Fraudsters target ads website Gumtree

Criminal using computerFraudsters are using Gumtree, an advertising website owned by eBay, to turn stolen items into cash, rob those selling high value items and con people into paying for items that never arrive, it has emerged.

In fact, the police receive a massive 250 allegation of crime and fraud related to the site per week.

Many people use Gumtree to buy and sell and the site is expected to have a surge of visits in January as people try to trade in unwanted Christmas presents.

However, new data from the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau reveals that criminals are using Gumtree to target consumers.

Its figures show that of the 19,530 reports of fraud and cyber-crime in October, some 32 a day had a link to the site, which does not require users to register or provide their name and address or offer them the protection available on eBay, for example.

According to the Daily Mail, scams in operation on the site include burglars who identify potential victims by looking for people selling high-value items, bogus landlords who trick people into paying rent deposits on flats that do not belong to them and unscrupulous criminals who arrange to meet buyers and sellers - only to rob them when they turn up.

Consumer charity Citizens Advice is therefore calling for Gumtree to make all users to set up accounts with verifiable names and addresses to combat the crimewave.

Its Gillian Guy said: "It's not enough for these websites to say 'it wasn't me' when things go wrong. Online marketplaces need to take more responsibility for what goes on in their name, by being more transparent and strengthening protections for consumers."

Gumtree, meanwhile, claims that user security is a "top priority" and that the real number of fraud cases related to the site is less than half the 249 a week suggested by police figures.

However, this is the second scandal to rock Gumtree within days after a young mother allegedly tried to sell her four-month-old baby on the site.