Types of scams

Be aware of what to watch out for so you can stay safe and be successful when you’re buying, selling and trading online.

Common scams - what to watch out for

You’ve won the lottery!

How the scam works:

Fake lotteries, sweepstakes and competitions attempt to convince people they have won a major prize or small fortune. Often these competitions say that they are held in a different country and that you were automatically entered into the draw or someone entered on your behalf.

These scammers will ask you to:

  1. Call or text a phone number (often starting with 19) and you will be charged for the duration of the call.
  2. Send personal documents and bank details, which they’ll use themselves or sell to other scammers, exposing you to identity theft.
  3. Pay an upfront fee to claim your prize (that doesn’t exist).
Gumtree’s tips:
  1. Don’t respond to emails from people or organisations you’re not familiar with
  2. Never send money to anyone you don’t know
  3. Always use common sense! If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is!

An overseas relative has left you their fortune

How the scam works:

You get an email from a scammer, disguised as a bank or lawyer, saying that a long-lost relative has left you a huge inheritance. While many of us are not aware of our distant relatives, ancestry and genealogy websites make your family tree readily available, so these can emails can look convincing.

Scammers may try to trick you by getting you to:

  1. Send personal documents and bank details, which they’ll use themselves or sell to other scammers, exposing you to identity fraud.
  2. Pay fees and taxes to release the inheritance (that doesn’t really exist).
Gumtree’s tips:
  1. Don’t respond to emails from people or organisations you’re not familiar with
  2. Never send money to anyone you don’t know
  3. Always use common sense! If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is

Brand name spoofing / phishing

How the scam works:

You get an email/SMS claiming to be from Gumtree, eBay, Western Union, or another company offering you buyer protection, an online payment system or perhaps a cash prize.

These scammers will ask you to:

  1. Provide personal information to re-confirm your account/subscription etc
  2. Transfer money to reactivate your account
  3. These emails often request this information with a sense of urgency
Gumtree’s tips:
  1. Any email asking for personal details combined with urgency, should be treated with caution, no matter who it claims to be from. Gumtree and most other companies never send out emails like this
  2. Don’t open downloads or follow links in emails. If you receive an email alleging to be from a company offering a service then go directly to the company’s official website and look for details of the service
  3. Don’t respond to emails from people or organisations that you aren’t familiar with.

Oops, I paid you too much! Cheque overpayment

How the scam works:

A buyer/seller or prospective tenant sends you a cheque that exceeds the value of the items/ rent, then asks for the surplus money to be returned to them or a third party, for example “to pay for shipping”.

The cheque will clear into your bank, and unfortunately will be stopped/refused weeks later. The bank/building society will then take the full cheque amount back out of your account. Not only will you never receive the goods, you will be out of pocket for the amount of the cheque and the amount you passed on as the difference.

Gumtree’s tips:
  1. Always meet in-person – take someone with you or meet in a public place
  2. If you receive an overpayment cheque or money order, return it to the sender and ask for the correct amount.

Payment for brokerage/importing

How the scam works:

A seller claims that there are brokerage fees, import duties, or other fees required to get an item into the country.

Gumtree’s tips:
  1. Always meet in-person, take someone with you or meet in a public place
  2. Never send money to anyone you don’t know.
  3. Do not respond to emails asking for payment of fees or taxes

Fake escrow sites

How the scam works:

A buyer/seller or prospective tenant/landlord suggests using an escrow service to complete a transaction. Often these escrow web sites are run by fraudsters (even though they may look “official”) and they will take your money and never send the product.

Gumtree’s tips:
  1. Always meet in-person, take someone with you or meet in a public place

Make a fortune, work from home

How the scam works:

Many work from home offers are “pyramid schemes” which require you to recruit other people in order to get paid. For example, an ad may say that you can make $100 an hour by stuffing envelopes. But to make that money, you need to sell the system to others. Other ‘work from home’ opportunities are fronts for money laundering.

Key warning signs are any ‘job’ that involves you receiving cheques and cashing them. For these reasons Gumtree doesn’t accept work from home positions.

Gumtree’s tips:
  1. Legitimate jobs don’t ask for upfront joining or membership fees.
  2. Often it’s the people you trust, your friends and family who will be trying to recruit you. They usually don’t realise that what they’re doing is illegal.

419 scams

How the scam works:

You receive an email asking for your help to take money out of a country and, in return, you will be paid a commission. Eventually the scammers ask you for money to help them take the large amount of money out of the country. Once you pay you will never hear from them again.

