A report carried in the Chronicle, a Zimbabwean daily newspaper, says that many Zimbabweans have fallen victim to internet fraudsters. Without revealing any figures, a Criminal Investigation Department spokesperson Detective Inspector Augustine Zimbili indicated that cases of Zimbabweans falling prey to fraudsters were on the increase.
According to the article, Zimbabweans buying mining equipment and those buying cars online have been the worst hit. The victims are apparently paying money to companies that don’t exist at all.
We knew buying Japanese and UK pre-owned cars is a common online activity by Zimbabweans so not surprised there. It’s clearly big business if you see the number of Japanese car sales adverts targeting Zimbabweans online. What we didn’t quite expect is that people are buying mining equipment online as well.
The detective’s advice is to “physically tour some of these companies before dealing with them or asking someone trustworthy to do it for you if in other countries”. We agree. Anyone anywhere can setup an internet storefront and pretend to be selling stuff. That is the nature of the internet. Some scammers will even do some social engineering, friending you on Facebook, following you on Twitter and ‘getting to know you better’ before they send you offers to your mailbox in the hope that you bite.
There is clearly more internet activity now than say, a year ago and with the continued rise in internet penetration, such fraud is surely going to increase. Internet users just need to be more careful and not assume that just because something is on the internet it must be official.
What would have been more interesting though would be to find a rough estimate of just how many people have been defrauded or, better still, how much value has been lost to these fraudsters over, say, the past year. Also interesting would be information on how many have fallen for the 419 advance-fee scams.