How to beat the Depop and Vinted scammers

Bad actors are increasingly looking to secondhand marketplaces to dupe sellers and buyers. Here’s how to protect yourself from these fashion fraudsters.

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Written and reviewed by:
Helena Young

Secondhand fashion has become one of the best ways to make a quick buck. Apps like Depop and Vinted provide a platform for side hustles and wardrobe spring cleans alike.

Where consumer demand grows, however, scammers also flock. This week, a Which? survey of 1,300 buyers found that 32% had been defrauded in the past two years. Depop was the worst performing app. 57% of users told Which? they had experienced a scam on the site.

Below, we list eight tell-tale signs that will help you to spot and avoid common secondhand shams on apps like Depop and Vinted.

How can you spot a fake marketplace listing?

It’s easy to blame the victim when it comes to online fakes. But when purchasing small ticket items that are under £10, many customers will let their guard down.

Depop does offer Depop Protection for Buyers. If you buy an item on the app and it does not arrive or isn’t as described, you’ll be eligible for a full refund. Nonetheless, being scammed can be a traumatic experience for buyers and, ideally, it wouldn’t occur at all.

I have personally been the victim of a Depop scam when I purchased a pair of trousers in 2020 that still haven’t arrived. When I looked back at the seller’s profile, I was frustrated to see many red flags that I just hadn’t thought to look for. These can include:

🚩 Stock imagery

According to the Which? survey, the most common fraud experienced by 66% of buyers was purchase scams (where fraudsters sell non-existent products at discounted prices).

Keen buyers can spot this fakery by analysing the source of the image. Because they don’t have real items to photograph, crooked sellers will often post stock photos or screenshots from ecommerce sites to fake a listing.

Google Lens can be used to conduct a reverse image search that will usually tell you if the seller has nicked their imagery from an online shop or another app user.

🚩 Not replying to DMs

When you really want that pair of Nike Dunks it’s tempting to just go ahead and buy an item. But a good litmus test to verify a listing (particularly when it’s an expensive product) is to speak to the seller first through Depop’s or Vinted’s instant messaging function.

If they respond in a timely manner, great. If they don’t reply at all, or just sound a bit “off”, err on the side of caution. It’s usually a sign that they are a malicious actor.

🚩 Multiple sizes of the same item

While not necessarily a fake listing, a large amount of the same item might mean the seller is engaging in dropshipping scams. The guilty party will purchase hundreds of discounted items from a wholesaler and sell them disguised as a more expensive product.

Finding out that the high-quality t-shirt from your favourite store is actually a poorly-made Shein or AliExpress dupe is hugely frustrating and hard to dispute. Avoid the upset and compare marketplace listings with third-party sites to be sure you’re paying the right price.

🚩 Requests to pay off the app

The simple rule for avoiding secondhand sales scams is to never, ever pay off the app. Most secondhand sales apps (including Depop and Vinted) have pre-approved, in-app payment methods such as PayPal, Apple Pay, and Klarna for a reason. They have partnered with these companies as part of their buyer protection programs.

Never accept bank transfers or cheques through the post. Completing a transaction away from the app will disqualify you from any protection the company can provide.

The buyer might say that their app is down and they need to message you via Instagram instead. They might ask for images to be sent to their personal number. These seemingly innocuous requests are common fakes, and can lead to your account being banned if you comply.

How can you spot a fake buyer on marketplaces?

Which?’s research shows that buyers are more likely to be scammed than sellers on preloved marketplaces. Around a quarter of those selling on Depop (23%) and one in 10 (11%) of Vinted sellers said they had experienced a scam in the two years to January 2024.

Depop Protection does exist for sellers. However, items need to meet specific criteria in order to qualify for it (for example, items must be sent within five days of the transaction).

Phoney buyers know these requirements and will try to bend the rules to ensure you can’t report them to the app. Here’s four warning signs that a customer isn’t who they claim to be:

🚩 Their email address doesn’t exist

First and foremost, for every sale you make through the marketplace, check the email address that’s been supplied. If the user’s email address doesn’t exist or is not a domain name you recognise, this should instantly raise suspicions.

Similarly, if you receive an email supposedly from the app — for example, asking you to send money or referring to a sale that you haven’t made — that does not use the official domain names ‘’ or ‘’, this is a scam. Delete the email without clicking anything.

🚩 They’ve sent a link to your DMs

Sometimes a buyer will pretend they are having an issue with a listing (for example, they are struggling to view an item in-app) and will send over a link to a third-party website instead.

This is a common type of phishing scam and is designed to steal your information. Once you’ve exited the app, you’ll then be asked to share personal details like a phone number or email.

Avoid clicking on any links sent via direct message and block the buyer who sends them.

A Depop spokesperson specifically called out this type of deceit in its response to the Which? survey, advising customers and sellers “never to share personal information with other users [and] to be very wary about following links to other sites.”

🚩 They’re asking for a partial refund

Some buyers will lie and say they did not receive an item, forcing you to shell out for a refund. Paying a bit extra for postal tracking when shipping the item should help to avoid this outcome as you’ll have proof their parcel was delivered.

It feels like overkill, but filming the product before it is sent will also prevent buyers from being able to claim they received an empty box (another known sham tactic). We’d recommend this especially if you are selling big ticket vintage items that are hard to replace.

🚩 They’ve asked to change the address

While not necessarily proof of malintent, a buyer asking to change a delivery address post-transaction should raise eyebrows.

Most marketplaces specifically state that an item must be sent to the address the buyer’s profile is listed to. Scammers could technically claim that you sent the item to the wrong address even if they had asked it to be changed, so it’s a potentially risky move.

If you are asked to edit a postal address last minute, take a look at the buyer’s profile more closely. Combined with other suspicious information, it may be safer to reject the sale.

Written by:
Helena Young
Helena is Lead Writer at Startups. As resident people and premises expert, she's an authority on topics such as business energy, office and coworking spaces, and project management software. With a background in PR and marketing, Helena also manages the Startups 100 Index and is passionate about giving early-stage startups a platform to boost their brands. From interviewing Wetherspoon's boss Tim Martin to spotting data-led working from home trends, her insight has been featured by major trade publications including the ICAEW, and news outlets like the BBC, ITV News, Daily Express, and HuffPost UK.

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