Gumtree scams: how to avoid them
Gumtree is a great way to sell items you no longer need giving you an opportunity to declutter, reduce landfill and make some extra cash at the same time. While many Gumtree users have a positive experience, there are unfortunately a few bad seeds that seem to ruin things for the rest of us. And by bad seeds, we mean scammers.
Scammers try their best to make up stories to trick us into handing over personal details and/or money. Being aware of their bag of tricks can help you protect yourself when buying and selling online.
In this article we explore what to look out for when buying and selling on Gumtree. Also, test yourself and see if you can spot the red flags in a real-life scam email.
In this article:
- Warning signs: what to look for
- Does PayPal’s buyer protection cover you?
- Buying items that offer shipping
- Example scam email
- How to protect yourself
- What to do if you think you have been scammed
Warning signs: what to look for
Buyer asks you to email them
If a buyer responds to your listing asking you to email them, it’s most likely a scammer. They like to communicate over email so they can copy and paste pre-prepared scripts. It's best to ignore messages from people who immediately provide an email address.
A courier is required to pick up an item
Scammers are known to use a range of excuses to explain why they can’t pick up an item in person. For example, they claim to work offshore, in hospital recovering from surgery, or have a serious illness or medical condition.
The story normally goes something like this: ‘due to their situation’, they’re going to arrange pick-up by courier, but the courier needs to be paid upfront and unfortunately, for whatever reason, they can’t pay them right now. So, would it be possible for you to pay the courier directly? They promise to add the courier costs to the amount they’re transferring to you. Messages like this, and variations of this story, are a scam.
Buyer offers to arrange pick up or pay through Gumtree
Gumtree does not offer a delivery service. It also does not have its own payment system. Ignore any messages you receive with a link directing you to a Gumtree or Australia Post website – they’re fake and try to scam you by asking you to enter your credit or debit card details.
Buying a pet on Gumtree
Be wary of pet ads where the seller insists on transporting the animal to you because, for whatever reason, you can’t pick it up in person. For example, they may say they’re based interstate or they’re moving home.
They normally ask for an upfront payment before they send your new pet, however along the way, they find new ways to ask for more money. The excuses vary like, the animal unexpectedly fell ill or got into an accident, so you’ll need to send money for medical expenses or for special insurance costs. Find out more about pet scams .
Buyer overpays you
In this case, the buyer gets in touch with you to let you know, for whatever reason, they have accidentally paid you more than they should have. For example, they pay you $300 for a printer that you listed for $100. They may also produce a fake receipt to show you the payment.
The scammer tells you PayPal is holding the full amount owed to you until you transfer the overpayment. When you transfer the overpayment, they place a complaint to PayPal and say their account has been hacked and that they never meant to pay at all, so PayPal reimburses them the full amount, and they also pocket the ‘overpayment’ made by you.
Another version of this scam involves the scammer asking you to send the money they paid ‘by mistake’ along with the item they bought when in fact they haven’t paid you at all, so they end up receiving the item and money you sent them.
Urgent email from Gumtree
Treat urgent messages claiming to be from Gumtree with caution, especially when they’re combined with the need to click on a link to provide your personal information. For example, emails that tell you your Gumtree account has been disabled or locked, or that your ad has been removed. They ask you to immediately verify your details otherwise your account will be closed, or all future ads removed.
Gumtree and most other legitimate companies for that matter do not send such emails.
Does PayPal’s buyer protection cover you?
PayPal is a safe way to pay, however there are some things you should keep in mind when using it on online selling platforms like Gumtree.
PayPal doesn’t offer protection when you use the friends and family option to send or receive money. In other words, you’re not covered if you provide your email address or mobile number to make a PayPal payment. Instead, you need to select the goods and services option, although it does attract a fee .
Find out more about how PayPal works.
Buying items that offer shipping
There are legitimate sellers who offer shipping, and buyers who need to arrange for someone else to pick up an item. While this alone doesn’t make it a scam, there are usually a number of other warning signs that give it away, so it’s always best to consider the entire conversation with the buyer/seller, like in the example scam email below.
It’s always best to tread carefully when you are dealing with a buyer or seller who wants to arrange shipment. To help, Gumtree has a guide on buying an item that offers shipping .
Example scam email
Below is an example message from a scammer. See if you can spot the red flags.
“Thanks a lot for your email. I am away at sea at the moment, due to the nature of my work. We do not have access to the phone, it's 5 days off and 25 days on, which is why I contacted you with an internet messaging facility.
I am buying it. I want it delivered before my arrival. I won't be able to come for the inspection due to the nature of my work and I would have called but our calling is restricted. Regarding the payment, Pls get back to me with your final asking price and your PayPal details so I can process the payment. You can easily log on to www.paypal.com and register an account with them if you don't have, or you can alternatively send your bsb and acct number if you have no PayPal acct. I have also contacted my courier who will come for pick up after the whole fund has been cleared into your account. They are only available this week so pls get back to me with the details requested asap to confirm otherwise I will take my business elsewhere.”
How can you tell it’s a scam?
- Firstly, the ‘buyer’ has taken you away from the Gumtree platform to communicate over email.
- They use the excuse that they’re ‘offshore’ to explain why they can’t pick up the item in person and so will be arranging a courier.
- There is no reference to the item you’re selling. It’s referred to as ‘it’, a sign that implies this message has been copied and pasted.
- They offer to pay by bank transfer or PayPal outside of the Gumtree platform (“send me your PayPal details”).
- They’re creating a sense of urgency in their message to trick you into providing information before you can consider the message properly or ask someone else if it might be a scam.
How to protect yourself
- Ignore messages from people asking you to email them.
- Never provide your bank account or credit/debit card details on Gumtree. The best form of payment is cash or using PayPal through Gumtree.
- Do not rely on email receipts, even if they say they are from PayPal. If a buyer claims to have paid you by PayPal or bank transfer, check your account to see whether funds have been received.
- Never pay for courier costs on behalf of a buyer. If they want to buy the item, they can arrange and pay for the delivery.
- If you’re not sure if a message might be a scam, always take a moment to stop, consider the request and ask a trusted advisor for their help before you send any money or information to someone you don’t know.
What to do if you think you have been scammed
If you think you have been scammed on Gumtree, there are steps you can take.
- If you have provided your banking details to a scammer, contact your bank immediately to see whether they can reverse charges or stop any further charges.
- Contact Gumtree with information about the ad, like the ad number and email address of the person who has contacted you. You can find the contact us form under the Frequently Asked Questions.
- Report it to Scamwatch to help raise awareness.
- Call IDCARE on 1800 595 160 or visit the IDCARE website .They’re a free support service that can provide advice when it comes to things like identity theft, hacking, scams and lost or stolen credentials.
Learn more about how you can avoid scams in our free course Identifying and avoiding scams.
How to send and receive payment with PayPal through Gumtree
Learn how to stay safer when you buy and sell online from traditional retailers and online marketplaces in our free online course.
Attend our free online presentation to learn more about how you can protect yourself against scams.