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Classified scams

Classified scams trick buyers or sellers into thinking they are dealing with a legitimate contact but it is actually a scammer.

How this scam works

For buyers

Scammers will pose as genuine sellers and post fake ads on classifieds websites, in print classifieds, and may approach you through email or on social media platforms.

The ad can be for anything, such as rental properties, pets, used cars, boats, bikes, caravans and horses. It may even include pictures and other details – often copied from a genuine seller’s ad. In order to lure a number of victims in a hurry, the scammer advertises the item at a low price, often much lower than comparable items advertised on the same site.

When you show interest in the item, the scammer may claim that they are travelling or have moved overseas and that an agent will deliver the goods following receipt of payment. Following payment you may receive a fake email receipt claiming to be from the website’s secure payment provider, however, you won’t receive the goods and will not be able to contact the seller.

In the case of rental properties, the scammer will pose as a property owner or landlord and post a fake copy of a genuine rental property ad. When you show interest, the scammer will make excuses as to why you cannot inspect the property, often claiming that they are currently overseas. If you are still interested, they will ask for bond, rent payments or deposits in advance. You will never receive the keys to the property and the scammer will disappear with your money.

For sellers

If you are advertising your items for sale through print and online classifieds, beware of scammers posing as genuine buyers. Scammers may make up stories such as needing your help to pay an agent or third party for upfront costs like transportation or insurance. They may promise you reimbursement for these costs.

Alternatively the scammer may send a cheque for more money than the agreed sale price. The scammer will invent an excuse for the overpayment, such as to cover the fees of an agent or extra shipping costs, or that it was simply human error. The scammer will then ask you to refund the excess amount – usually through an online banking transfer, pre-loaded money card, or a wire transfer – before you discover that their cheque has bounced.

In both cases, you will lose the money you gave the scammer, and if you have already sent the item you were selling, you will lose it as well.

Avoid any arrangement with a stranger that asks for payment via money order, wire transfer, international funds transfer, pre-loaded card or electronic currency. It is rare to recover money sent this way.

Do not send the items to the buyer until the cheque has cleared in your bank account or the deposit shows in your Paypal account as receipts and emails can be easily falsified and sellers can lose money in this way. Check the email address from sender and their PayPal account by logging in rather than taking the fake Paypal receipt on face value.

For items of high value, do not allow potential buyers to inspect the goods without someone else being there to supervise.

List of Scams

  • Used car workaway SMS1
    27 January 2021
    Online car sales scam (fake buyer)

    Online car sellers are being targeted in an elaborate scam involving bogus buyers and fake PayPal transactions. 

  • A bunch of cars lined up in a car yard
    Online car sales scam (fake seller)

    Car enthusiasts are falling victim to professional conmen advertising non-existent performance and prestige cars on legitimate “for sale” websites.

  • PayID image
    PayID impersonation scams

    Consumers wanting to sell second-hand goods on online platforms are warned to watch-out for Pay ID impersonation scams when organising payments.

  • 30 July 2018
    Fake "WhatPhone' offer

    If you receive a call out of the blue claiming to be from ‘WhatPhone’ offering a free mobile phone with a cheap contract then hang up – it’s a scam.

  • Fake rental add scam
    21 December 2017
    Fake rental advertisements

    WA ScamNet has received reports about fake advertisements for rental properties that attempt to scam you out of your rent and bond money.

  • Paypal scam email
    Fake PayPal receipt

    A fake email is doing the rounds, pretending to be from PayPal. It leads people to believe they've been paid by a buyer of their goods, but in fact they haven't.

  • pennyauction
    Caution advised when using Penny Auction websites

    While on social media or using the internet, you may have seen pop-up advertisements for expensive electronics being offered at ridiculously low prices, for example, an iPad for ten dollars. But don’t be fooled, beware.

  • haulpak
    Mining & Resource Media fake invoice scam

    A warning has been issued to the public not to deal with Peter Noel Anthony Sorensen and the business entities Construction Mining & Resource Media and Mining & Resource Media.

  • ebay logo
    eBay second chance scam

    WA ScamNet has had reports from eBay users that after an unsuccessful bid to buy an item, they are contacted out-of-the-blue with a second chance offer, which turns out to be a scam.

  • Tan staffy puppy standing
    Puppy for Sale

    Scammers are using puppies as bait in a con targeting Western Australians.

  • money house
    7 October 2020
    Rent scams on the rise  

    There’s a lot to weigh-up when hunting for a rental home, such as your budget and the location, but one important thing to investigate is whether the property is actually available.


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