How to avoid scams when buying gym equipment online

July 27, 2020

How to avoid scams when buying gym equipment online

In the midst of a global pandemic, we are facing another more covert threat: internet scams. Whether you are looking to buy a treadmill or purchase bumper plates, you have to be cautious when buying gym equipment online.

The Virtual Virus

In March 2020, the implementation of national lockdown in South Africa brought many sectors of the country’s economy to a grinding halt. One of the hardest hit has been the fitness industry. Whether commercial gyms, CrossFit boxes or functional fitness studios, exercise facilities were closed with immediate effect. 

As the economic fall-out from COVID-19 intensifies, and gyms remain closed, customers become more desperate to stock up on affordable home fitness equipment. The exponential rise in demand has been met with increased opportunities for fraudsters to exploit an uninformed public.

Now, more than ever, it is important to revise your online-buying safety measures and keep your wits about you.

What does fraud look like online?

For those looking to purchase new or used gym equipment in difficult economic times, price point is everything. However, you have to ask yourself the question: is this deal too good to be true? Unsuspecting victims of fraudsters can easily be persuaded to believe that they are getting a great deal on items that don’t exist in reality.

Consider the following scenario: Browsing the internet you come across attractive offers for cheap exercise equipment, either on a website or online marketplace. The products are displayed in a legitimate manner and you proceed with your purchase. Your interactions with the provider seem above board, however, after payment has been made, the items are never delivered. Communication breaks down and you are unable to locate the provider for further information. On further investigation, all business information seems to be fictitious. Unable to locate the provider, there is little you can do to get your money back.

This kind of business is not only criminal, but a thorn in the side of legitimate online vendors such as Gym Concepts. It breaks down trust, impacting the industry as whole.

On the website hellopeter.com, there is a long thread of user reviews about what seems to be a fictitious gym equipment company called MT Gym Equipment. This company, which is no longer in operation, has allegedly conned countless people and companies out of money for new gym equipment as well as courier and delivery fees. The common thread amongst the cases is clear: a seemingly well put together catalogue, professional correspondence, logistical details and invoices were provided, but on closer inspection (and to the detriment of disgruntled customers), the company used a fake address and never corresponded with clients after receiving payment.

Hellopeter user Johan T was one of many to report this scam, and wrote the following:

“Ordered a treadmill several weeks ago, paid full amount in advance plus delivery fee. Got a demand from their selected courier for significant additional charges (supposedly refundable). I refused to pay more with the result that the item has not been delivered and I am out of pocket. Curious lack of response from either MT Gym or the courier makes me wonder about their legitimacy…”.

Some precautionary measures for online security

Online marketplaces have intensified their security controls, as fraudsters exploit the growing e-commerce opportunity presented by the coronavirus. According to  , one in four South Africans have been targeted through various COVID-19 online scams, and consumers are urged to be on high alert. Here are some tips on avoiding scams, noticing red-flags and how to arm yourself with a knowledge of precautionary measures.

James Williams of Wonga has noticed the large influx of fraudulent content online. He provides the following advice:

  • Don’t click on any links in unsolicited communications, to
  • Never provide any personal information (bank account details, login credentials, identity documentation or contact details) to people or websites that have not been verified. 

According to marketing manager at Gumtree, Estelle Nagel, there are two key tactics used by criminals on marketplaces: 

  • For buyers – scammers pose as genuine sellers and post fake advertisements;
  • For sellers – scammers pose as genuine buyers and make fake financial transfers before collecting goods.

Nagel notes that the scams encountered on social media and classifieds are typically not very technologically sophisticated, despite e-commerce platforms making use of advanced tech to prevent suspicious adverts from going live on the site. The classifieds marketplace has had to introduce new policies and run safety and awareness initiatives in the wake of COVID-19-related scams. 

Keep safe, keep strong

According to professional services company, AccentureSouth Africa has the third-highest number of cybercrime victims in the world, amounting to losses of in-and-around R2.2bn each year.

As a legitimate fitness-solutions provider, Gym Concepts strives to always deliver outstanding service and customer support.

We urge you to share your experiences related to online fraud and to keep safe, fit and aware during this disruptive time.