Updated: March 3, 2020 7:53:07 am
By: Lavanya Chandan
Imagine being able to buy your dream smartphone for 20 per cent, 30 per cent or even at a 50 per cent discount. Sounds too good to be true? It probably is, but not always. Purchasing a pre-owned smartphone is a smart way to upgrade – that too at a great price. With the average ownership cycle for a pre-owned smartphone reducing to about 6 months to 1 year, it is no longer an Easter egg hunt to find a pre-owned smartphone that comes equipped with a powerful processor, has dollops of RAM to seamlessly play PUBG without dropping the frame rate, has a powerful multi-camera array system, comes with an array of microphones and has a powerful front camera to make recording TikTok videos a breeze.
Consumers today have multiple avenues ranging from online marketplaces to offline retail stores to purchase a pre-owned smartphone at a brisk all without breaking a bank. Trying to tap into this insatiable demand for smartphones are cyber fraudsters who pretend to be genuine buyers and sellers. The internet is undoubtedly one large unregulated marketplace which has low entry barriers – not only benefiting consumers but also empowering cyber fraudsters to con people.
OLX brings to you the 4 safety commandments you should keep in mind before buying or selling a pre-owned smartphone:
Looks too good to be true commandment
While buying a pre-owned smartphone, examine the image and price posted by the seller carefully. Often cyber fraudsters posing as sellers download stock images over the internet and upload those images in order to misrepresent the actual condition of the phone. If you suspect an image, then try performing a reverse image search on a search engine to ascertain its origin.
Any pre-owned phone is bound to have subtle signs of wear and tear. If the image of the pre-owned phone on an online marketplace appears too pristine, then it is likely to be a stock image. Often fraudsters purporting to be retailers post images of unsealed phones laid on top of each other in order to convey that they are genuine retailers. One must exercise caution before overtly relying on such ploys. While buying a pre-owned at an offline retail store, examine the condition of the phone minutely preferably in daylight in order to avoid any last-minute surprises.
Always be wary of sellers offering incredibly low prices. Do not queue up to buy the phone immediately and exercise caution – if the selling price offered by a seller is substantially lower compared to other sellers of comparable smartphones. In such instances, understand from the seller the reason for the lower selling price and exercise discretion after eliminating the possibility of a malfunctioning device, counterfeit, or fraud.
Most marketplace apps including OLX often, based on data, provide inputs about the credibility of the buyer or seller on the platform. These platforms automatically warn you of a suspicious user and display safety tips right in the app basis their fraud detection algorithms. Such features work well so long as you keep the communication on the platform itself. Needless to say, such platform warnings must be taken seriously into account while making a transaction decision. One must be wary of clicking on links (over SMS, WhatsApp, email or chat) shared by unknown sources – consider the possibility of them being fake, resulting in exposure of your confidential financial details through “keylogging”.
The 15-minute commandment
When you are meeting a prospective seller at a public place in order to buy a pre-owned phone, always spend at least 15 minutes trying to examine the condition of the phone. Ensure that the battery/phone is not puffed, and the camera is in good condition. In the excitement of finding a deal that works for them, buyers often skip carefully examining the ports while buying a pre-owned phone. Ensure that the charging port is working fine, battery health is optimal and preferably carry a power bank to test it out. While plugging the charging cable (Type C, Micro USB, Lightning) ensure that it snugly fits in the port and is not loose.
When examining the headphone jack, ensure that there is no debris in the jack and audio quality is top-notch. Carry a spare set of headphones to ensure that the audio is not patchy and try playing music on a music streaming app at the highest possible volume and sound quality setting in order to examine the clarity of the sound emanating from the speaker and the headphone jack.
The sensitive information commandment
While selling your phone, one must ensure that the invoice shared with the buyer has any sensitive details such as phone number and home address redacted to prevent any misuse.
If you are a buyer, then always insist on sharing the original invoice of the smartphone you are looking to purchase. In case the seller has misplaced a copy of the invoice of a phone purchased online, do insist on a copy of an e-invoice which is easily available through the e-commerce portals.
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While selling your smartphone, if you do need to share a copy of your identity proof (such as Aadhar, PAN, etc.), it may be advisable to redact personal information and indicate the purpose for which the identity proof is being shared right over the document. This limits the ability of miscreants to misuse the identity document.
Too eager to buy commandment
A fraudster may pose as a genuine buyer and try to buy the pre-owned smartphone from you without even meeting you in person or examining the device in person. Such fraudsters may even try to convince you of their identity by providing you fake IDs or by trying to pay you in advance in order to establish trust. Do treat with caution with ‘too eager to buy’ purchasers and do not scan QR codes, click on suspicious links, allow wallet access, share OTP or enter your UPI PIN while receiving payments. It is always advisable to hand over your phone and receive payment simultaneously – which works best if you complete the transaction by meeting in person.
Fraudsters often employ social engineering tricks by sending you a payment request on your mobile wallet or a QR code that has the Virtual Payment Address/name of the account holder cropped out and immediately call in order to distract you. The payment request is often a credit request to swindle money away from your bank accounts and often employs a simple yet crafty social engineering trick to keep you busy on the phone to get you to make a payment.
(The author is OLX Group’s General Counsel, India)
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