Money Wellness
Illustrated image of a man removing his face to reveal a burglar's mask while using a laptop. Top tips to avoid being scammed in online marketplaces. Protect yourself from online scams
category iconmanaging your money
calendar icon10 May 2024

A worrying rise in scams on second-hand marketplaces

A recent survey by the consumer group Which? has revealed some concerning news about the state of second-hand shopping platforms. It seems a third of buyers have fallen victim to scams on these sites over the past two years. 

The survey of over 1,000 buyers and 1,000 sellers found that around a third of buyers  (32%) and a fifth of sellers (22%) had experienced some form of scam. Typical scams included receiving incorrect or no goods at all, empty packages, or counterfeit items.

The most dangerous platforms to buy and sell on

Certain platforms seem to be worse than others. Depop buyers were the most likely to be scammed, with nearly 6 in 10 (57%) reporting an issue.

Shpock, Preloved, and Nextdoor also had high scam rates, around 50% for buyers. Even well-known brands like Amazon Marketplace, Gumtree, and eBay saw around a third of their buyers get caught out.

When it came to selling, Nextdoor sellers were most likely to encounter potential fraudsters, with 4 in 10 (39%) reporting a scam. Preloved, Shpock, and Depop also had high rates for sellers - around a quarter.

Unfortunately, it seems scams can happen anywhere in the world of second-hand sales. The key is for buyers and sellers to be really cautious - check reviews, profiles, and be wary of anything that seems too good to be true.

Which? is urging platforms to do more to prevent scammers from operating in the first place and to quickly remove any offending accounts.

The safest platforms for trading

On the plus side, some sites did better than others. Vinted was the highest rated by both buyers and sellers, with a great customer score. It was the only platform to score 4 stars in 14 out of 17 areas, from using the app to payment and delivery.

So, the moral of the story is to shop smart and stay vigilant, but also put pressure on these second-hand sites to up their game when it comes to security. No one wants to get ripped off when they're trying to bag a bargain or declutter their home.

Top five tips to staying safe when shopping on second-hand marketplaces

No one can afford to lose out or wants to be scammed online. Here are our top five tips to make sure you have a good - and safe - experience every time you buy from a second-hand marketplace.

If It Sounds Too Good to Be True, It Probably Is
You know what they say, if something seems too good to be true, it usually is. If you stumble upon a deal that looks unbelievably amazing, take a step back and think twice. Scammers often use ridiculously low prices to lure in unsuspecting buyers. Remember, a genuine seller will price their items fairly, so if it's dirt cheap, it's likely a scam.

Check the Seller's Feedback and Profile
Before you get too excited about a purchase, take a moment to check out the seller's feedback and profile. Look for red flags like:
•    Newly created accounts with little to no feedback
•    Negative reviews from other buyers
•    Suspicious-looking profile information
If something doesn't feel right, trust your gut and steer clear. It's better to be safe than sorry!

Never Pay Outside of the Platform
Scammers often try to convince buyers to pay outside of the online marketplace platform. They might spin a sob story or offer you a special discount. Don't fall for it! 

Be Wary of Unusual Requests

Keep your eyes peeled for any unusual requests from sellers, such as:

  • Asking for your personal information (e.g., bank details, credit card numbers)
  • Requesting payment before you've received the item
  • Insisting on meeting in a secluded or unfamiliar location

Genuine sellers will be happy to follow the platform's guidelines and won't make any dodgy demands. If something feels off, don't be afraid to walk away from the deal.

Use Common Sense and Trust Your Instincts

At the end of the day, the best way to protect yourself from online marketplace scams is to use your common sense. If a deal seems fishy or a seller is giving you bad vibes, listen to your gut feeling. It's always better to be overly cautious than to take a risk and end up getting scammed.

Avatar of Caroline Chell

Caroline Chell

Caroline has worked in financial communications for more than 10 years, writing content on subjects such as pensions, mortgages, loans and credit cards, as well as stockbroking and investment advice.

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