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  • Gabriella Ferraro

What a steal: Online Advertisement Websites and Stolen Goods

Written by Gabriella Ferraro

Edited by Catherine Micallef

Gumtree, Facebook marketplace and eBay are some of the most well-known classifieds site with their primary purpose being the purchase and sale of goods between consumers.

Buyers beware!

Increasingly, these sites have become an easy way for criminals to sell stolen goods for quick cash. Sites, like Gumtree, restrict their liability under the law in their terms of use. As such, if you’re involved unknowingly in a shady sale, you may still be held responsible.

So how can you be held liable if you didn’t know?

In Victoria, a person guilty of handling stolen goods is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment (s 88, Crimes Act 1958 (Vic)).

In the law, there are two standards you can be held to: actual knowledge and reasonable suspicion.

Reasonable suspicion means in all the circumstances, you believe that there is a chance the property may not belong to the seller.

Actual knowledge means that you are aware that the property you are buying has either been stolen or obtained illegally. It is enough to know that the property isn’t lawfully owned by the seller.

How can you protect yourself?

The best solution is to possess as much information as you can before making an online purchase. Ask the seller questions to be certain you’re not purchasing stolen goods. Things you can do to protect yourself include:

  • Request proof of purchase;

  • If the property is normally registered with a governing body, check those records beforehand; and

  • Request information about serial numbers and confirm with companies such as Apple or Samsung.

Most importantly, when buying through websites like Gumtree, remember to look at the big picture and consider all the circumstances. If something about the sale, the property, or the seller seems unusual or if a deal seems too good to be true, it probably is!

Always investigate private purchases carefully and never go into a sale with doubts. If you’re not sure about something, ask, and if that doesn’t get rid of the doubts, it’s always smartest to walk away.

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