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It's not classified: Ads go bad

2013-09-24 07:06

CROSSED LINES: If you should use Baden Powell Drive in Cape Town and see this roadside cross then let it be a reminder that life can be fragile. We pass this way but once… Image: DAVE FALL


Take care when responding to online auto classifieds, you could lose something worth far more than your cash and credit cards.

Social networking is something of a mixed blessing. In the context of a classified portal, say advertising for sale your car or motorcycle, it can reveal an ugly side of what should be a straightforward and enjoyable transaction between buyer and seller.

Just last week, while scanning www.visordown.com, a dedicated bike website that I list among my favourites, I came across an alarming story about two men who were held up at gunpoint after responding to a bike for sale advert on the well-known Gumtree website.


What was even more disturbing was that the incident reported below didn’t happen in the ‘wild west’, Nigeria or even South Africa – but Liverpool in the UK.

The armed robbers, not content with stealing the equivalent of R27 000 from the bargain hunters, took their wallets and mobile phones and left in the vehicle in which the punters had arrived.

On reporting the matter to Liverpool police the hard-done-by and obviously unlucky buyers were simply told by the cops something similar had happened a few days before but in that case the prospective buyers were attacked with baseball bats.

“People need to be more careful,” said the police. But then how careful must you be? You spot something for sale that seems interesting – perhaps a bargain - so you phone the number...

The scam is being investigated by the British police but I couldn’t help but remember an incident about 18 months ago – and much closer to home here in Cape Town – in which a youngster offered his German car for sale (also on Gumtree) only to lose his life after his perpetrators suggested a trial run “to see how well the vehicle goes” and dumped his bullet-riddled body on Baden Powell Drive on the Cape Flats.


I often scan the classifieds on websites looking for bargain books, parts for my motorcycle; even to research used vehicle prices for friends who want to sell a car but have no idea of its market value.

Here the likes of OLX, AutoTrader and Gumtree can prove invaluable but we all need to be aware there may well be a criminal element waiting to pounce.

A few months ago I decided to renovate the bathroom in “the smallest flat in the world” where the wife and I stay. Workmen came, workmen went and somewhere along the line one of them “lifted” a piece of Apple hardware from my lounge.

Scarcely two hours later I came across what could well have been the errant MP3 player at a “bargain basement price” on a commercial website.


I phoned many times to find out more but can only deduce the “seller” recognised my number and refused to answer my call. No doubt someone bought themselves a “bargain” iPod Classic for silly money. Was the eventual buyer not suspicious of the extremely low price – he/she jolly well ought to have been!

To sum up, if something as large as a used car or motorcycle or as small as a wrist watch seems a bargain that’s too good to be true be sure, stand back and think about it.  If there weren’t buyers for “hot” goods then sellers would eventually go out of business.

Please be ultra streetwise about any transaction you undertake when you buy privately. Be sure to ask for a spare key and, of course the logbook, in the case of a vehicle, and make sure the vehicle is registered to the seller – if not walk away – your life might depend on it.

Have YOU been scammed or attacked during an online-ad transaction? Tell us about it in the Readers' Comments section below or Email your story to us and get published.

Read more on:    cape town  |  robbery

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