Would you believe me if I told you that when you can save a vulnerable Australian from unwittingly committing a crime that carries a sentence of up to 10-years in prison?

So, when you receive a private message from a scammer in Gumtree, or anywhere else, don’t ignore them, don’t insult them. Instead, play along and help PICDO.org.au disrupt the cybercrime networks that are using Australian residents as financial mules for the evil schemes.

How The Gumtree Scam Works

As a Gumtree User you might post a vehicle, computer, or other high value item for sale.

The scammer sends a private message like this:

“My brother would like to buy your car, please email him directly at [email protected]

NOTE: Gumtree administrators will delete a user account as soon as they recognise scammers. So the scammer needs to communicate with the seller directly by email outside Gumtree. After that Gumtree ADMIN cannot interfere with the scam.

Play along with a Gumtree Scam

We do not recommend ever sharing your real email address with a scammer, it will cause problems in the long-term. Instead, set up a dedicated email address just for your cybercrime disruption activities, will refer to this as your “PICDO-Email”. But make sure you check it regularly to ensure the valuable evidence you gather does not perish. Consider automatically forwarding all incoming messages to your regular email address.

Set up a new email address with one of the free email providers, such as Gmail.com, hotmail.com, or one of the anonymous free services like yandex.com or protonmail.com. It is possible that your existing email provider allows you to have free “alias” email addresses. This allows you to use a different email user address than your regular account, and yet still receive the messages in your inbox.

Make sure the email username email looks natural, but use a fake name that cannot be confused with someone else if possible.

from your new PICDO-EMAIL, send an email to the scammer’s email address that says something like:

“Thanks for your message on Gumtree, yes it is still for sale, would you like to buy it?”

The scammer will respond, and will probably even negotiate the price down a little so as not to seem too eager or suspicious.

Accept their offer, and ask them how they would like to pay.

The scammer will probably claim to be traveling overseas, or working in the outback in the mining industry, or some other situation, where he or she cannot come and pick up the item personally. He will claim that a friend or “pickup agent” will help.

The scammer will offer to pay by bank transfer, PayPal or some other electronic method.

If the scammer is offering to pay by PayPal, give him or her your PICDO-EMAIL address. As long as this is not connected to a real PayPal account, he can do no harm.

After 30 minutes or so, you will receive a forged PayPal transaction notification to your PICDO-EMAIL. The amount of the PayPal transaction will most likely be more than the asking price for your item, this is part of the scam. There will also be a message, allegedly from PayPal, advising that the funds will not be released to you until you have undertaken certain tasks.

After receiving the forged PayPal transaction, respond to the scammer confirming that you have received the funds. Tell him or her that they overpaid, and ask what you should do with the extra funds, offer to send it back to them.

The scammer will tell you some stories, most likely that the extra payment is for you to pay the pickup agent, the tow truck driver who will pick up the car, or some other creative lie.

The scammer will possibly ask you to convert the overpayment into bitcoin, and send it to the scammers bitcoin wallet. Naturally, you will never do that. Instead do the following:

Don’t use the exact words, you just copy and paste what we’re saying here the scammers will start to recognise patterns, just re-write it in your own words.

“Sorry, I don’t know anything about bitcoin. Can’t I just send the money to a bank account?”

(He will try and convince you to do bit coin, but play dumb, stand firm).

It’s important that you try to persuade the scammer to provide you a bank account. The reason is, the bank account they will provide actually be another victim, who does not yet know they are a victim will most likely be the victim of a romance scam who has been persuaded by a beautiful foreign woman or man, to provide the bank account details so some of their friends can send money to the foreign lover. There are many of these romance scam victims, and each time they receive money thinking it is from a friend, they are really receiving the proceeds of scams, such as the one described in this article. The very moment this romance scam victim receives the money, and then converted to bitcoin or otherwise send it on to the scammers, he or she has committed the crime of money laundering. In many states that carries up to 10 years in prison as a penalty.