d oubt when adverts seem too good to be true

ADVERTISEMENTS greatly affect consumer behaviour. The aim of advertising is to sell, but some advertisers mislead people.

ADVERTISEMENTS greatly affect consumer behaviour. The aim of advertising is to sell, but some advertisers mislead people.

It is important for consumers to understand that an advert is not a contract, but merely an invitation to do business.

Consumers have a duty to examine the merchandise and to ensure that they get exactly what is being advertised. Some consumers do not even bother to view the goods. This is dangerous and consumers can become victims of scams.

An example of this is the two Sowetan readers who deposited between R12000 and R200000 into the accounts of prospective car sellers whom they had never met.

They both wanted to take over the debt of the original owners, whose banks had threatened to repossess their cars.

The readers did not see the vehicles and relied on the honesty of the sellers to whom they had spoken over cellphones. But after one seller received his money, he changed his SIM card.

Sithembiso Koti saw an advert by Tikka Tapsy, an outsourcing agency, in Sowetan. The company operates from 4 Silver Oaks Crossing, Ekungwini, near Bronkhorstpruit in Mpumalanga.

The sellers needed people to take over payment because they could not meet their monthly repayments.

Koti called one seller. He desperately needed a vehicle, but did not qualify for finance from any financial institution because he had a low credit rating.

He spoke to a man who introduced himself as Wessie, a manager at Tikka Tapsy agency.

Koti said Wessie told him that he had a repossessed BMW 320 and that he could have the car after paying a R12000 deposit.

No contract was signed, but Koti was given a verbal assurance that the car would be delivered when he had paid the money into an FNB account .

"I deposited the money after he told me the car was in his possession and was ready to be delivered," Koti said. But the car was not delivered.

All he got were excuses so he cancelled the verbal contract, he said.

Koti was told to complete a cancellation form and wait for 21 days. He did that, but when the time expired, he was not given any refund, he said

"Wessie told me his legal department was processing my claim, but he would not let me talk to anyone there or give me their phone number," Koti said.

Marcia Maraka is a victim of a similar scam. In April she responded to an advertisement in Sowetan, which was placed by Roy Lochner of 1875 Berg Ann Amandag, Wonder Park, Pretoria.

Lochner also needed someone to take over a vehicle debt.

Maraka called Lochner on his cellphone.

She said he told her that in compliance with the National Credit Act, repossessed vehicles should be sold at the best price to unburden defaulters.

"In essence, I was taking over from the last instalment the defaulting buyer had paid," said Maraka.

She said it made sense and she thought it would also save the defaulting buyer from being blacklisted.

Maraka said she was told that she would sign a contract with the person whose car was being repossessed.

She was then given a list of repossessed cars. But the car she wanted was not available and it had to be collected at a bank depot in Durban, Maraka said.

"He stopped me from going to his office. He said their truck was driving to Durban to collect cars and the car I wanted would be collected at the same time. This prompted me to pop out R20000," said Maraka.

She said she deposited the money and they agreed to meet the following day to finalise the paperwork.

Maraka said she was also asked to send her physical address to which the car would be delivered.

"To cut a long story short, I deposited the R20000, but until today I have not received the car or my money.

"I decided to go to the small claims court, but that did not help either," Maraka said.

She said she wanted to warn other readers not to fall victim to similar scams.

"I know I made a stupid mistake and I want to expose these people and I want to warn your readers about such scams," she said.

Tate Magatu of Tikka Tapsy told Sowetan that he had not received Koti's cancellation letter, but that he would now process his claim within seven days.

He said Koti was an impatient consumer who kept harassing them to deliver the car. He said Koti even called him on weekends.

Magatu denied ever telling Koti that the car was ready to be delivered.

In the meantime, Sowetan has withdrawn Tikka Tapsy adverts.

We tried to, but could not trace Lochner because he did not answer his cellphone.

Maraka has laid a fraud charge against Lochner.