Gumtree’s tips:
  1. This is illegal – don’t participate.

Pet shipping scams

How the scam works:

A seller will claim to have a pet and offer to ship the pet to you from an overseas location, or even get you to book seats on a plane! These are usually sought after dog breeds such as English bulldogs, Yorkshire terriers and Chihuahuas and the ads are usually accompanied by fake pictures. The pets don’t exist and the fraudsters try to get you to pay upfront.

Gumtree’s tips:
  1. Remember: be wary of overseas sellers.

Suspicious Email - Phishing attempt

Some Gumtree users have reported receiving suspicious emails on the following:

  • to confirm identity to avoid fraud attempts
  • account verification
  • informing that an ad supposedly posted using your account was deleted for fraud

These emails are known as “phishing emails”, and are sent by fraudulent people not Gumtree! Please ignore these emails and simply forward it with the email header details to “spoof@gumtree.com.au” so we can investigate and de-activate the fake site links quickly.

These emails will ask you to click on a link and enter your personal details into a webpage that looks exactly like Gumtree. Please do not respond or click on any links in these emails! They will request personal information including email address, passwords and even credit card numbers for supposed account authentication.  The email will also say that your account has been temporarily suspended or will be deleted if you don’t respond. (Please ignore these emails. They are trying to create a sense of urgency to collect what they want – your login details.)

*Please don’t include your email address in the description of your ad. This allows fraudsters to target Gumtree users and make direct contact with them. We suggest that you only put your email address in the email address field.

Some examples of what spoof emails look like are:

Dear customer,

In order to avoid fraud attempts and confirm your identity, please forward us the following details:

JUST CLICK HERE: http://www.link to fake site

Please complete the form immediately. If not, your account will be erased based on fraud motivation. Thank you!

Gumtree Secure Department 

OR another

Dear Gumtree User,

Thanks for your ad however we’re afraid that your ad has been removed because it was flagged as fraud. We need you to confirm your identity. Please follow this link:

“fake link to” Confirm Account Identity

For more information, please review our posting policies. Any future ads will also be removed until your account is verified.

Please ignore these emails and forward to “spoof@gumtree.com.au” so we can investigate and de-activate the fake site links quickly.If you suspect that an email isn’t from Gumtree you can confirm it by checking the email header.

Email headers contain information on where the selected email was sent from. To check this, simply open the suspicious email. Please don’t click “Reply” to open the email and check the headers in the email system you’re using.

Instructions for commonly used emailing platforms are listed below.  If you can’t find it, click on the help menu and find the instructions on how to view your email headers.

  • Gmail: Click the “down arrow” next to sender name and reply options, then “show original”
  • Hotmail: Inbox then right click the email and click “view message source”
  • Outlook 2010: Click “file” then “info” and “properties”
  • Outlook older versions: Inbox then right click the email, then click “message options”
  • Apple Mail: Click “view”, then “message” then “long headers”

After you’ve done this, refer to the “received from” line in the details and it should tell you where the email is from. If it isn’t from Gumtree, you know it’s a fake email.

If you still can’t tell if the email is from Gumtree, just copy the full header data and send it to us and we will help you.

SMS fraud - I received an SMS message asking for PayPal details

We’re doing a great job at keeping illegal activity off the site, so unfortunately some fraudsters have started contacting Gumtree users directly via the contact details in your ad, such as your mobile phone number. They are trying to trick you by sending fake SMS messages asking to be contacted via email. This should ring alarm bells because legitimate buyers/sellers should not want to be emailed if they are contacting you via your phone.

The messages will look and sound similar to the following examples:

“Hello mate, I saw your listing on Gumtree and can you let me know if still on sale…blahblah@live.com.au”

OR

“Hello, I saw your ad on Gumtree. I’m ready to offer you 20,000AUD for the vehicle. For quick response, email me at: blahblah2@gmail.com Smith”

The messages may have a name in the title or may be from an overseas phone number. Some even look local with a +614 area code; these are sent via online sms service providers like “SMS craze”.

The fraudsters want to communicate with you over email so they can open up their word document and Google translator to copy and paste their pre-prepared scripts. They will even throw in some Aussie slang like “mate” to sound like a local.

Within the communication they will fabricate a story explaining why they cannot communicate via phone, for example they’re working overseas or on an oil rig. They’ll give excuses not to meet up with you because they’re actually on the other side of the world in an internet cafe (unfortunately that’s why some of our users receive SMS messages in the middle of the night).

