Thursday, September 01, 2011

Scammers watching

Recently, I put up a few ads on Gumtree, listing my phone number. The first three responses I got were SMSs from scammers that included a short message that didn't reference any particular item. Being new to Gumtree and not having received any other response, I was suspicious but willing to at least reply and find out for sure. Well, now I am sure. I am showing these messages here so you can be sure too.

SMS text: Is the price of your funiture ad on negotiable ? please email me at
Naïvely, I responded via email with a list of URLs for all of my postings. the response is below.

Thanks for the response,i will take the hotpoint conditional and refrigerator for $800 including PayPal surcharges since i am interested in the immediate purchase.I just moved to the United Kingdom,where this is needed and i will be making use of a shipping company to have this picked up from you .Further arrangements will be made with you in regards to the pick up once i have paid you.I would appreciate if you email me with more pictures (if available) too since i won't be be able to see this in person,what's the PayPal email to send funds to in order for me to pay you ASAP.

The next SMS was even more abrupt: condition of your posted items please. I responded via email with: Please specify what items you are interested in. Thanks. The response is below.

Thanks for the swift response...I am willing to know the lowest price
of it.due to the nature of my job and location...i will not be able to
come for inspection,am a very busy type as i work long hours
everyday,i have gone through your advertisement and i am satisfied
with it.
As for the payment..i will be paying you via the fastest and secure
way to pay online(PayPal).
I have a private courier agent that will come for the pick up after
the payment have been made no shipping included.
You can now send me your PayPal email so i can pay in right away and
also include your address in your reply.If you don't have a paypal
account, you can easily set up one...log on to and
sign up. its very easy.I await your reply asap

I have had a couple of others since, but I think they all share a couple of key factors to make them recognisable. Broken English and obvious lack of written communication skills is a good sign, but not definitive. A stronger sign is that they don't reference a particular item by name, since the email is probably generic and sent to as many targets without modification as they can reach. The best sign is an offer to buy without inspection. How this all works as a scam is beyond me: perhaps they would eventually ask for a bank account number.

Gumtree has a FAQ section that is worth paying close attention to: How do I stay safe while using Gumtree? To me, the most important key points are:
  • Meet in-person to see the item and exchange money.
  • If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.