Beat the Scammers on Gumtree and Bag a Bargain
These days, it seems like eBaY own most things in life, from Paypal to Gumtree to a major stake in Craigslist. Ever since I discovered Gumtree, I've been a big fan.
If you’ve not yet tried Gumtree either as a buyer or seller, you should. Listings are free, no final value fees and it gives a pretty good return on the time invested too. I've made some pretty impulsive bargain purchases, including a Humanscale Freedom chair worth around £500 for under £50. D-E-A-L! I've also hawked off a bunch of 'stuff' that never seemed to shift on eBaY.
The idea is that because sites are limited to geographic areas, it minimizes the probability of you becoming a victim of a scam.
But here's the deal. Scams do happen. Usually when you least suspect them. This article will hopefully give you an overview to Gumtree, take you on a tour inside the mind of a GT scammer, give you some ideas of the most common scams that occur there, and also give you some ideas for ways to find the best deals and bargains.
The Beauty of Gumtree
Gumtree essentially strips auction sites like eBay to its rawest form and functions like a classifieds site. You can advertise everything from flatshares, to pets, to job ads, 'stuff' for sale, and of course, for the lonely hearts, to seek for the 'love of your life'. This, of course, goes both ways.
Here's the deal. There are plenty of genuine, honest and good people on GT. But the few that do abuse the site and take advantage of you can really be a pain.
Gumtree has no filter for feedback, nor user reviews, nor the need to provide any kind of validating information.
That means anyone from anywhere can pretty much read your listing anonymously and ring you up or email you, or list their 'stuff' for sale.
Inside The Mind of a Gumtree Scammer
"Hello sweetie, do you have change? Wanna make a bet?"
If you don't think you'd ever fall for a scam, good for you. But I would urge you to reconsider. The point of a scam is that you don't see it coming. Especially from someone like Jessica-Jane Clement. With the right hustle game, it's not impossible to fall prey to a skilled scammer. And no, I'm not just talking about the Nigerian 401K scams, nor the Western Union transfers to the anonymous accounts you've thought of making.
I'm also going to take a wild guess and assume that when you get an email saying that you've won
the lottery, you don't get too excited and forward it around asking for advice on whether you should send your bank details. My mom does, but that's for a whole different story. Miracles do happen, but when you haven't even purchased a lottery ticket, mom...
Here are a few common signs and similarities that will help you spot the (amateur) scammer. Without sounding like I know too much about it, here is how they operate in general:
1. They copy and paste. Most likely because English is their 4th language. Or they are just plain lazy. They will find a genuine ad on other services, like eBaY. They'll steal the photos, copy the text, and paste it. Clearly they have not read this Guardian article on Plagiarism.
2. And since plagiarism is a bad, bad thing, they will hide. They will often use disposable email addresses like hotmail, yahoo or gmail, along with a good proxy setup to hide their IP address. They will often use a name like 'Bob Smith' or 'Janet White' because a middle class caucasian sounding person would obviously never scam anyone.
3. They usually have a model answer. That means you will often get the same automatic generic response whatever your enquiry is. Which is why you can get the same replies twice.
4. They sometimes have a fake website online. It can be anything from a shipping company to a site to fake their identity. Ultimately, it is nothing more than a way to get your credit card details. The website probably won't be W3C HTML compliant.
The amateur scammer wannabe is like an amateur 'pick up artist'. It's a numbers game. They will repeat the procedure with hundreds of potential buyers until they score. Let's just hope you're not that person.
The 4 Most Common Gumtree Hustles
Here are three gumtree scams that have happened. Some were from experiences I've witnessed, others from folk tales I've heard.
(I just got distracted looking for more photos of Jessica Clement. All for the goodness of this article though.)
Now imagine the following scenarios. They've happened for real. No actors or stooges were used nor took part:
1. The Bait and Switch:
"No, you're right. It could never happen to you."
Often, it is the street wisest of us that fall victim. Such a friend of mine got scammed recently, and he ain't no fool either. This one could have left many with a bitter wallet. The following is an excerpt of conversations from a chat with him on MSN. Some bits are edited to make it readable for all audiences. He got slightly emotional.
'I saw the ad in the 'stuff for sale' section on gumtree. It sounded like a genuine ad. I rang up the guy selling the laptop. It was a really nice Sony laptop. He had a UK mobile number, and sounded English. He said to meet him at x bar at x time, he only has a few minutes, but I can see the laptop if I want it, to take it, if not, not a big deal. I met with him, he seemed like a normal nice enough guy, very well dressed. I saw the laptop. He listed it for £500. I asked if he could drop it lower. He thought, and said, well, if you're gonna pay cash right now, you can have it for £400. £400? I thought I was in for a bargain. I switched it on, played with it, and it worked perfectly. I gave him the laptop and start counting £400 in cash. He took the laptop and placed it in the bag. I handed over the cash. Suddenly, a (rather attractive) girl appeared. The girl comes over and asked me if I had change for a fiver. I started looking for change. The guy hands me the laptop with the bag. I'm distracted. I take the bag, and he wished me luck and told me it was nice meeting me, and said he had to run. I didn't really think, and the girl kept talking to me, then left a few minutes later. It was only when I got on the train, that I opened up the laptop bag. My laptop was not there. Instead, there was a very old laptop that looked like it was about to fall apart. I called the number, and it was dead. £400 down the drain.'
