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Scammers exploiting Gumtree and eBay shoppers

3 July 2014

Scammers are using online marketplaces to trap victims into dodgy deals, new research from Citizens Advice finds today.

An analysis of problems reported to the Citizens Advice consumer service, between October 2013 and March 2014, about products or services bought through Gumtree and eBay finds:

  • 1 in 6 (17%) from Gumtree was a scam or potential scam.
  • 1 in 10 from eBay was a scam or potential scam.

The analysis looked at the 649 Gumtree cases and the 3,711 eBay cases that were reported to the consumer service between October 2013 and March 2014.  

Evidence from Citizens Advice reveals tricksters are using online marketplaces to advertise housing and job scams.  Instances of motorists buying a second hand car through an online marketplace, only to find it has a logbook loan attached, are also being reported to Citizens Advice.  

Other popular cons include people paying for goods they never receive – including phones, furniture and even pets.

Businesses are also being caught out as, after posting ads online, people are then contacted by other firms offering cheap advertising. But instead of a cut price deal, more money is taken from their bank account than agreed or expected.

Citizens Advice wants online market places to boost the policing of its website to protect consumers from scammers.

Figures from the National Fraud Intelligence Bureaux reveal online shopping and auction scams were the most common fraud reported in 2013 costing UK consumers £63.6 million.

Citizens Advice Chief Executive Gillian Guy:

“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.

“Con artists are preying on those still trying to get back on their feet from the recession. Fake jobs and phoney homes are taking people’s deposits that they strived and saved so long for.  

“Businesses need to get savvy to these spurious practices and take steps to stop consumers falling foul of scams.  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.”

Citizens Advice wants a change in the law to stop logbook lenders being able to take away a vehicle if they are not the original borrower.  

The Citizens Advice consumer service is GB-wide and run by Citizens Advice and Citizens Advice Scotland.  Anyone who wants advice about a possible scam or other consumer problem can call the service on 03454 04 05 06.

Citizens Advice Scotland Chief Executive Margaret Lynch says:

“The growth of online shopping has been a terrific boost to consumer choice – not least to people in remote and rural areas who otherwise find it difficult to get easy access to so many market-places. And it’s important to remember that most traders are fair and honest, and you can get some great bargains online. But unfortunately the growth of online shopping brings with it the risk of scamming, and it’s equally important for people remain vigilant and report any scams when they come across.

“In Scotland one of the biggest types of online scams we are seeing at the moment relate to the upcoming Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, with people being offered fake deals for tickets. We see cases of tickets being offered on-line, and people are buying these at over-inflated prices but never receive them. It’s important to remember that there is only one legitimate place to buy tickets for the Commonwealth Games, and that is through the official site. If you buy tickets online they may be fake or stolen and you could be turned away at the event door or find yourself questioned by police.”

A flat hunter saw a property advertised on Gumtree.  He looked round the home and was satisfied it met his needs so gave the landlord the necessary costs totalling £1450 via bank transfer and £200 cash. When he went to move into the property someone else was already living there. The ‘landlord’ had fraudulently advertised the property which was actually his mother’s home.

A double dupe was unveiled after a man bought tickets to a concert through Gumtree as a Valentine’s gift for his girlfriend.  He was suspicious when the seller asked him to transfer the money into her bank account.  But after she sent him a copy of her driving licence and her own bank details he felt it was safe to go ahead.  When he didn’t receive the tickets he tracked the seller down via Facebook and discovered that the person in the photo was not the seller at all. In fact the scammer had obtained a photo of her driving license after she posted it on Instagram and used the image to commit fraud.

A young man spent over £1,000 on a car (£360 on the vehicle and £700 on necessary repairs) that he bought through eBay.  Not long after the car was taken away by a log book lender as the previous owner had not kept up repayments.

Notes to editors:

  1. Citizens Advice analysed problems reported to the consumer service by consumers in England, Scotland and Wales from 1 October 2013 to 31 March 2014 about products or services bought through Gumtree or eBay. One in six of the 649 Gumtree cases was a scam or potential scam (108 cases) and one in ten of the 3711 eBay cases was a scam or a potential scam (386 cases).
  2. A separate analysis of 50 cases reported to Citizens Advice Bureaux in England and Wales between February 2011 and January 2014 was about problems with logbook loans.  In cases where a car had been bought online and the buyer had not known that a logbook loan was attached, six of them had been bought through eBay and in one instance via Gumtree.
  3. This year the Citizens Advice service celebrates its 75th anniversary. We’ve planned a year of activity running from January to December 2014. Contact the press office to find out more.
  4. The Citizens Advice service comprises a network of local bureaux, all of which are independent charities, the Citizens Advice consumer service and national charity Citizens Advice. Together we help people resolve their money, legal and other problems by providing information and advice and by influencing policymakers. For more see the Citizens Advice website.
  5. The advice provided by the Citizens Advice service is free, independent, confidential, and impartial, and available to everyone regardless of race, gender, disability, sexual orientation, religion, age or nationality.
  6. To find your local bureau in England and Wales, visit You can also get advice online at
  7. You can get consumer advice from the Citizens Advice consumer service on 03454 04 05 06 or 03454 04 05 05 for Welsh language speakers
  8. Citizens Advice Bureaux in England and Wales advised 2.1 million clients on 6.6 million problems from April 2012 to March 2013. For full 2012/2013 service statistics see our quarterly publication Advice trends
  9. Citizens Advice service staff are supported by more than 22,000 trained volunteers, working at over 3,000 service outlets across England and Wales.