NAIROBI, Kenya, Aug 4 – “It was a house in Mimosa, Ngumo. It had a nice picture but which was fake. I called a guy and he told me he was the owner. I booked to see the house but I got there only to find a lady who said there was a Sh3,000 fee to view the house. I paid the lady who later went through a back door and disappeared,” Sam Ochieng, a Nairobi resident recalls.,
Ochieng was a victim of fraudsters who had posted a fictitious house on the online market OLX. He however says he will not quit using online platform, arguing that benefits outweigh the negatives.
“By the way if you check carefully you will realise that the same picture of the house had been put on different online market sites. Beware!” Ochieng says.
One of the major mistakes online shoppers make, according to OLX Country Manager Peter Ndiang’ui, is paying for a product before they either see the seller or the product itself.
“What we see is not very unusual. These things are not just on online markets but even the physical market. We see buyers sending money before they see the item and I think it’s something that should never happen even in the physical market,” Ndiang’ui warns.
He says with the increased number of customers using OLX and other online market platforms to buy and sell products, fraudsters are also scheming ways of stealing from consumers.
OLX, for example, plans to partner with the police and other stakeholders to come up with a strategy of dealing with online market fraud cases to cushion their users.
“When you look at the media now, we have commercials that are actually addressing the area of fraud. But moving forward now, we have a partnership that we will be unveiling soon with the police on how we will be tackling people who have been defrauded or have had a bad experience,” he said during opening of the new OLX offices in Westlands, Nairobi .
Even as these and other measures are being taken by the government to reduce online fraud, ICT Authority Marketing Director Eunice Kariuki believes that the main responsibility stops with consumer.
“A lot of the fraud cases that we have heard about are associated with not having sufficient awareness of how to take care of oneself. For example when you have to buy or sell something online, and it is time to exchange the actual product, be in an environment where you feel secure,” Kariuki said in an interview with Capital FM Business. “It is a personal responsibility you must take.”
Kariuki encourages people to adopt cashless payments, adding that would be much easier for the police to track the records of the conmen, a method being used in developing countries.
“Trading online for Kenyans is a good place to be, because you don’t have to pay any market fees, you don’t have to pay anything. You just go online, buy what you need to buy or sell what you need to sell. The most important thing is to be aware,” she says.