Morale: This is a classic bait and switch misdirection gambit. Most likely, the girl was working with the guy. A signal was probably made to distract him for the bait and switch. And the false time constraint set he made from the get go ('I only have a few minutes') made it seem natural for him to just leave him with everything and walk away. Especially with Jessica Clements doing her thing. I'd certainly be distracted.
2. Live in my gorgeous 3 bedroom house for £700 a month
Here is an example of the rent scam that's been going around. It's pretty popular on Gumtree, because of its profitability margin.
It's not easy to find a good place to stay, especially with most people now looking to rent instead of buy.
And with a decent story like the this one here you may find yourself with a much lighter wallet, and still on the streets.
3. A Soft Spot for Pets
"Would you please save me from starving in the streets?"
Awww, aren't they cute. That little homeless hush puppy, with his big eyes and cute button nose, staring at you. Wanting you to love him. The owner can no longer afford it. And unless you save him, he will be starving on the streets, kicked around by punks or worse, be victim to one of these recent London knife crimes.
You email them or call them. They claim they are too far away, and suggest that you can either travel to pick up the pet... but you may be too late, and your hush puppy may be in the pound by then.
Your caring human instincts kick in. They suggest that the best option would be to arrange for you to pay a delivery / registration charge upfront, and send the rest of the money later when you receive your adorable new play toy.
'Have you heard of Escrow?' they say. You can literally hear someone counting the Benjamins (I am unsure what the British equivalent is - quid?) in the background.
You fall for it. You pay for the shipping costs. It's only £60 after all.
A few weeks later, you see the same puppy on Gumtree. So it never went to the pound?? Duh.
People have been scammed in excess of £150 with this one.
4. Finding the 'Love' of your Life
Have you ever wondered why it seems that there are so many cute desperate girls on gumtree? It seems like there are more cute girls in London GT than the entire population of the UK.
Well, you'd be right. Because it's a scam. You'd be right that in the real world, you really do have to fight tooth and nail for the hotties. Try writing to one of them. You will get a reply telling you the kind of things you definitely want to hear... then she will send you more photos of herself... next thing you know, your'e reaching for your wallet to reach to her profile. "Just click here..."
And that's how you along with 100 other guys seeking for love that day end up signing up to some website paying them a nice commission for bringing in a new punter.
5 Steps to find the best deals possible on Gumtree
In the end, we all just want to find a good deal. Following these 5 steps will help ensure that you maximize your chances of finding a real bargain:
1. Take your time: Be patient. Never rush into a bargain. I have found that usually by giving it time, eventually a bargain will surface. This is true whether it be on HUKD, eBaY, or Gumtree. Look around. Try the different local sites. Do your homework. And never get desperate.
2. Watch your personal details: This one is debateable. Sometimes sellers are wary of scamming buyers, so they may want a name and contact number to verify. But you know the drill. Never give away much more beyond that. No addresses, bank details, credit card details, names of your loved ones, yada yada.
3. Talk to the seller: You can gauge alot by talking to the seller. I mentioned I bought a Humanscale Freedom chair for £50. The ad was poorly written - with a generic photo. But I rang up and got the story. He ran a private investments firm, and had surplus, the arm rest screws have come off, so that's the downside. He can however deliver the chair to me, and is based in my city. He'd even deliver it for free. Score. Obviously that's not the best example. But make sure you do ask about the condition, age, functionality and extras that come with the item. A genuine seller won't necessarily lie to you, but may not always tell the truth unless you pinpoint the specifics. Which brings us to the next point...
4. Take time to examine the item: Do some research. If you're buying a car, or renting an apartment, you want to know the right questions to ask. So make a list of questions you want to raise. Test out the items if possible before handing over the cash. It's ok to be inquisitive. The seller expects it. It doesn't mean you have to be nasty. Smile.
5. Bring a friend: So my friend got scammed out of £400. He's a smart cookie too. But as he pointed out, the girl was really pretty. It probably wasn't worth £400 though. I've had friends that have noticed things that I didn't notice, so often I will bring a friend with me.
So bring a friend. Like me. That way, he could have chased the scammer down the street without being distracted. I would happily wait around, and enjoy the view.
So boys and girls, make sure you keep your fingers on the pulse of your online wallets no matter what, until you see them face to face. The above is not a collectively exhaustive list of scams, but should give you some idea of how things operate.
If you have had any personal experience of being scammed whether it be on gumtree or elsewhere, we'd love to hear your comments so that we can add it to the pool of knowledge and experience. So feel free to share your thoughts and other suggestions with all of us here at BW. No pics of hush puppies allowed.