Misery amid merriment

SA’s Festive Season Scam: Season Of Giving Turns Season Of Thieving

By  |  January 5, 2021

The yuletide is widely considered a season of giving. But as folks in South Africa recently found out with dismay, it can also be a season of thieving.

Reports of South Africans counting their losses after falling victim to online commerce scams during the festive season are filtering in.

South Africa accounts for one of the highest concentrations of online shoppers in Africa by far. For context, South Africa’s biggest e-tailer, Takealot, (which has operations only in South Africa), made more money than Jumia last year even though Jumia is present in 12 African countries.

Indeed, Jumia posted revenue of USD 119 Mn between January and September last year. Takealot, on the other hand, made USD 238 Mn between April and September. This paints a picture of how online shopping is booming in South Africa more than any other country in sub-Saharan Africa.

Thus, an online retail scam in South Africa, like the one that happened over the holiday season, is bound to sting more than a few.

The State Of FinTech In Africa – 2020

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As reported by MyBroadband, there was a spike in online retail scams in South Africa over the holiday period. Lured by attractive discounts on some dodgy platforms, many locals have suffered losses after paying for products that never arrived.

The reports have it that one such platform known as Markdown Marvin has been fingered in the scam. As of now, the company’s website is offline and there are scores of complaints about Markdown Marvin failing to deliver purchased goods to customers who thought they were getting a good deal.

Before seemingly disappearing into thin air, Markdown Marvin offered a range of electronics and gadgets, from smart TVs to gaming consoles.

MyBroadband reports that they received a complaint from an individual who fell for the scam having ordered a new PlayStation 4 console for ZAR 5.9 K (USD 399.07) from Markdown Marvin on November 16.

Subsequently, this individual received an email confirming their order, along with FNB account details and a request that payment be made to the retailer before the order could be processed.

The individual went on to make the payment, but it’s been radio silence since then. Markdown Marvin failed to respond to repeated requests for updates on the order.

The above instance is no isolated incident as there appears to be a boatload of similar complaints on the HelloPeter page of Markdown Marvin. Many aggrieved individuals have taken to the platform to voice out their dismay.

There are complaints about payments made for orders of high-end TVs and gaming consoles and no goods received ultimately. All the payments seem to be going into the same FNB account mentioned previously.

Having received repeated complaints from aggrieved individuals and queries from concerned parties, the bank itself has confirmed that it is aware of the incident and a hold was placed on the fraudulent bank account used by Markdown Marvin, although unfortunately, the funds could not be recovered.

That’s because the funds had already been removed from the account when the individual(s) realised they had fallen victim to a scam. FNB however maintains that it will “cooperate with the SAPS in their investigation into this matter.“

“We have a zero-tolerance approach to any incidents of fraud or illegal activity,” FNB told MyBroadband.

The Markdown Marvin incident appears to be yet another facet of a larger trend in South Africa where scamsters take advantage of the “buying frenzy” that engulfs festive seasons by setting up phony online stores. It would be recalled that one obscure platform, Zulu-Tech was fingered in a similar scam back in September 2020.

It is because of incidents like this that the South African Banking and Risk Information Centre (SABRIC) issued a warning ahead of the Black Friday and festive shopping seasons late last year, reiterating that South Africans should only shop at reputable online stores.

Featured Image Courtesy: Shopify

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