Gumtree scams: how to spot fake messages and avoid Gumtree scams
27 May 2021
Gumtree can be a great way to find somewhere to rent, to sell your unwanted items or to pick up a second-hand bike. But with any online space there’s a risk of fraudsters being active and attempting to scam you out of your cash.
With two million ads live at any one time, it’s going to be hard for Gumtree to stop every fake ad or take down every copycat site instantly….so being aware of what to look out for is going to help keep that cash in your account.
What does a Gumtree scam look like?
Unfortunately, there isn’t just one method that scammers use when impersonating Gumtree or fraudulently buying or selling items on the classifieds website. If you’re selling or buying or just have an account set up on Gumtree, you’re at risk.
Fake Gumtree websites
Gumtree say they will take down a copycat site as soon as they can, but there will always be people who end up using it before Gumtree can get to it. The fake site looks real enough but use your intuition. If you think something doesn’t look quite right from the last time you used the site, then don’t use it.
The details are minor but it could be no padlock in the address bar, spelling mistakes or a web address other than gumtree.com or my.gumtree.com.
Fake Gumtree texts
If you’ve got an account on Gumtree, then you might end up with a text asking you for personal information like passwords or bank details. Delete it straight away, as Gumtree would never text asking this.
You might also receive via text a response to your 'for sale' ad that looks a bit odd. This is a ploy to get you to click the fake link or to reply to a fake email known as smishing. If the response casts doubt in your mind then log into your Gumtree account to see if the message is also there and just delete the text.
Fake Gumtree emails will normally be asking you to provide bank details or confirm passwords. They usually combine that with an ‘urgent’ message saying that your account has been compromised/there’s been suspicious activity, in the hope that you act quickly and fall for their phishing scam.
Look out for fake email addresses, Gumtree say just because it says firstname.lastname@example.org it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s from Gumtree.
Gumtree car scams
This scam involves rogue car dealers posing as an individual user of Gumtree and posting ads for fully working or good condition second-hand cars, when in fact the cars are often missing parts or in bad condition.
In some cases once the victim has sent over their email and name to the scammer, they then receive a fake eBay invoice. Because it looks genuine, money is transferred and the scammer disappears. You’re then left out of pocket as well as car-less.
Always ask the seller to see the car’s details, past financing and insurance, and ask to see the seller’s proof of address and identity and check this against the V5. Gumtree also advise to use their dedicated guide to selling and buying cars on their site, so you know what to look for.
Warning signs it might not be genuine
As with any scam there are few signs to look out for which might help you determine whether it’s genuine.
- Any message stating that you need to make a payment NOW otherwise your ad is going to be deleted or your account is to be closed, needs to cause concern. Gumtree along with other legitimate companies wouldn’t do this.
- It’s a phrase we keep repeating, but if it sounds too good to be true then it probably is. A common way for scammers to trick you is to create an ad for an item that is only just cheaper than the competition but not enough that it’ll cause suspicion.
- Over-nice sellers who go that extra mile to make you trust them. We’re not saying that there aren’t some nice sellers out there, who would go out of their way to help, but scammers might offer to come over to your house to make the transaction.
How to protect yourself from Gumtree scams
If you’re selling, buying or just have a Gumtree account you don’t do anything with, then like any online channel, you need to be wary and protect yourself from scams.
If you receive a text or an email claiming to be from Gumtree then don’t click the link that’s telling you to update info or act now before your account closes. The best thing to do is to separately log into your Gumtree account. If Gumtree needed to get hold of you they’d do so via the message centre in your account.
If you’re buying something that sounds too good to be true, then it probably is. If the price seems far lower than the competition then question its authenticity. Gumtree advice is to ask the seller for proof of purchase, or any certificates. And to also search the seller’s number or business online to check their history or for any previous reviews.
Make sure you also use the ‘Reply to ad’ button for any communication. Gumtree say keeping it ‘in-house’ means you are protected by their filter system which blocks any spam or suspicious emails.
Gumtree also says to be wary of buyers or sellers that ask you to switch payment method, normally to one that has no consumer protection. If they claim they are having account issues then, as mentioned above, search their seller number online to read previous reviews, or halt the sale until you’ve contacted Gumtree. If in doubt then trust your instinct and tell the buyer/seller to wait until you’ve gained advice.
Also contact Gumtree and let them know what has happened or, if you are suspicious of any ad or buyer/seller, then double check with Gumtree before committing to buying or selling an item.