Gumtree users – be careful out there

I’m sort of half-heartedly looking for a secondhand Mac Pro, in order to futureproof my setup a little bit. The next version of OS X will apparently be Intel-only, as are several nice-looking apps, and my Mac is a pre-Intel G5. Anyway…

As the expected recession-driven panic selling bargainfest on Ebay has failed to materialise thus far, I’ve been browsing Gumtree. There was one Mac Pro with an amazingly low price of £580, so I contacted the seller. I honestly thought it would have sold, but she replied…

If you are interested to buy it from me I have to tell you that I will only do this through eBay. I’ve choosen eBay for security reasons, all my online transactions were done through eBay and they were a success.

[...] As soon as I have the details I will forward them to eBay. Shortly after, they will contact you with the invoice to confirm our transaction. Further details about payment and shipping will be found there.

[...] You will have a period of 3 days for inspecting the item starting from the moment it arrives. In case the item is damaged, or not as I’ve described it, you can refuse to keep it and you will receive a full refund from eBay.

All very efficient-sounding, and I could kind of understand why a woman (the email was from “Claire Gordon”) would want to avoid having strangers coming round to her house to buy expensive items. But something kept nagging at the back of my mind… this ad is two days old, the price is ludicrously low, and no one has bought the computer yet!

I Googled her email address and bingo! The only result was from the Gumtree forum, in a thread entitled “Moneygram Scam”. Someone else had received a similar email from the same address, and this also resembled a number of other emails people had received (from other addresses) in relation to tempting car ads on Gumtree. Some users, unfortunately, have lost significant sums of money to this scam.

Coincidentally, I enquired about another Mac Pro (not quite as cheap, but still nicely priced) on Gumtree the same evening, and sure enough, the email I received was pretty much the same, except for minor details in the wording.

There seem to be two variants of the scam:

1. Seller sends similar email to the one above, asking to arrange transaction via Ebay/Paypal. Buyer complies, sending details. Seller gets back in touch, apologising for problems with Paypal account, instructs seller to make payment via Moneygram.

2. Seller contacts buyer, suggesting meeting in person. Buyer replies to confirm. Seller gets back in touch, claiming to have left the area on business, instructs seller to make payment via Moneygram.

Now, Moneygram is just a way of sending money. They won’t help you. If you comply with one of these follow-up emails, you will (as shown in the Gumtree forum thread) lose your money. There seems to be a huge number of email addresses involved in these scams, but just in case it’s of any use to anyone, here are the two people I received emails from…

If in doubt, avoid like the plague!

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