How to shop safely on Facebook Marketplace and Gumtree

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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.

Facebook Marketplace and Gumtree shopping safety tips

Shop local

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.

Meet in a neutral, public place

Unless you know the seller well, it's always a good idea to meet in a public place. This way no one is at an advantage or disadvantage, and anyone with nefarious intentions will think twice about their plan.

Make transactions during the day

Daylight hours are always going to be safer than nighttime ones. Visibility and the number of people around will be higher, and if you have to get out of a situation quickly, it'll be easier. Always meet during the day.

Always inspect items

Photos are great, but they can also be deceptive. Some sellers may deliberately hide flaws in an item, while others genuinely may not have noticed if the defect is small. To avoid any unwanted problems, always inspect an item thoroughly before paying.

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.

Don't share personal info

If you're a seller with a bulky item that you cannot relocate to a neutral meeting place, handing out your address is an unfortunate necessity. If you're a buyer, however, you can, and should, keep all personal information to yourself.

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.

Go contactless

It's also a good idea to avoid any direct interaction if possible. This tip goes for both buyers and sellers. Contactless collection of goods helps minimise risk for everyone involved, so it's a preferable option in many cases as long as you're still able to collect payment securely.

Use a credit card if paying online

Credit cards often have better protections than debit cards when it comes to recovering your funds if anything goes wrong. For this reason, we suggest paying credit if you must complete a transaction online.

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.

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Beware of online scams

Facebook Marketplace and Gumtree may have their issues, but they aren't the only ones. There are countless scams floating around that target the vulnerable. Always be on your guard and be sure to check out our guides to some of the most common online scams and phone scams in Australia.

Facebook Marketplace and Gumtree red flags to look out for

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.

Final word

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.

Jessica Jones
Written by
Jessica Jones
Jess has been writing educational content for almost ten years with a focus on lifestyle content. She loves coffee, dogs and all things fitness, and can often be found with her nose buried in a book and her music blaring through her earphones.

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