Gumtree users fleeced 250 times a week by fraudsters

By John Glenday | Reporter

July 3, 2014 | 2 min read

Gumtree users are being warned by Citizen’s Advice that online criminals are increasingly targeting shopping, auction and small ads sites to perpetrate scams on consumers.

The online marketplace has been thrust into the spotlight by reports that police are receiving as many as 250 allegations of crime or fraud related to its small ads each and every week.

Citizens Advice itself state that one in every six of the consumer complaints associated with Gumtree are now found to be the result of a scam or fraud.

The eBay owned portal has been singled out for attention as it does not vet or confirm the identity of all users, giving criminals free reign to register repeatedly.

Typical complaints involve unwitting buyers handing over cash in advance of receipt of goods or services – only to be left high and dry when the seller vanishes. Other scams involve the sale of faulty or repossessed goods, which can saddle the purchasers with repair bills and outstanding loans.

Police are also investigating the sale of stolen goods and even targeting people selling high-value items for robbery. Others have even lured prospective buyers to specific locations where they are subsequently robbed.

Gillian Guy, chief executive of Citizen’s Advice, said: “Online marketplaces are at risk of becoming a hotbed for scams. These sites are an important service for buyers and sellers, but con artists are profiting from them too. Scammers are swindling people out of out of hundreds or thousands of pounds by posting false products and services online.

“It’s time for online marketplaces to up their game and do more to protect their customers from dodgy dealings by strongly policing their websites, carrying out spot checks and immediately removing any risky ads.”

In the six months to March Citizen’s Advice dealt with 649 cases related to Gumtree and 3,711 to eBay.

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