Scammers are targeting potential car, trailer and caravan buyers by claiming to asking users to pay money into Gumtree or Western Union accounts.
Claire Cobbledick, Head of Gumtree South Africa Marketing, says that their customer service desk has received numerous enquiries asking to validate Gumtree accounts and invoices – even from users who responded to ads on competitor sites. “We are of course grateful that our customers are checking in with us before making payment when they are suspicious of a seller, but we definitely do not want anyone to fall victim to this scam,” says Cobbledick. “Gumtree does not, under any circumstances, facilitate financial transactions and sellers cannot use a Gumtree Western Union account or a Gumtree bank account to deposit money. Even if the email address in question seems to come from Gumtree or Gumtree customer service, we will never ask anyone to pay money over to us – always report suspicious mails to help.gumtree.co.za.”
Cobbledick says the site does offer facilitation of sales through two endorsed third parties, namely Shepherd (an escrow service powered by Standard Bank) and Motofinn (a car buying/selling facilitation service in cooperation with DEKRA Automotive and TransUnion). However, vigilance is still required. “If someone requests that a deal be completed through Shepherd or Motofinn, get in touch with the company in question directly or get in touch with Gumtree’s Customer Service to assist. Their details can be found on the site. Never pay money into a third party account until you’ve validated the validity thereof.”
Cobbledick says the biggest giveaway for car scams is usually that the seller requires a deposit before allowing the buyer to view the vehicle or item. “Never ever hand over a deposit or the money until you’ve viewed the car and confirmed ownership and clearance. If a seller insists, feel free to walk away. There are plenty of legitimate sellers who will be happy to go through the process of viewing, test driving and confirming the necessary details with you.”
Secondly, Cobbledick says to be wary of deals that are “too good to be true”. “Usually these cars are priced significantly lower than book value. When questioned, the buyer will say that he/she is immigrating or urgently needs the money. Insist on inspecting the vehicle before purchase. If you are still unsure after viewing, involve Motofinn who can perform all the necessary checks, including an assessment of the vehicle and a police clearance check.”
Cobbledick also warns that scammers may purport to represent a classified site selling actual wares. “I’m not aware of any classifieds’ site that carries stock of their own – classifieds are merely the facilitators. If someone claims to be a salesperson selling vehicles for a classified, get in touch with the company in question directly to confirm.”
If anyone has a question about an advert or seller, they are urged to email firstname.lastname@example.org. “We’ll be more than happy to look for obvious red flags and make a recommendation. Our helpdesk is available to buyers and sellers around the clock for assistance as well,” she states.
An example of a fake invoice doing the rounds: