Exercise Caution When Making Payments on Social Media

03/09/2021 14:45

Consumers are urged to be extremely cautious whilst making payments to individuals trading on social media platforms such as Instagram. This advisory comes in light of numerous complaints lodged at the Council whereby consumers were left out-of-pocket after making payments to certain individuals purporting to sell items on Instagram but failing to supply goods. 

One such account which was operating via Instagram under the name “rose_flakes19” accepted hundreds of dollars from consumers under the pretence that they are selling products like confectionary goods, clothes, jewellery and seeds. After receiving payments, this particular account blocked consumers without supplying the products. Upon receiving complaint against this individual/account, the Council tried to seek redress for consumers however, the person, whose identity is still unknown, deactivated the account and started operating as “skin_care_bliss” and continued to lure consumers via this new Instagram account. The mobile contacts provided on this particular account is either unavailable or belongs to a third party.

While understanding that online platforms such as social media make transactions relatively faster and convenient compared to the traditional market, the Council is concerned that some are trying to swindle consumers from this shift to online trading by pretending to operate businesses with no intention of supplying products.

Consumer Council of Fiji Chief Executive Officer Ms Seema Shandil says that the sole purpose of individuals creating such accounts is to fraud consumers out of their hard-earned cash and consumers need to be vigilant now more than ever. 

“Investigating fraudulent complaints and tracking down individuals operating on social media platforms is extremely challenging because most of them operate using pseudonyms and consumers are not aware who they are dealing with or where they are located. What we have seen is that some unscrupulous traders use this to their leverage and take advantage of the trusting nature of Fijian consumers,” said Ms Shandil.

Consumers can verify the authenticity of social media operators by checking whether or not the trader has a physical address, valid contact details and full name of the person(s) that operate the business. Consumers must also demand for business registration certificate. This ensures that individuals/accounts trading online can be held responsible in case of any distress or misconduct.

“We are reminding individuals that it is illegal to obtain financial advantage from consumers under the pretence of supplying goods and services. The Council is working closely with the Criminal Investigation Division of the Fiji Police Force to investigate any such complaints,” Ms Shandil added.

Consumers who have made payments to individuals/accounts on social media but are yet to receive the items ordered are encouraged to contact the Council on toll-free number 155 or lodge a complaint using the Consumer Council of Fiji mobile app.