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South Africans are increasingly on the receiving-end of online vehicle purchase scams that promise unbelievable bargains but are actually a ploy to lure unsuspecting victims.

While the scamsters are active across many different online sectors, they have recently begun to target well-known auctioneering companies and stolen their identities to swindle would-be buyers. In tough economic times, it may be that the temptation to save money at all costs is even able to override people’s better judgement.


The South African Institute of Auctioneers (SAIA) proposes buyers run through the following safety tips to ensure that they do not fall victim:

  1. At no time whatsoever will auctioneers require a deposit for viewing purposes, they will however require a refundable deposit to register to bid at the auction. All vehicles relating to bank repossessions will only be sold via auction and the same usually applies to liquidations and insolvencies. 
  2. Insist on an invoice with letterhead and company details as well as reference number should you need to make payment. Make every attempt to verify account details.
  3. Verify that you are dealing with the correct and legitimate company, Check the company’s contact details ie. landline, email, physical address, Google and use Google Maps to check.
  4. Establish how the auction will be conducted, how to login and how the bidding will work. It should be simple and transparent
  5. Financial Institutions will never sell the vehicles before an auction. If you are interested in a vehicle, you have to attend the auction.
  6. Do not be tempted to engage in off-hand / pre auction negotiations, as no pre auction negotiations will be done before a vehicle is placed on auction as auctioneers firmly work on instructions received by sellers, such as financial institutions, liquidators, collectors etc who always require legitimate auctioneers to fetch the highest bid on auction.
  7. When in doubt, contact SAIA to verify and establish whether the company is known to the institute and is a member in good standing.


SAIA has a 35-year history as the official body of the South African auctioneering industry. It acts as the mouthpiece of the industry and works with legislators and stakeholders to ensure fair trade and a level playing field.

All members are bound by ethical codes of practice and further compelled by specific legislation to protect all parties involved in the auctioneering process. The institute also encourages the public to contact its offices with questions relating to auctions, to report suspicious auctions or to verify whether companies are members. 

SAIA chairman, John Cowing, says auctions play a vital role in the economy as a means for both buyers and sellers to dispose and buy assets at fair, market driven prices through a transparent process. Another benefit is the immediate nature of the transaction which is undertaken on a voetstoots basis.

He cautions buyers that they should do their research upfront and only bid on items that fit their needs and requirements, as well as being in a condition that is acceptable to them.

It is incumbent on a purchaser to familiarise themself with an item on which they bid prior to commencement of the bidding process. Any enquiry or doubt as to the condition of an item that is being bid on should be ascertained in open discussion with the auctioneer beforehand or when the particular item is put up on auction.

The items are available for viewing prior to the auction sale, to do the necessary prechecks and inspections prior to bidding. The Latin “Caveat Emptor” legal definition - Let the buyer beware (a warning that notifies a buyer that the goods he or she is buying are "as is," or subject to all defects) applies mainly to auctions.

An auction is by nature a situation where a buyer intends to purchase an item with the obvious implication that goods sold on auction are sold as “Voetstoots” (“as is”) which is a standard acceptable practice and the Consumer Protection Act (CPA) regulations makes provision for this. Generally, it is an accepted fact that auctioneers give no guarantees or warranties unless specifically undertaken by the auctioneer in writing.


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