Next, they’ll also offer several hundred or even thousands of dollars more than you’ve asked for because they apparently love/really want your car, furniture, horse, diamond ring etc for their sister/cousin/brother somewhere around the world and would prefer that their shipping agent or courier pick it up.

They then ask if you have a PayPal account and if not they’ll want you to create one.

You will receive a genuine looking PayPal receipt that shows the “extra amount”; they claim to have deposited into your account. They then request that this is returned to them via Western Union/Money Gram.

Gumtree is designed for local, face-to-face trading. Always meet in person, and never send money to anyone you don’t know.

Chris More Scam

Some users have reported that they have received an SMS from Gumtree asking to verify their account. The SMS will look similar to the following:

This is Chris More, working with Gumtree. Confirm if you are the seller by replying “YES” as we are deleting suspicious adverts.

This person is posing as a member of the Gumtree team. Gumtree never makes contact with users via SMS. We suspect that replying will inadvertently sign you up for something and charge you for it. We’re really sorry about these annoying messages and advise that you should NOT reply to them.

Load and Go Cards

We always advise that you to deal face-to-face, however some users are still transferring money and unfortunately become the victim of a scam.

Some fraudsters are now using Load and Go prepaid visa cards that appear to be from a regular bank account because they have a BSB number.

The scam works like this:

  • The poster asks you to make a payment via bank transfer
  • The poster sends you a bank account number so you can deposit funds into it
  • After you’ve deposited funds, the poster may send you a shipping tracking ID so you think the transaction is genuine. These IDs usually do not exist or they are picked at random and belong to another person’s shipment
  • The poster ceases contact and you do not receive the item you purchased

ID is not required to purchase Load and Go cards and they are hard to track which is why fraudsters use them. Please be aware that BSB 880100 is for Load and Go cards and not for actual bank accounts.

Please note that even if you speak on the phone with someone, they may not be genuine. Fraudsters are becoming more crafty and may make personal contact, including phone calls, to try and fool you.  The best way to complete a transaction is face-to-face and at a location both parties have agreed upon.

Scanned bank cheque scam

How the scam works:

There have been a few reported cases where a seller has asked a buyer to “scan a copy of the bank cheque” that they will use to pay for the item.

The scam works like this:

  • Seller - advertises a vehicle or an item on Gumtree and then asks buyer to pay for the item with a bank cheque
  • Buyer – goes to the bank and purchases a bank cheque and notifies the seller that he has the cheque and would like to organise a time to view the item
  • Seller - advises that he won’t be able to show the item at that time however asks for a scanned copy of the bank cheque to guarantee that the buyer is genuinely interested
  • Buyer – scans a copy of the bank cheque and sends it across to the Seller
  • Seller - generates a counterfeit bank cheque using the details from the scanned bank cheque that the buyer has sent and uses the counterfeit cheque to purchase goods
  • Buyer – contacts seller again to organise an appointment to see the item however seller advises the sale has fallen through and won’t be going ahead
  • Buyer – then goes back to the bank to claim back the cheque value, but it’s too late because the amount has been claimed by the scam seller

As with all Gumtree transactions, we recommend that you deal face to face and never wire, transfer or in this case scan a copy of a bank cheque to someone that you haven’t met in person and inspected the item thoroughly. We all need to take the right precautions to safeguard against unscrupulous people.

If in doubt always contact us and we can help.

Voice Message Spoof Email

Some users have reported that they received an email stating they have received a voice message on Gumtree. This is a phishing email that will look similar to the following:

********************************

You have received a voice message (urgent) from your ad on Gumtree.

To hear the message go to this link: ___________________________

Thank you

********************************

After clicking on the link, it asks you for an email username and password. These phishing emails are sent by fraudulent people and not Gumtree!

Please note that Gumtree does not offer a phone or voicemail service when replying to ads. If you include a phone number in your ad, buyers can respond to you directly and any voice message you receive from them will be a normal voice message.

We’re really sorry about these annoying emails and kindly ask you to ignore them. If you’d like to report the fake site, please forward the email to “spoof@gumtree.com.au” so we can investigate and de-activate the site links quickly.

Other good sources of information to read about common scams on the net are:

  1. The little black book of scams - a great publication with information and tips on a wide range of online and offline scams, produced by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.
  2. Scamwatch.gov.au - Contains lots of information on how to recognise scams and how to report them to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.
  3. Get Safe Online - an online safety guide with top 10 safety tips is well worth checking out.
  4. You can also learn about current scams from other Gumtree users on the Gumtree forums by clicking on the “Discussion” tab located on top of all pages.