Stranger Danger: How to stay safe when dealing on OLX
OLX is a fairly new concept to us, where people in the West have had sites like Craigslist and eBay for many years now we must also consider that OLX is a double edged sword. It has the potential to be as dangerous as it is helpful, Western countries have the proper authorities and measures to help protect consumers against incidents of fraud, deceptive buyers / sellers or hood winkers.
It is sad to admit that Pakistan has yet to properly set this up and that once caught in the never ending loop of the consumer courts, it will be months or even years before you ever reach a place if at all of content and you will have to walk away with a lesson learned.
OLX is a fairly simple concept, there are people like you and I who are trying to engage a commercial deal that could benefit both parties. An example can be of what the TV ads proudly show us when we see a woman happily sell her furniture and get cash instantly, while the ad is a bit accurate it is just as misleading. It is a rarity that people are this confident on their first dealing considering the deplorable state of law and order that Pakistan is currently in and how incidents of muggings, robberies and violence are long term issues that aren’t going anywhere soon.
These are some simple tips for all of you to follow. Men and Women, who are looking to protect their own interests and ensure their personal safety when dealing online with a stranger. I have been dealing on forums for the better part of 5-6 years before finally finding better deals so I can tell you these tales from gathered personal experiences in my many years of dealings. I hope these are of help to you the way they were to me.
1. Never use your primary number to deal with someone. (ESPECIALLY for females)
The biggest mistake people make is using their primary numbers to do deals on OLX. This is dangerous for a number of reasons; the person on the other end of the phone could choose to abuse this number and spread it among their friends with malicious intents to irritate or harass the person on the other end “for kicks”.
Many females face this problem and receive a never ending barrage of obnoxious calls or messages from a range of numbers and despite every telco now offering block services with respect to SMS / Calls, there are indeed people out there who have nothing but time when it comes to being a nuisance.
Furthermore, You will become an unintentional subscriber to spam messages from the people who you have dealt with. You will soon receive every SMS that a person sends when they wish to sell an item. It is a common occurrence that I frequently get an SMS from someone I had a one time deal with, to buy a used game from, chose to spam my inbox with everything he is selling such as: “For Sale: Sofa set”, I even told him by phone and SMS several times to remove me from the listing but after a month of effort I just took advantage of my telco’s call / SMS block service. 15 Rs. / Month is a justified price to pay for having to avoid these kinds of messages.
These messages would come in at odd hours of the night or while I was expecting other important messages. This becomes an inconvenience especially to a student who is also working, another unwanted consequence of this is how you could potentially become a “subscriber” to the users “Good Morning” & “Good Night” messages on SMS, WhatsApp or Viber (Yes, ladies and gents. I jest you not. These. Still. Exist.)
2. Always meet in a crowded public place and have a dominant figure with you. (This applies to BOTH genders)
Not trying to demean or say that you aren’t good enough to handle yourself on your own, but it is ALWAYS good idea to have an elder with you. Preferably a strong, male figure who would appear intimidating and God forbid be able to help you should events go awry. This is a common mistake that people make and sadly I have heard and even seen an instance of how being a lone wolf when dealing could end badly for you.
The person you are dealing with could have ill intentions and seek to harm you or part you from your other assets such as the car or motorcycle you came in or even decide to do even worse such as abduct you or take whatever items you have on you at the time.
There are 2 reasons why I recommend a strong male figure; firstly, should the worse happen, you can count your losses and have them protect you. Where the person would have otherwise overpowered you would have made off with your car instead decides to make a break for it after trying to get physical with you and the male intervenes.
Secondly, God forbid you are severely hurt or bruised in the course of a deal gone wrong and are unable to use to or aren’t in possession of your cell phone, no one on the side lines will help you, they will stand by and idly watch while waiting for someone or the other to call the police or ambulance.
A responsible adult male figure would at least be able to take control of the situation and do some crowd control while also calling the proper authorities.
You might be thinking that there are little chances of these happening, if at all. Are you really willing to put it to the test and see if you are that 1 in a 100? even the 1 in a 1000? Swallow your pride and always have a proper plan when meeting strangers online.
3. How to properly deal with items that can easily be carried yet high in value (Cell phones, laptops, a gaming console)
First of all, never show the other person that you have the item on you while standing at some place like the road, If the person you are dealing with is still in their car or on their motorcycle, request them to get off their vehicle and see the item. Never give them the item while they are still in said vehicle and preferably have them stand a few feet away from their vehicle. To make sure they don’t do try to pull a “Snatch and grab” on you.
If they request on testing it you can sit down with them at a crowded indoor place and let them have supervised usage until you factory restore your smart phone or erase sensitive data from your laptop, though doing this prior to the meeting is always the best way to ensure your time and of the buyer.
Always sit in a crowded place like a Cafe, restaurant or any other place where the both of you can comfortably sit and don’t have to worry about any unexpected moves.
If it’s a gaming console, it is best that you meet at the buyers house if they request to test the console before buying. In most cases, I have always gone to the sellers house to do the purchase and when I also sold my PlayStation 2. In both cases, I recommend you take someone with you who can double check the console for you if you are buying the console.
If you feel confident about the security of your neighborhood and of your house, you can invite the buyer to your house but make sure you just keep things business and keep the hospitality to a required level until they are satisfied with the console.
4. How to properly deal with items that can’t be carried and require buyer to come to you. (Furniture, Refrigerator, Complete Computer System)
This is where you have to be extra cautious, this is quite the predicament and where sadly you can’t have a middle ground to meet the buyer. You will have to invite the person to the house and have to work out prior to the meeting over who would handle logistics of the said items.
The last thing you need to worry about is the both of you fighting over who pays the charges for the truck to carry the items in just as money is about to change hands.
When inviting the person to your house just keep things casual and stick to the courtesy that you feel is needed, don’t make the buyer too comfortable or uncomfortable and don’t entertain any obscure suggestions of the buyer such as “I will come and try it again in a day or two” or “I will bring my wife with me and see what she thinks”.
Request the buyer to take pictures of the item if needed but multiple visits unless deemed necessary should be avoided. The only suitable allowance for the person to revisit you on multiple occasions would be in the case of a high value asset such as if you are selling a car or property and that too if they are actually an interested party.
Due to the weight of the items, this where you don’t have to worry about any theft taking place. Generally the biggest risk here is how a person can come to your house under the guise of an interested buyer and can potentially be “surveying” the premises to measure security, number of people in the household or other points of interest that could help him in gathering information. Never tell the person the truth about your security details.
Keep details like third party security protection, number of people in the house, guard dogs (if any) and any other details relating to the personal details of your property to yourself.
For Example, if you are selling a refrigerator and the buyer is curious about the security measures you have in place around your gate and asks questions like “Which security company are you insured under?” are questions that you shouldn’t answer and either tell the buyer that you don’t know or be blunt and politely inquire of how a refrigerator and the protection of your estate are related.
In the follow up to this story, we will go in detail on how to deal with outstation buyers. For now, we hope that these tips help you in your inner city dealings.