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Many of us do not think twice about looking through the classified ads on Gumtree or in our local newspaper when we need to buy something. While most people are legitimate sellers, it is important to know how to spot classified scams, so that you do not get caught out.
What are classified scams?
Classified scams work in one of two ways:
#1 A scammer posing as a seller
Here, scammers post fake classified ads offering something for sale. This can be anything from a car to a caravan.
The item is usually priced at a very low price compared to other comparable items.
Normally, if you inquire about the item, the seller may tell you that you are unable to see the item (as they are away, for example) but someone else will deliver it for you after you have paid for it. After payment, you will not see the item or be able to contact the person who was selling it.
#2 A scammer posing as a buyer
If you are trying to sell something through a classified ad, you also need to be aware of classified scams involving fake buyers.
Sometimes, a scammer may ask you to pay for their transport, for example, so that they can come and collect your item and then never show up.
They may even promise that they will repay you the money when they see you.
Avoiding classified scams: Price too good to be true? Avoid it.
One of the ways that scammers lure buyers to purchase their products is by advertising them at a very low price tag.
If the item you have your eye on looks very cheap compared to other similar products, this should alert you that it may be a scam.
Big value item? Only pay after you have seen what you are buying.
If you are spending lots of money on something you have seen in a classified ad, it is always advisable to see the item, in person, first.
Do not be talked into paying a deposit before you have viewed it.
A simple way to avoid classified scams is to ensure that what you are buying actually exists, before paying any money for it.
Take someone with you to see an item.
Stay safe and bring someone else along with you to see the item.
If possible, arrange to meet the seller at their home. Be wary if they suggest they come to your home to make the sale.
Copy and paste the ad into Google.
If you are suspicious of a classified ad, copy and paste the text into Google. Often, scammers will use someone else’s description of the item to try and tempt buyers.
Equally, you could find other people who have been scammed by the same ad and are warning others to avoid it.
Check the seller’s ratings.
Many websites offer previous customers the possibility to rate their experience with a seller. If possible, take a look at what other people say about the seller you are thinking of buying from.
If you are selling your car, ask the buyer to bring ID.
If you have someone interested in buying your car, ask them to bring ID with them when they come to meet you.
This can help to put off a scammer.
Additionally, you need to be very aware if you let a buyer test drive your car. Do not leave the car keys in the ignition unattended or someone could drive away with your vehicle without paying.
The golden rule for avoiding classified scams: always be cautious.
Scammers are often very good at what they do. They know how to tempt us into parting with our cash.
In order to avoid classified scams, take the time to research what you are buying and who you are buying it from.
- Avoid deals that are too good to be true.
- Do not be talked into parting with cash to put a deposit down on a high-value item that you have not seen.
- If possible, check if the seller has any ratings from previous customers.
- Be aware that just because an ad looks slick and professional, it may not be genuine.
- If you are selling something, do not be afraid to ask a potential buyer to bring ID with them to your meeting. This alone can be enough to put off scammers.
Finally, do not part with any cash unless you are 100% sure of exactly what you are buying and who you are buying it from.