Scammers and Spammers

The Spam Control Team deals with members who violate Freecycle’s Terms of Service in ways that cannot be managed by local moderators.

Spammers massively post or respond to posts with content that is unrelated to Freecycle. Spammers usually operate across geographies, rather than in one locale. Spammers attack Freecycle groups in the following ways:

  • Posting spam to the group
  • Spoofing another member
  • Harvesting member addresses
  • Posting seemingly innocuous messages that require going to a third-party website

Scammers seek to use Freecycle’s website to defraud members, usually by asking payment upfront for delivery/courier fees or postage for items they have no intention to deliver.

Here are some examples of the type of posts that are most often associated with scammers:

  • Unusual use of punctuation and spacing in the subject line. (example: i p a d s.'-. or ..PSP' ')
  • An Offer with several of the same item for collection
  • Small personal gaming/computer devices and electronics, like PS4s, PSPs, tablets, laptops
  • High-value items offered to multiple groups (click here to see how to search posts on other groups)
  • Puppies (usually well-known breeds)
  • An Offer for something that is probably too good to be true, especially from a new member

What to do if you find a suspicious post:

  1. Please do not delete the post. Put the post into moderation by editing the post and unclicking Approve.
  2. Please leave the wording of the subject line and post description intact. If you like, you may add a parenthetical message that says "Reported to Spam Control"
  3. Temporarily put the member on moderation
  4. Report the post to Spamcontrol@freecycle.org. Include the following information in your email:
  • your name/email address
  • group name
  • username and email address (if known) of the member who made the post.
  • post ID number
  • a copy of any correspondence between you and the other member
  • screenshots (optional)

If you receive reports from members for posts that you have NOT yet reported, please:

  1. Ask the member to forward the entire email exchange between them and the suspected scammer to you and include it in your report to spamcontrol@freecycle.org. Email headers would also be very helpful if your member can provide them.
  2. Let the reporting members know that Spam Control will investigate and may contact them for additional information.

Important: Please avoid stating, accusing, or implying that the reported person is a scammer. Use phrases such as "this is a suspected violation of our Terms of Service” or "this post may be in violation of our Terms of Service." Also please do not engage with the suspicious member or try to conduct your own investigation. The Spam Control team has the necessary tools for investigating suspicious members and the sooner you report them to the team the sooner they will be dealt with.

Once you have made your report, you do not need to do anything further. If Spam Control determines that a post violates the Terms of Service, they will take appropriate action with regard to the suspicious account. They will also send a warning notification to any members who may have contacted the poster.

For privacy reasons, Spam Control team members will not discuss the outcome of their investigations, except to let you know if a post is NOT spam or a scam and can be placed back into active status.

Here is a sample notice you can use to warn your members about delivery/courier scams.

There have been a number of incidents where a person either offers a seemingly very attractive item, or responds to a Wanted post offering the item being requested. However when contact is made to arrange for collection, they offer to get a courier to deliver it to you (a variety of reason are given for this, including that they have recently moved too far away for you to collect the item). They even sometimes say that the courier is a “Freecycle recommended” or “Approved” one. Once the money has been transferred the Offerer disappears.

Please be aware Freecycle® does not recommend or approve any courier, and what is more it is expressly against the rules of Freecycle to request payment for any item offered or requested on Freecycle. So please never agree to send money for a courier to deliver an item that is changing hands via Freecycle. If you must arrange delivery, please make those arrangements yourself.

Tags: #fcmodman

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