1 in 3 have experienced a scam on second-hand marketplaces in last 2 years, Which? warns 

News, Retail
Nextdoor had the highest percentage of customer complaints, according to Which? survey

A third of buyers have experienced a scam on popular second-hand marketplaces in the last two years, Which? warns. 

Which? survey of more than 1,000 second-hand marketplace buyers and 1,000 second-hand marketplace sellers revealed that a third of buyers (32%) and a fifth (22%) of sellers told Which? they had experienced a scam on a second-hand marketplace in the two year period. 

Typically, buyers who had experienced a scam reported receiving incorrect goods (15%) or no goods at all (15%). Others said they had received an empty package (11%) or counterfeit goods (10%). 

According to the latest UK Finance data, purchase scams were the most common form of authorised push payment fraud, accounting for 66 per cent of all cases reported to banks – with 76,946 cases and £40.9 million lost to these scams in the first half of 2023.

Depop buyers were most likely to experience a scam – with nearly six in 10 surveyed (57%) telling the consumer champion they had experienced a scam on the site. This compares to around half of Shpock (53%), Preloved (51%), and Nextdoor (51%) buyers surveyed, around a third of Amazon Marketplace (35%), Gumtree (29%) and eBay (29%) purchasers surveyed, a quarter (24%) of Facebook marketplace purchasers surveyed and a fifth of Vinted (22%) buyers surveyed who had experienced a scam in the two years to January 2024. 

When selling an item, Nextdoor sellers were most likely to say they had encountered potential fraudsters – with four in 10 (39%) of those surveyed telling Which? they had experienced a scam in the previous two years. Around a quarter of those selling on Preloved (26%), Shpock (26%) and Depop (23%), a fifth of those selling on Amazon Marketplace (21%), Facebook (20%) and eBay (20%), one in six (16%) of Gumtree sellers and one in 10 (11%) of Vinted sellers surveyed also said they had experienced a scam in the two years to January 2024. 

Unfortunately, scams can happen on any platform, so it is important people are cautious when shopping on second-hand platforms and properly check the seller’s reviews and profile – especially if they are on the hunt for expensive goods.  Which?’s survey also looked at which second-hand marketplaces are the best for shopping online. 

Some marketplaces are particularly popular for certain types of item: more than eight in 10 (85%) of buyers bought clothing, accessories or shoes from Vinted, a quarter of the items bought and sold by those surveyed about Amazon Marketplace were books (26%) and furniture and homewares were popular on both Facebook Marketplace (25%) and Gumtree (29%).

Vinted was the highest rated second-hand marketplace for both buyers and sellers – with a customer score of 75 per cent and 78 per cent respectively. It was the only platform to score four stars out of five for 14 out of 17 ratings across Which?’s buyer and seller surveys – including ease of using the app and searching, communicating between buyer and seller, ease of payment and delivery options.

No marketplace was particularly low-scoring in Which?’s buying survey but in the consumer watchdog’s selling survey, Nextdoor (63%), Shpock (63%) and Depop (62%) all received lower scores. Depop was awarded just two stars for the reasonableness of fees charged for selling online – although it has since changed its fee structure. Nextdoor and Shpock received mostly three stars across the board. 

A significant number of buyers and sellers also told Which? they had raised complaints about their transactions with the marketplaces. 

Nextdoor had the highest percentage of customer complaints (42% of its buyers and 38% of its sellers), followed by Preloved (32% of its buyers and 31% of its sellers). This may be because these sites do not offer buyer protection as standard – although Preloved does offer a form of protection for some purchases through a transaction service called Trustap.

Both Facebook Marketplace and Vinted had relatively low overall complaint figures. But of the complaints that were made, Facebook Marketplace had the lowest percentage of buyers happy with the outcome of their complaint (only 53%). The platform makes clear that it rarely involves itself in disputes, although it may ban the seller from Facebook. 

Vinted had the lowest percentage of sellers happy with complaint resolution (46%) – and the second lowest percentage of buyers happy with the resolution (62%). This suggests that, despite including buyer protection as part of the purchase price, it is not always resolving issues to consumers’ satisfaction.

Unfortunately, buying second-hand goods from private sellers is not as straightforward as buying items from a trader or retailer on an online marketplace. The Consumer Rights Act says the goods must be as described. A seller could be in breach of contract, if it misrepresents goods – for example, by describing a second-hand item as new – or if items are not sent when a seller has taken money. In practice though, getting money back can be tricky. 

On the whole, if people are making low-value purchases of items that are unlikely to be counterfeit, such as clothing or homewares, buying them from a second-hand marketplace is relatively low risk.

