Classified scams take place on sites where anyone can place a ‘classified advert’ such as on Gumtree, Depop or eBay. In this scam, the target is tricked into thinking that they are buying from a legitimate seller but it is actually a scammer.
How do they do this?
- Scammers pretend to be genuine sellers with genuine postings on classified sites.
- These adverts can be for anything including properties to rent, second-hand clothing, household items, bikes, pets – the list is endless.
- The scammer may steal the wording and photos from another genuine seller’s listing but set the price super low to draw in the unsuspecting target.
- Once the target shows interest, the scammer will very often suggest moving the transaction off the site to ‘avoid the fees’
- Alternatively, they may claim that they have moved or are out of the country and a ‘friend’ will deliver the goods on receipt of payment.
- Once the payment has been received you will very likely not receive the item you wanted and be unable to contact the seller.
What should I look out for?
- Again, look out for cheap prices – if it is too good to be true it probably is. If you are unsure, have a look at what price comparable items are being sold for.
- The seller asks to move the transaction off the site – even if they say that it will reduce the cost, it isn’t worth the risk. They may suggest payment by bank transfer or cheque.
- The seller is difficult to contact – if they are constantly busy or out of the country this could be a reason to avoid the purchase.
- You receive a dodgy looking receipt – does it look like other ones you have received?
- Being unable to view or see pictures of the item or property in question
How can I protect myself?
- Always complete a transaction on the classified platform. This way, if something does unfortunately go wrong, they can help you. Many of these sites have built in procedures to ensure the protection of both buyers and sellers.
- If something seems dodgy, do a quick google search of the exact advert wording – if it is a common scam it is likely to come up.
- For anything expensive, try to avoid paying the full value until you have inspected the item yourself.
- Be cautious – classified sites are breeding grounds for scammers and it is often the hardest place to identify them.
- If you can use a secure payment system such as PayPal – this provides protection in case something goes wrong.
I have been scammed. What should I do?
If you believe that you have been scammed there are a couple things you can do.
Firstly, attempt to contact the seller, there may be a legitimate reason for their lack of contact.
Secondly, contact the site in question these platforms often have very good customer service and will talk you through how to claim your refund. You can find a list of the main site contacts here.
If you paid through PayPal, you can open a dispute with them here. You may be able to claim your money back. You can learn more about how to do this here.
Alternatively, contact your bank and dispute the payment through them.