WENDY KNOWLER | Avoiding car auction and debt review scammers and advice on online refunds
Consumer watch-outs of the week
In this weekly segment of bite-sized chunks of useful information, consumer journalist Wendy Knowler summarises news you can use:
Sfiso had the debt review scam caller’s number
Sfiso emailed me right after his disturbing exchange with a company which had the words “Debt Solutions” in its name.
The debt counselling scam is rampant in South Africa. It involves bogus debt counsellors or call centres linked to registered debt counsellors luring consumers into debt review by calling them and telling them a pack of lies.
They promise to automatically reduce interest rates and debt write-offs, way beyond what is permitted in law.
The National Credit Act requires that you be over-indebted to be placed under debt review but many people who aren’t at all over-indebted, and were never asked if they were, find themselves conned into debt review in this way. And once under debt review, they can’t get any further credit until they’ve have paid up their debts.
Back to Sfiso’s call. This is how he tells it: “The agent introduced himself and started selling his company’s service, and I then started asking him questions such as: 'If your company wants to reduce my debts by a certain percentage will my payment term be extended?’
“He gave me a story about interest rates which made no sense.
“I then asked if their services were free and he started beating about the bush.
“When I asked for a yes or no answer, he got abusive, telling me to stop asking stupid questions, and when I wouldn’t back down, he called me a ‘stupid man’ and a disgrace.”
That was the end of the call. And that friends, is how to unravel a con artist.
But you may want to save yourself the drama and end the call the moment a stranger starts claiming to be able to reduce your monthly instalments.
Proceed with caution at a car auction
It’s risky enough buying a car on an auction if you aren’t an industry insider, because it’s essentially a voetstoets purchase — no warranty whatsoever. But what you really don’t want to fall for is a fake auction.
Be aware of fraudulent pages on Facebook Marketplace, social media platforms or websites that pretend to auction cars for WesBankWesbank
“Be aware of fraudulent pages on Facebook Marketplace, social media platforms or websites that pretend to auction cars for WesBank,” the bank has warned. “These are not platforms that WesBank uses to advertise its cars available for auction.”
By law, cars intended for auction can’t be sold in any other way.
“Make sure you are dealing with a reputable, registered auction house and only deal with official WesBank representatives, with identification, on the auction floor,” the bank cautions.
“There are some bad actors out there who approach people, offering to secure them a vehicle if they pay the amount directly into their bank account, but the vehicle in question is never delivered,” WesBank warns.
“No matter how keen you are to get a good price, do not be tempted by the false promise of someone who says they can secure the vehicle at a much lower price.”
Never be shy to ask someone presenting themselves as a bank official for their identification — and then examine it properly. Dodging fraudsters takes dedication!
Avoid writing on the box!
The best thing about shopping online, other than the convenience, of course, is the fact that you have a legal “out” if you don’t fancy the product when it arrives.
Thanks to the Electronic Communications and Transactions Act, you have a seven-day cooling-off period from the date of delivery in which to send it back, for no particular reason, albeit at your expense.
As the act puts it, you’re “entitled to cancel without reason and without penalty”.
“The only charge that may be levied on the consumer is the direct cost of returning the goods.”
The supplier then has 30 days to refund you.
The act doesn’t say anything about the goods having to be in a resaleable condition, but as a courtesy you should do your best to ensure that.
Boitumelo bought a couple of backpacks online, but when they arrived, she realised the fabric wasn’t sturdy enough for her needs.
She logged a return and was sent an email with return instructions, including an instruction to ask the courier “not to stick the waybill or tapes on to the original packaging”.
She missed that bit of the email, and wrote the return address and reference number directly on the box. Her return was rejected as a result, and now she has a fight on her hands.
Technically, she’s due a refund, and I’ll be taking on her case in the hope that she gets it, but it’s a good idea to follow the company's packaging instructions to increase your chances of a successful return.
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