3 rules for buying and selling on Gumtree safely

Stressed woman looking at computer with hands in her hair, concerned about online scams and Gumtree safety. Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels
Is there a safe way to buy and sell on Gumtree?

Wanting to sell your old stuff online without fees, but wondering if its safe to sell on Gumtree? Have you found something you want to buy secondhand, but worried about online scammers?

One of the best things about Gumtree is that you can buy and sell without having to give out too much of your personal information. Conversely, the anonymity of Gumtree (and the fact it’s free to setup a profile and start selling) also makes it a breeding ground for scammers.

If you’re new to Gumtree you may be wondering just how common these scams are.

Sadly, there’s enough anecdotal evidence to suggest that they DO happen, to everyday people like you and me. Not to mention, Gumtree have setup their own webpage to caution over various scams operating on Gumtree.

From PayPal scams, to getting robbed – it never hurts to remain cautious and protect yourself.

Is it safe to sell on Gumtree?

So if Gumtree is full of scammers, should we all give up and resort to other platforms like eBay and Facebook Marketplace, when trying to clear our homes of unwanted goods and recouping some cash?

Not necessarily.

Gumtree may have its fair share of scammers and time-wasters (and the odd weirdo who sends you really strange enquiries) – but most of the time, they’re just normal people who are looking to buy and sell their used items.

Buying and selling on Gumtree does not need to be stressful. If you simply stick with some very basic Gumtree rules for selling, you can avoid most of the issues. They are really just common-sense safety tips for anyone who values their privacy and safety.

And don’t forget to read up on tips to sell successfully on Gumtree.

UPDATE: I’ve since dipped my toes into trying eBay, and it has surprisingly been an easy and positive experience. Such that I’m a recent convert into using eBay for selling unwanted items!

How to buy and sell on Gumtree without getting scammed

Below are three golden rules to using Gumtree without worrying about your safety. These rules apply to whether you’re selling or buying.

Granted, these won’t seem like the most convenient of rules – but since when was your personal safety a matter of convenience?

Rule 1: Don’t give out too much personal information

It should go without saying, but don’t give out your private info unnecessarily. You never really know who is responding to your ads (no matter how friendly or normal they sound).

Or maybe it does need to be said. I have seen sale listings with the seller’s first and last names on their profile, and even – 😱- their home address.

This is a dream for an identity thief or criminal mastermind (who doesn’t need to be much of a mastermind, really, given how much personal information is there for the taking).

Avoid using your full name

Just using your first name on your Gumtree profile is completely acceptable. And if you don’t even want to do that, the system gives you a default name of ‘Gumtree User’.

People don’t care what your name is, they’re just interested in the goods you’re selling, or that you’re going to buy from their listing.

Avoid listing your mobile number

This is handy if you don’t want to receive nuisance calls. Or maybe you’re flat out all day with work or a sleeping baby, and just don’t have the availability to handle constant phone enquiries.

But mostly, you don’t want to be giving out your mobile number to some disgruntled person, or if you get a weird vibe from the person when you meet up.

The Gumtree messaging system is perfectly fine to correspond with buyers and sellers. You’ll receive an email whenever a message comes through, and you can reply via email – it’ll cloak your email address when you respond.

PRO TIP: On the odd occasion I’ve seen people’s email addresses appear in the email header info when they reply. Weird tech issues happen. If you’re really wanting to keep your email address private and nuisance-free, setup a separate free email address just for Gumtree.

Don’t give out your home address

And lastly, don’t enter your home address for your Location in your Gumtree profile. This is such a big no no! Your suburb is fine, just so buyers know your rough location, and whether you’re local to them. Not all buyers are happy to drive an hour to buy something…though some don’t mind!

Screenshot of Gumtree profile page with minimal personal information made public, for safe buying and selling.
Limit the amount of personal information you put up on your public Gumtree profile.

Let’s face it, does Joe Blow from down the road need to know your first AND last name, just because they want to buy some old books from you? Not really.

And why would they need your home address or phone number?

For any purchase, give the buyer ample opportunity to inspect the item in person. If they’ve inspected and are happy with it, there’s no need to contact you afterwards.

Rule 2: Buy or sell face-to-face in a public place

I ALWAYS meet people in public spaces for my sales.

I’m totally in the minority here – most Gumtree sellers seem perfectly comfortable with giving their address on Gumtree. Each to their own, and totally fine with me when I’m buying from someone else (though I do let someone know where I’m going, if it’s to someone’s home).

I think twice about giving out my address on a regular day, let alone to a rando who responded to my classifieds ad. I mean – even just writing that, it sounds crazy to me! It’s also part of Gumtree’s recommendations on staying safe.

I get it – it is a hassle to arrange a meet-up time. People run late. You have to find a parking spot. It takes longer and is more effort. Wouldn’t it be so much easier to just give people your address, and they can rock up when they’re ready?

Sure. But- it’s your home address we’re talking about, where you and your family live. Why compromise that for a few bucks in selling something online?

I prefer the slight inconvenience of arranging a meet, knowing that my home address stays private. It is no easy or quick feat to just relocate if you’re unfortunate enough to encounter someone shady or disgruntled, who knows your home address. Not to mention the amount of stress and anxiety that would cause.

A word of caution – meeting in a public place reduces your risk, but is not a guarantee of safety. If someone is determined to steal from you, they may well find a way. Especially if you’re selling a high-value item, like a mobile phone. Pick your meeting place wisely, and take a friend if you’re worried.

