Shopping on Gumtree, Facebook Marketplace or other third party, second hand seller sites is a great way to find a bargain, and you may even come across items you couldn't buy any other way. Having said that, however, there are extra safety risks involved with this type of purchasing as opposed to heading down to your local op shop or buying things brand new. With that in mind, it's important to take extra steps to ensure your safety while shopping, and this article is here to help.
How to shop safely on Facebook Marketplace and Gumtree
Facebook Marketplace and Gumtree shopping safety tips
Shopping locally protects you in a few main ways. Firstly, and most importantly, because you know the area, you're far less likely to get lost or end up in an unfavourable position. You'll also be far less likely to fall for a scam or have wasted too much time and effort if the item ends up not being as advertised.
Take someone with you
It's unfortunate but true that the world isn't full of good people. While most individuals that you'll encounter when buying from Facebook Marketplace or Gumtree will be perfectly nice humans looking to make a buck off something they no longer need, it's still important to prepare for the worst. Having someone with you when you go to collect an item greatly reduces the risk, so it's always a smart move.
Be wary of smart electronics
While things like televisions and microwaves tend to make for pretty straightforward sales, smartphones and other advanced technology can be risky to purchase through these kinds of platforms. Always check that all accounts have been wiped and that the device has been factory reset. You don't want to end up with something that's locked to someone else's account, or worse, tracking your every move.
If selling, never let the buyer leave without confirmation of payment
Finally, if you're the seller, never let the buyer leave without confirmation of payment. Don't take their word for it, or even the confirmation on their phone, wait until you receive the funds. Scammers will commonly simply send money to a different account that they own or create false receipts, so it's better to be safe than sorry, especially if you're dealing with a significant chunk of money.
Having a third party pick up or drop off
If a seller or buyer says that they're going to have someone else handle drop off or collection, this could be a sign that you're about to get scammed—or worse. Sometimes people may genuinely need the convenience (or safety) of having someone else complete the transaction, but this is a common scam at the moment so beware. If it comes up that someone other than the person you've been chatting with will be dealing with things, be sure to ask for their details and Facebook profile so you can vet them and stay as safe as possible.
PayPal friends and family payment requests
PayPal, in general, is a great way to ensure that payments are secure on both ends. A seller requesting a friends and family payment, however, is a major red flag. When you make payments in this manner you forfeit all of your buyer protection, so proceed with extreme caution if you must complete the transaction, and choose an item from a different seller if you can.
Fake looking profiles
Profiles that are brand new, have little to no content, or have images that don't all seem to be the same person should be instant red flags. While in the first instance, it is genuinely possible that someone has just joined Facebook, and the second may just indicate that they're a private person, the third is 100% a scammer, and there's a high probability that you're also dealing with someone unsavoury in the first two cases as well. For your safety, we suggest avoiding interactions with these types of accounts.
Refusal to meet
If someone is close by but won't accept a meeting to exchange goods, they probably don't have the best intentions. This is a common scam on both the buying (requesting a chargeback or refund once you've posted the goods) and selling (never sending the item you paid for) side of things, so think twice before agreeing to this type of exchange.
Something just doesn't feel right
Finally, if something doesn't feel right, it probably isn't. Trust your gut and don't proceed with any transactions that feel wrong or unsafe.
Platforms like Facebook Marketplace and Gumtree are fantastic for buyers and sellers alike, but they also inherently carry more risks than other channels. When making your purchase or selling your item, be sure to follow the safety tips outlined in this guide and look out for red flags.