It’s a tough internet world out there, and you’ve got to be on your game to spot a scam. Here’s a quick primer on some common scams that turn up all over the internet and sadly, even on Gumtree:
1. Bait and switch
This can happen face to face when you meet someone to buy something they’ve advertised, like a laptop. While you’re counting out your money for this incredible deal you’ve just found, an attractive girl materialises at your side asking if you have change for a fiver. Meanwhile, the primary scammer replaces the laptop you “bought” with a worthless old laptop, hands it over to you, and leaves. You don’t realise until later you’ve been had.
2. Amazingly low rent
People who do this may not have anything to do with the property they are “advertising”. They collect security deposits and first month’s rent from maybe a dozen people, and when it’s time for the “renters” to view the apartment, the scammer has disappeared with all that “rent” and “security deposit” money.
3. Pay delivery charge, or the cute puppy goes to the pound
They’ve moved, can’t keep the adorable Chow/Westie/Yorkie and will have to send him to the pound if they don’t find a new owner. If you’ll pony up a “delivery” or “escrow” payment up front, they won’t send him to the bad place. So you do it because you’re humane and have gotten rather attached to the little guy’s picture from the ad. Funny then that two or three weeks later, still puppy-less, you see the same ad with the same story and picture.
4. Surprising number of beautiful single women in the Personals section
They may exchange messages, and maybe even pictures with you. If you want to see her full profile however, you have to pay to do so at a website that preys on lonely souls willing to part with some money for the profile of a person they’ll never hear from again.
5. You knew it was a buyer’s market for automobiles, but wow!
Someone is advertising a used car for a ridiculously low price, and will lower it further if you pay cash. No problem. Until you meet up with this seller in a dodgy part of town, and follow him to look at the car, only instead of a car, you find a gang of street thugs who rob you at knifepoint or worse.
The best rules of thumb we can give you are:
• If a deal seems unusually generous and your gut tells you something’s up, just walk away.
• If you’re meeting up face-to-face to complete your deal, bring a friend and meet in a public place, preferably one with plenty of CCTV coverage.