But if we’re meeting in public, what if I’m selling electronics and the buyer wants to test it out?

I wouldn’t expect anything less from a savvy buyer!

If you’re selling an electronic item, arrange to meet at a local shopping centre where power points can be found on the walls. The buyer can test it out properly, and you can both walk away from the sale, knowing that everyone is happy.

Make it easier on yourself and scope out a good potential meeting spot near a power point, the next time you’re at the shops.

PRO TIP: Take your mobile phone charger with you to the meet. Dodgy powerpoints do exist, and you wouldn’t want the buyer thinking you’re flogging an electronic item that doesn’t work! If this happens, plug in your phone charger and see if it charges your phone – if not, then clearly the power point is the culprit.

What if I’m selling large or bulky items?

Here’s where it DOES get tricky.

I’ve only sold portable items that are easily transportable to a public meeting place. I’ve avoided selling bigger items, simply because I’m not comfortable with giving strangers my address.

There are a few ways you could tackle this.

  1. Still meet in public. If the item is just bulky, and you both have the means to transport it, you can still meet at a public place. Just arrange to meet where it’s easy for both of you to park your vehicles.
  2. Offer delivery. As I said, other people are often OK with giving out their addresses (even if you are not). If you have the means to transport it, offer delivery of the item. It’s OK to include conditions on your listing – for example, delivery only within a certain distance, or perhaps for a small additional charge. Whatever works for you.
  3. Have buyers come to your home. If you’re selling a 10-seater family lounge, then unfortunately this is probably the only viable option (apart from not selling it to a stranger at all). Gumtree recommends having someone with you, and asking then to produce some ID.

Someone from Gumtree has asked if I can post the item. Should I?

Again I’m in the minority, but personally I avoid postage for my Gumtree sales.

Gumtree is intended to be a platform to bring together local buyers, to meet face-to-face.

Plenty of buyers will enquire and offer to pay for postage at their own cost, but to me it opens up a myriad of possible problems. I politely decline and advise that post is not possible.

Yes, it may take longer to find a local buyer, but I am patient.

Buyer disputes related to posted items that are not worth stressing over include:

  • ‘The item didn’t arrive’. You COULD minimise this by insisting on a postage method with recorded signature on delivery.
    • Whilst most postage services come with tracking these days, there’s little recourse if the item was delivered – but to the wrong address. People are human, and mistakes (and opportunistic people) happen.
    • Some services capture the actual signature, which can be sent to you – at a cost. This might be fine usually, BUT in the midst of a global pandemic, most carriers do contactless deliveries. This means signatures are NOT required – even for services like Registered Post.
    • To get a proof of postage, you’ll have to post the item over the counter at Australia Post. Don’t just put it into the mailing box. Just ask them to do an Acceptance Scan when you lodge the item, so you can send your buyer a receipt to prove that it’s in the mail.
  • The item wasn’t as described’. What will you do if the buyer complains that the item just doesn’t meet their expectations? Maybe the colours looked off in the photos, or they just didn’t read the listing properly. I say – avoid that situation altogether. Meet in person, and the buyer has ample opportunity to inspect and make sure they’re happy with it. Simple.
  • Payment methods. Posting items means you’ll have to accept payment electronically. See Rule 3!

Rule 3: Use cash only

It seems simple to just link your PayPal account to Gumtree. PayPal is SUPER convenient, and one of the safest ways to pay for just about everything these days. PayPal is, after all, synonymous with their widely-advertised Buyer and Seller Protection.

Many mistakenly assume that PayPal is the safest way to pay on Gumtree, and that they’ll be protected in the event of disputes over items that haven’t arrived, are defective, or if you’ve been scammed.

Does Gumtree have buyer / seller protection?

Let’s be clear on this – you pretty much have no buyer or seller protections whatsoever, when using PayPal on Gumtree.

PayPal’s pages on Buyer Protection clearly state they don’t apply to purchases of secondhand or used items you pick up in person. Which is a bit vague, and suggests that that protection applies for Gumtree items that are posted. This isn’t the case though, when you inspect their page on how to pay for Gumtree items using PayPal.

If you’re considering using PayPal as a safe option for a seller on Gumtree – if unscrupulous scammers try to submitting disputes against their payments (even after they receive the goods) you can still find yourself out of pocket.

If you’re super vigilant about your personal information, note that PayPal often gives out your basic information in transactions (full name, email, address). I can’t say for sure if this is still the case for a PayPal transaction via a linked account to Gumtree, BUT, it’s probably safer to assume so. This is less of a concern when using PayPal from a legitimate online business; more of a problem if you’re sending personal details to the rando who you just bought a second-hand toaster from.

Ditto for paying via direct deposit or bank transfers on Gumtree. Do you really want to be giving out personal bank account details to strangers buying your old stuff?

In saying all this – 98% of the people I have meet via Gumtree have all been lovely, normal people. Some of that probably has to do with what types of items that you sell or buy – if it’s baby and kids’ gear then you are likely to meet fellow mums and dads!

But on occasion, you may come across some who seem ‘not quite right’ in their email enquiries (yeh there have been a few..) that can be cause for concern.

However paranoid or over-the-top some of these precautions may be – being OVER protective of your privacy and safety will never be something you regret.

Stick with these basic tips whenever buying or selling on Gumtree to avoid a bucketload of stress when you’re just trying to save or make a few extra bucks.

Now that you’re clued up on staying safe whilst using Gumtree, don’t forget to read up on tips on how to sell successfully on Gumtree.

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