advantage of them buyers.
Discount scams are usually run on the social media sites Facebook and Instagram because the two platforms do not undertake a credibility check before you set up accounts for your business. So whether legitimate or otherwise, you can run a business on these two social media platforms without anyone knowing who you are. Also, since they are operated via social media, the only mode of payment accepted is Mobile Money.
What happens is that the fraudsters set up a business page and post items for sale; some of which will be genuine. Those few items are to draw in their potential future victims. Once the page is vibrant, the real scam takes off.
Now here’s a question… if you were a scammer, at what point within the year would you run game around people?
Me? When it’s a discount season. Why? We are close to Black Friday sales, right? Now if I were to run a discount scam, it has to be around this period because people are generally conditioned to expect price-drops around this time. Shoppers would be looking for the lowest prices on the best items, and that is when I’d strike with my discount scam.
At this point, their well-designed fliers and posters would be ready to circulate on social media platforms. That, however, is not the main scam because it is only to draw your attention.
The scam begins when you make contact. And once you express your desire to purchase an item, they demand that you either make a full or part deposit via Mobile Money (MoMo) in order to ‘lock down’ the item as sold. They would say same to many other buyers just to get multiple deposits on that one item.
The scam succeeds once you MoMo the funds to them. Your money is gone and you won’t have that item you paid for. As for the business page, they would ignore all complaints and eventually close down the account as they move on to a new business name.
That is basically what discount scams are; patience, lies, and a disappearing act. Now, let’s help you avoid getting scammed.

How to avoid falling for discount scams

The first thing you should bear in mind is to not make payment before the item is in your possession. This goes especially for vendors you haven’t done business with in the past. If there is no possibility of you being able to retrieve your money from the vendor then demand a ‘pay on delivery‘ deal.
If they give you the ‘payment validates order‘ line then, say ‘thank you’ and keep looking for another seller. Always be guided by the fact that some cheap things end up costing more in the end.
Secondly, always buy from credible and established vendors or merchants who would not want to deal with bad press at any point. While this may seem unfair to relatively new merchants, it’s for the best. New businesses can build credibility by being credible; such that past clients can vouch for them. And speaking of vouching… the fraudsters also get their associates to vouch for them too so, you need to be very alert.
Finally, as a note of caution, fraudsters are in the habit of cloning pages of legitimate businesses and posing as their representatives. Always look out for the verified or genuine business pages of companies you intend to have dealings with; so you don’t become a victim to fraud.

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This article on discount scams using Mobile Money is part of a series is developing to educate the public about Mobile Money fraudsters, their activities, and how to stay vigilant and not be a victim.
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