Buyer Beware

A lot of us buy and sell online. Whether it’s eBay, Facebook Marketplace or Gumtree online sales and the second hand market are booming these days.

Sadly, this means that the scammers are turning a decent profit too. There are ways, however, of protecting yourself.

eBay is fairly safe. They offer their own buyer protection, and the majority of sales and purchases are done via PayPal. Whilst there are still scammers on eBay, the partnership between eBay and PayPal means you have a higher level of protection than you would get on other sites. There are certain points to look out for though

  • The adage of “if it’s too good to be true, it probably is” definitely applies here. If you’ve come across an item and it seems far to cheap to be real, there’s a chance it could be counterfeit, or not even exist
  • Is the seller or buyer trying to convince you to complete the sale outside of eBay? This is against the terms and conditions of eBay, and there will be no buyer or seller protection should this occur
  • Check their feedback. Sure, everyone has to start somewhere, and there are plenty of legitimate first time or low feedback users on eBay. Check to see if there are any negative ratings left. Does the account have a history of selling low value items, and now is suddenly selling big ticket items? That’s a definite warning sign. Some scammers will buy and sell between their own accounts, building up some fake reputation. They then start selling high value items, relying on the confidence their feedback score brings
  • Make sure you read the ad properly, and inspect the images of the item. Don’t forget to ask questions to the seller if you have some
  • If you’re selling an item, and get a message asking for your details so the buyer can pay more than the asking price, and if you can send it to a third party overseas, definitely ignore the message and report it. This is an old scam, but still catches people out

Facebook is a bit of a minefield at times, too. Buying something locally is generally fine, if you’re meeting face to face for the transaction. COVID-19 concerns aside, meeting face to face is the safest option. Yes, there’s still a risk, but its the safest option for purchasing second hand goods. There are plenty of scammers on Facebook, however, that might say they are unavailable, or they are located in a different state and are happy to post. They will ask for bank transfer / PayID payments and will block you once the money has been sent. There’s plenty of legitimate sellers out there too. It’s good to see if you have any mutual friends that either know, or have dealt with the sellers before. Are the sellers well known in a group you’re a member of? Do you know someone that might be able to check out the item on your behalf?

And then, there’s Gumtree. The butt of many jokes, I’m sure you can either share, or know someone who can share, a horror story or two about Gumtree. For local sales and picking up in person, again its usually fine. There’s the usual risks of picking up stolen / fake gear (Gumtree is definitely not on its own with that risk) when dealing with someone face to face. The biggest risk of Gumtree really comes from interstate buyers and sellers. Gumtree proudly displays the PayPal logo and insists that you can use PayPal on pickup (Gumtree is a subsidiary of eBay, so they do have an existing partnership), however that’s where the biggest risk with Gumtree is.

PayPal SPECIFICALLY EXCLUDE Gumtree from buyer and seller protection in their terms and conditions. It’s a fairly well hidden, not advertised point, and many people are not aware of it. Here’s a link to the PayPal terms and conditions section.

I quote “PayPal Buyer Protection does not apply to payments made through Gumtree. Before you pay, carefully inspect the item in person or confirm the service has been completed to your satisfaction. Make sure you are with the seller when you pay. ” So this means, if you were to buy a camera from a seller on the other side of the country, and they never sent it, you lose your money. I personally sold a bulk lot of old IT equipment a few years ago. The buyer was on the other side of the country, and paid for freight. I had all the tracking info, and they disputed that it never arrived, when it was actually delivered to them. PayPal placed a hold on the funds in my account, however when I contacted them they advised that “Because it’s a PayPal transaction, this claim shouldn’t have even been allowed to start” and they closed the claim in my favour.

The best advise I can give for any purchases that are outside of eBay (and believe me, I’ve been scammed on eBay in the past. It cost me a $2000 Apple MacBook that I sold, so I’m not a huge advocate of eBay) is that you should really only purchase second hand goods in a manner that presents the lowest risk, or if it is for an interstate purchased, just understand that there is a chance you may never see the item, or your money, again.

All that said, I’m off to browse eBay and Gumtree!

Caveat emptor!

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