However, the onus should not be on consumers to protect themselves from scammers, claims Which? Second-hand marketplaces need to ensure there are proper checks in place to prevent scammers from advertising in the first place and that any scam profiles are quickly removed. 

Says Rocio Concha, Which? Director of Policy and Advocacy: 

“Second-hand marketplaces can be a great way to save money and shop in a more sustainable way so it’s worrying that a third of buyers have experienced a scam in the last two years. 

“When buying and selling second-hand goods online, it’s important that people properly check the seller’s reviews and profile – especially if they are on the hunt for expensive goods. 

“However, the responsibility should not fall wholly on consumers to protect themselves from scammers. Second-hand marketplaces need to ensure there are proper checks in place to prevent scammers from advertising in the first place and that any scam profiles are quickly removed.”

Rights of replies

An Amazon spokesperson said: “This survey is deeply flawed, the findings inaccurate and does not reflect our own internal data or the experiences of our customers and sellers. We take these issues incredibly seriously and last year we invested more than $1.2 billion and employed more than 15,000 people dedicated to protecting customers, brands, selling partners, and our store from abuse. What’s more, if a product doesn’t arrive or isn’t as advertised we will fully refund the order with our A-to-Z guarantee.”

Depop said: “The safety and trust of our community is our top priority, and we have a wide range of measures in place to protect users from fraudulent behaviour and support them if something goes wrong. We offer Depop Protection for both buyers and sellers, meaning our community can buy and sell with confidence. If the item you’ve bought or sold doesn’t arrive, arrives damaged, is not as described, or is lost or damaged in transit, you’ll get a full refund if you report the issue to us within 30 days of the date of purchase and meet our eligibility criteria. 

“All transactions on Depop are made through our secure in-app checkout system, designed specifically to keep users safe and transactions secure – and we offer two-factor authentication to provide an extra layer of account security. We’ve also fully removed seller fees for sellers based in the UK, meaning that people listing items on Depop will now receive more money in their pocket from every sale.

“We’re constantly evolving our approach to combatting fraudulent behaviour and investing in new technologies and tactics to protect people using our marketplace. We strongly encourage consumers who are buying and selling anywhere online never to share personal information with other users, to be very wary about following links to other sites, and to report any suspicious behaviour via in-app reporting systems.”

An eBay spokesperson said: “We take the issue of scams very seriously and ensuring eBay is a safe and secure marketplace for our buyers and sellers is our number one priority. We protect all users from scams by using multiple layers of technology and specialist investigative teams. We also have buyer protection programs like the eBay Money Back Guarantee, which means that if a buyer has any issue with their purchase, we will support them to get a refund.

“It is always important for customers to exercise care when shopping online, however, from our experience, Which?’s research is not an accurate reflection of the scale of the issue. eBay remains a safe way for people to find anything from pre-loved fashion to unique collectibles.”

Facebook Marketplace declined to provide a comment. 

Gumtree said: “Illegal activity is never tolerated on Gumtree, and we do not hesitate to swiftly act against users who fall outside our strict posting policies. We safeguard our community by making our site a hostile environment for bad actors, educating users on staying safe online and working closely with external experts, such as Action Fraud, to inform our practice.

“Our latest transparency report found that 99% of our listings were without issue. We constantly monitor for and identify suspicious behaviour and actively encourage users to share anything they see through our one-click ‘Report’ button in every advert. Our dedicated trust and safety team is available 24/7, 365 days a year, to support users.

“We are committed to making it safe for the millions of people who use our platform to buy, sell and trade locally and affordably. Focusing on safety and building public confidence in second-hand marketplaces is crucial if the UK is even to begin tackling its ever-growing consumption habit.”

Simon Bungey, UK Country Manager for Nextdoor said: “We take all reports of fraudulent and scam behaviour seriously and pride ourselves in offering a safe place for neighbours to buy, sell and give away items in their local community.

“Our ‘For Sale and Free’ guidelines encourage neighbours to transact face to face to help protect from potential scams. Unlike other marketplaces Nextdoor does not process online payments, further limiting the likelihood of fraud. We’re proud to have helped neighbours in the UK list over 6m local items for sale in their neighbourhoods.”

Preloved and Shpock did not respond to Which?’s request for comment. 

Vinted said: “As customer-to-customer online platforms become more popular, the risk of these platforms being targeted by scammers also increases. The safety of members has always been a top priority at Vinted and the security teams work hard to ensure the best possible protection for the community.

“For this purpose, security measures are regularly checked and improved upon, and new tools for secure transactions on the platform are always in development.”

Chris Price
For latest tech stories go to TechDigest.tv