Yesterday, a certain dude shared a sad story of how he was scammed of trying to buy a Blackberry Q5 on OLX. He parted with N24,000 but never got the device.

My main issue with the OLX model is that they lay all the burden of verification on the user. For one, business is conducted outside of OLX (by phone or email) so there’s no way of tracking user activity. Another issue is with how OLX handles payments – it’s riky business. On eBay for example, PayPal is the arbitrator. First the buyer pays, PayPal confirms to the seller that payment has been received, PayPal keeps the money “on hold”, seller ships item, buyer confirms receipt and satisfaction and then seller’s account is credited.

I see no reason why OLX can’t do something similar. Some of the money spent on Ad campaigns could be channeled to making OLX more accountable to their users. Nevertheless, if you must do business on OLX, be aware that it’s at your own risk. Here’s 5 red flags you’re possibly dealing with a scammer on OLX:

The seller uses stock or unrelated photos

You want to filter out every listing that doesn’t spot real photos of what you’re trying to purchase. Avoid stock photos and unrelated photos (like the image above). It’s not a surefire way to avoid online scammers but it sure does reduce the chances.

The buyer/seller claims to be faraway

This is a template a lot of online scammers use. They tell you they live somewhere very far and often inaccessible. Sometimes outside your country. The idea is to:

  • If you’re the seller, instill a sense of urgency in you. That way it’s easier to accept their terms
  • If you’re the buyer, dampen any interest you might have in inspecting the item physically

If you’re not ready to incur travelling or shipping expenses, just avoid sellers/buyers who claim to be far from you.

They seller asks for a deposit

Just don’t. Don’t part with a single kobo until you’ve seen the product.

The buyer wants you to ship before payment

Just like above, don’t ever part with your merchandise before receiving payment.

They offer (or are ready to buy at ) ridiculous prices

Greed is the scammmer’s best accomplice. The guy in the story wanted to buy a Blackberry Q5 for 24k. A new Blakcberry Q5 costs 43k in the market. Even if you factor in depreciation over a year since it was released, there’s no way it could ever go for 24k. It’s not just the buyer who can fall victim. If as a seller, you know for sure that your merchandise is over-the-top overvalued, be wary of the buyer who lives “faraway”, wants your merchandise “now now” and won’t even bother to bargain. Your greed might just get the better of you.

Goodluck, not Johnathan.

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